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How to [Maybe] Get a Reggae Grammy Nomination

The GRAMMY Nomination Process Simplified

By M. Peggy Quattro

Grammy Award and Logo

Since 1958, the GRAMMYs have celebrated music excellence. It is the music community’s highest honor & its only peer-based award.

The GRAMMY is awarded to musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, & industry professionals.

Inside Jamaica’s Reggae community, there’s always much discussion about the USA GRAMMY Awards, especially the highly coveted Best Reggae Album Award.

Ever since the first Reggae GRAMMY went to Black Uhuru in 1985 (when it was called Best Reggae Recording), there’s been dissension in the Reggae family, along with confusion, arguments, debates, & disagreements surrounding why someone was nominated…or why not.

Let’s start with some facts: currently, there are  30 fields (General, Pop, Rock, Reggae, etc.) to be considered, as well as 84 distinct award categories across those fields. The Reggae category is for “an album containing at least 51% playing time of new Reggae recordings.”

To be clear, I am not an Academy member or a Reggae GRAMMY expert. However, I join others who are interested in how the “final five” selection comes about. So, I set out to educate myself & now I can share what I’ve learned with you.

What follows is information on the Recording Academy, how to join, & the GRAMMY Nomination process. Academy links are provided for more info. I truly hope this helps answer the countless questions as to how, when, who, and why a Reggae album ultimately acquires this sought-after recognition.


FIRSTLY – JOIN THE ACADEMY

Like the GRAMMY Awards, Recording Academy membership is community-driven & peer-reviewed on an annual cycle. Pay attention to the dates & deadlines!

You must be invited to join. To be considered for an invitation:

  1. Get two strong recommendations from music industry peers. (Click this link to learn how to get recommendations.)
  2. Your profile is completed only after your recommendations are received by the Academy & you tell them more about your career.* Profiles must be complete by midnight on March 1 to be considered for that year’s class.
    *Candidates will receive an email with a link & candidate code to complete their career profile.

New member submissions are considered by the Recording Academy’s Peer Review Panel each spring, & will approve memberships at its sole discretion after assessing your submission. 

Grammy Award photo If approved by Peer Review, candidates are invited to join the Recording Academy by July 9 and have until that year’s GRAMMY Awards voting deadline to accept.

*Become a Recording Academy member here*

 THE WHO & HOW

Who can enter recordings for consideration? Do I qualify?

The Recording Academy accepts entries online from Professional & Voting Members, as well as registered media companies. Members are permitted to submit their own eligible recordings as well as the recordings of their peers for consideration.

How do media companies submit product for GRAMMY consideration?

Record labels, distribution companies & management firms qualify as media companies. Media companies must register with the Recording Academy every year to submit/enter recordings. Once your media company registration has been confirmed, the Awards department will send the media company’s designated administrator detailed submission instructions.  More Academy FAQ’s here.


“The Reggae GRAMMY Category does need some change. But change won’t happen if Reggae artists are on the menu…but NOT at the table.”  ~Barbara Johnson, Media Exec


Read This Interesting  Committee Background

I highly recommend you read this clip from a 2014 article by friend, writer & major Dancehall & Reggae enthusiast ROB “Boomshots” KENNER. He tells of his experience as an Academy Screening Committee member while raising a few very interesting questions. (More on the process below.)

ROB:  “[The] screening committee goes through every single album that had been submitted—usually by record labels, but sometimes by members of the Recording Academy. (In a category like reggae, where much of the music is produced by smaller independent labels who may not be familiar with the GRAMMY entry process, the best records are sometimes not even submitted.)

“Members of that committee were not supposed to concern ourselves with quality—our job was to determine whether each album belonged in the reggae category. The rules stated that 51% of the album’s tracks had to consist of reggae music (a genre that includes such disparate styles as roots reggae, ska, dub, and dancehall.)


“…Famous people tend to get more votes from clueless Academy members, regardless of the quality of their work.”


“…Famous people tend to get more votes from clueless Academy members, regardless of the quality of their work. This is especially true in specialized categories like reggae…That’s the reason why famous names like Marley, Toots, and Sly & Robbie stand a much better chance of winning in the reggae category than, say, Beres Hammond.

[Rob soon paid his membership fee and joined the Recording Academy as a voting member. His story continues:] “Here’s how the process works: Voting members review lists of all the eligible recordings in each category (the ones generated by screening committees like mine.)

“Members are supposed to vote only in their fields of expertise—and in a maximum of 9 out of the 31 fields on the ballot… A few categories are reserved for special nominating committees, but frankly—not enough… In the final voting process, members are allowed to vote in even more categories—up to 20, plus the 4 general categories.

“Bottom line: the vast majority of the nominations are chosen by people who have little real expertise in a given field. I refrained from voting in heavy metal and classical because I know very little about those genres. But I could have if I wanted to, and that strikes me as a problem.”   Read Rob’s entire 2014 Complex.com article here.


