This past weekend, melodrama erupted at the 61st annual Grammy Awards. From Drake being cut off during his acceptance speech, to first-time winner Ariana Grande pulling out of her performance and staying home in protest, to the late, great Mac Miller getting beaten out by Cardi B for Best Rap Album, despite being heavily favored.
For all intents and purposes, the latter is where this story lays. Why? Because it’s an interesting lens into gender treatment in the music industry.
Cardi’s win was a historical moment insofar that her Grammy made her the first solo female artist to win a typically male-dominated category. However, after widespread dissent broke out among the masses — from Mac Miller’s mourning fanbase, to his former girlfriend (Grande) tweeting “bullsh*t,” to the drones of online trolls spewing hatred at the Recording Academy. The jist of the criticism was that her win was somehow “undeserved.”
The hostility and antagonism even caused Cardi B, whose not one to typically shy away from a fight, to delete her Instagram. But not before she got out a strong message:
“I’m seeing a lot of bullshit today and I saw a lot of shit last night, and I’m sick of this shit,” she said in a now-deleted video. “I worked hard for my motherfucking album.”
When Lady Gaga, another winner of the evening, caught wind of the hatred being spewed in Cardi B’s direction, she was quick to publicly leap to her defense, offering her colleague some love and praise.
“It is so hard to be a woman in this industry. What it takes, how hard we work through the disrespectful challenges, just to make art,” Gaga tweeted, captioning a photo of the two meeting at Sunday night’s red carpet event.
I love you Cardi. You deserve your awards. Let’s celebrate her fight. Lift her up & honor her. She is brave.” — Lady Gaga
Now the ensuing debate between the heavily fan-favored Mac Miller and the first-ever female winner is beside the point. Some defendants of Cardi B have even sunken as low as to suggest that a Mac Miller win would have solely been because of his death.
But what isn’t being said is this: People don’t like strong, outspoken women. Add to the fact that Cardi B is a person of color: People definitely can’t stand a powerful black woman. Controversial though it may seem, it’s the ugly hard-wired truth. One need merely look to all the negative media archetypes of the “loud, angry black women” over time to see it’s the case.
Add to the fact that Cardi is constantly attacked for using sexuality to sell her message, a thematic that many male rappers have shied away from in the “third wave of hip-hop,” and Cardi B becomes a punching bag for misplaced hate and anti-feminist denigration.
But leave it to Lady Gaga to turn a low-level mess into a shining positive. And at the end of the day, the Fame Monster is right. Rather than focusing on what can’t be changed, “Let’s celebrate her. Lift her up & honor her.”
Whether or not you like Cardi’s music is irrelevant. I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of her sound in the least. But the truth is: Cardi B didn’t work any less hard on her album than Mac Miller. To blatantly label her hard-fought piece of artwork “bullsh*t” not only undermines her artistic integrity—it undermines woman everywhere, in any industry.
Let’s all take a number from Gaga and promote unity, solidarity, celebration, and praise. In the swift stroke of the keyboard, she made a call to the nay-sayers to seek allyship, grace, and collective strength. For that, and many other reasons, she’s a true class act.