Sometimes, you may be tempted to separate Kanye West the person from Kanye West the artist, whether it's when he's going after someone on Twitter, making controversial comments on stage, or giving an interview that takes a left turn. However, his latest album is so personal, it makes that all but impossible, which is just part of the reason why the 2017 Grammy snubbing Kanye's The Life of Pablo in major categories is so disappointing. Unfortunately, the snub can't be deemed surprising, because it follows in a long tradition of the awards show shying away from his more experimental albums.
Take for example Yeezus, his 2013 album that though divisive, garnered a ton of critical praise for its intensity. There's also 808s & Heartbreak, his 2008 album that changed the rap game and was deemed one of the 40 most groundbreaking albums of all time by Rolling Stone. Then there's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, considered by many to be Kanye's best album and selected by Pitchfork as the best album, period, released between 2010 and 2014.
What do these three albums have in common, besides being some of Yeezus' best work? They did not receive any Grammy nominations outside of rap categories, save for MBDTF single "All of the Lights" in the Song of the Year category. 808s & Heartbreak didn't earn a single Grammy nomination, and Yeezus only received two, for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song ("New Slaves"). In fact, The Life of Pablo has more Grammy nominations than any of these albums with its five nods in rap categories.
Still, that doesn't make these continuous snubs in major categories any less disappointing. Despite now having 63 nominations under his belt (the 2017 Grammys also nominated Schoolboy Q's "THat Part," which he's featured in), Kanye has never won a Grammy outside of a rap or R&B category. I thought The Life of Pablo, with its blend of genres and deeply personal yet resonant lyrics had a chance of finally breaking that barrier, but it seems the Grammys just don't get Pablo — the person or the album.
The nominations that Kanye did receive on Tuesday, Dec. 6 even reflect the disconnect between Grammy voters and his music. The Life of Pablo's five nods are spread between three categories; "Famous" and "Ultralight Beam" are each nominated as both Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Performance, and TLOP landed a spot in the Best Rap Album category.
For obvious reasons, "Famous" was the most talked about song on the album, with Ultralight Beam coming in a close second for its seamless blend of rap and gospel and standout verse from Chance the Rapper. But where's the love for less hyped songs, like the wholly unique "Wolves," featuring excellent vocals from Sia and Vic Mensa? Or "Fade," with its ridiculously catchy beat? Or "No More Parties in LA," in which Kanye and Kendrick Lamar each maintain an incredible pace while rapping clever lyrics? "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" also stands out for mixing very different sounds into one cohesive song. And yet, none of these songs earned recognition in any categories.
Yes, given their history, Kanye's 2017 Grammy snubs could've been even worse, but that doesn't mean his work should be overlooked. Hopefully, like Yeezus, 808s, and MBDTWF before it, The Life of Pablo will be remembered as a career high for Kanye, even though its more experimental nature kept it out of the Grammys' biggest categories.