The Grammys are considering adding an Afrobeats category — along with the original African-American category — so that the nominations can be handed out without being influenced by factors like race. “It’s a good idea to give recognition to these artists who we don’t hear about in the mainstream,” the Recording Academy’s chair Ken Ehrlich said on a recent call.
“I think Afrocentrism is important to the overall culture,” Ehrlich continued. “And I would think that in giving the award to any artist out there with roots in Africa, this will be a boost for all of us.” He added that it’s “important that we understand the roots of our country” and that a nomination in the Afro-centric category is “a recognition of the culture of our country as a whole.”
The Grammy voters are also weighing whether to include a Best Pop/Rock Album award to recognize hip-hop albums. In the past, the categories have been closed to white artists, which many felt limited the genre.
In the past, the Grammys have been wary of giving out multiple awards in the same category in protest of the lack of an African-American category.
Nominees also need to be nominated by at least 50 percent of the industry, as the Academy is required to give out a single award to a winning artist.
If the Afro-centric category does make it to the Grammys, it could also be the first time a song from a black musician gets nominated for the award. But it’s unlikely the Grammy voters will be swayed by the popularity of a black artist in the category.
“I’m not making it a racial category,” Ehrlich said to Variety on the call. “I think it is important to recognize African styles in pop music, be it the R&B or the Afrobeats side.”
“But I do think we have to give it serious consideration and see how it’s received around the country and see what happens,” he added. “It’s not the first time it’s been mentioned.”
The nominations are based on a poll of over 40,000 people from Billboard, a number that could be considered small, but according to a previous Billboard chart,