The Grammys have a complicated relationship with hip-hop and black culture.
The awards body has paid lip service to hip-hop, but, as Kanye has said, it's generally just lip service ("I want to see Future and Young Thug at the Grammys. Not just me and Jay in a suit"). But The Grammys represent the music industry, and the industry, despite a massive cultural shift in how people buy and consume music, is still largely obsessed with sales. And much of the best and most exciting rap music is never put up for sale,.
As it stands right now, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences says that in order to qualify for a Grammy Award music "must be commercially released in general distribution in the United States....Recordings must be available for sale from any date within the eligibility period through at least the date of the current year’s voting deadline (final ballot)."
This disqualifies a wide swath of amazing hip-hop releases as ineligible, and there might be no better avatar for that problem than Chance The Rapper. The young Chicago MC is one of the biggest rising stars of the genre right now. He's played Saturday Night Live and all the late night shows, while also putting his fingerprints all over the major cultural phenomenon that is Kanye West's The Life of Pablo. Yet Chance has never been signed to a label, and all his projects have been free. His third album Chance 3 is set to drop this Friday, May 13 (despite his pneumonia), but, as a mixtape it, too, will not qualify for a Grammy.
A petition has recently been circulating to allow free music to be eligible for Grammy nominations. Artists like Chance, it says, "...are being punished for making their music available to everyone, rich or poor, by releasing their music for free. It's obvious that these artists are making their music more accessible to people who deserve it even if they can't afford it, as well as decreasing pirating and illegally downloading music."
And now, the petition has an endorsement from Chance The Rapper himself (via DJ Booth):
The petition currently sits at 23,882 supporters, just shy of its 25,000 goal. It's unclear whether or not the Recording Academy will take notice, but maybe Kanye can relay it CEO Neil Portnow in their next meeting.