“We don’t need a dancehall category…that would set us back…people are being fooled about separating dancehall from reggae…We’re always trying to create something instead of focusing on what we have and building that.” ~Ibo Cooper, JaRia


NOW, HERE’S THE PROCESS…

SUBMISSION
It begins with members & record companies submitting entries, which are then screened for eligibility and category placement. The Academy’s voting members, all involved in the creative & technical processes of recording, then participate in (1) the nominating process that determines the five finalists in each category; & (2) the final voting process which determines the GRAMMY winners.

SCREENING
After review by 350 experts in various fields, the screening committee places the album in its proper category. No artistic or technical judgments about the recordings are made. The entries move on to the nominating committee.

NOMINATING
First-round ballots are sent to voting members in good dues standing. To help ensure the quality of the voting, members are directed to vote only in their areas of expertise; they may vote in up to 15 categories in the genre fields plus the four categories of the General Field (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, & Best New Artist.) Ballots are tabulated by the independent accounting firm of Deloitte.

FINAL VOTING   (Note: This is where I’m a little confused. The Reggae category is not sent to a Nominations Review Committee–see graphic below–before the final vote. The Reggae nominees selected from the first nominating committee go right to final vote, with no review. Maybe someone reading this can explain it to us.)grammy voting graphic Final-round ballots are then sent to voting members in good dues standing. In this final round, Recording Academy members may vote in up to 15 categories in the genre fields plus the four categories of the General Field.

So good people, that’s how it’s done!


More Helpful Info:

Key Dates for 2020-2021

  • Sept. 1, 2019—Aug. 31, 2020Product Eligibility Period
  • Sept. 30—Oct. 12, 2020: First-Round Voting—eligible members vote to determine the 2021 nominees!
  • Nov. 24: Nominations Announcement!
  • Dec. 7, 2020—Jan. 4, 202: Final-Round Voting—this round determines the GRAMMY winners!
  • Jan. 31, 2021: 63rd GRAMMY Awards & Premiere Ceremony (8 p.m.CBS)

Check it! Recent Academy Changes

You will notice that any terms that include the word urban* have been removed from category titles. The Recording Academy stated in November 2020 “that describing music as ‘urban’ and ‘urban contemporary’ has ‘historically been used as a way to separate Black artists’ from the (white) artistic mainstream.”
*Exception, one Latin category… go figure. 

2020 grammy award logoOther changes announced involve Best New Artist parameters & taking a closer look at all possible conflicts of interest.

Interestingly, “the Academy members who serve on its so-called nomination reviews committees, which determine the final nominees in most award categories, must disclose any connections they have to potentially nominated artists and projects.”

“Two glaring disclosures only now being asked are:  (1) Do you have any “immediate family ties” to a potential nominee? And (2) Will you as a voter, have any “direct or indirect financial ties” to a project or artist under consideration?”

But, as with all vague changes & GRAMMY nominations, there are questions, controversies, and contention. 

LASTLY – ABOUT PROMOTION

Labels, artists & media companies are welcome to promote their album but must follow these Voting & Solicitation Guidelines, i.e., voters may not accept money or anything of value for a vote, no agreement to trade votes, & voters must not be influenced in any other way other than their own analysis of merit.


I hope this helps you understand the GRAMMY Awards nomination & voting process. If you like this info or have a question, say so in the comments below.

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Damian Marley on Family and Recording with Nas 2011

Damian “Junior Gong” Marley Interview  –  Perth, Australia 2011

By Mumma Trees

Ed. Note: In Australia for the 2011 4-day Good Vibrations Fest, Damian Marley, along with his latest collab partner Nas, were featured artists on a stellar festival lineup that included Faithless, Ludacris, Janelle Monae, and Erykah Badu. Prior to the show, Perth radio personality and journalist Mumma Trees caught up with the young Marley in Miami via phone.  Featured photo by Jan Salzman. Watch the Damian & Nas video “Nah Mean” below or on our YouTube channel.  

Early Days & Inspirations
Damian Marley by Lee Abel
Damian Marley * Photo Lee Abel

How did you start, Damian, what made you get up there and do what you do?

Well, I mean I think it goes without saying that I have an obvious influence from my family, you know my father, and of course, my older brothers and sisters are all involved in music. But growing up as a child, I used to go to a lot of concerts in Jamaica and watch some of my personal musical heroes, which would be people like Shabba Ranks and Supercat, who are some of the earlier Dancehall artists. I used to watch them perform and that’s really what got me into wanting to perform myself.

That’s interesting because your brothers are singers, but you have chosen the deejay style.

Yeah. And that’s definitely because of that same influence… like the first music I bought for myself was Dancehall music.

Are there any current Dancehall artists who are doing things that you admire?

Yeah, I mean, lots of them, I am a big fan of music in general, you know wha I mean, so I try my best to keep up-to-date with what’s going on, especially in Jamaica. I mean lots of them, you have Mavado, Gyptian, Tarrus Riley, Wayne Marshall, Vybz Kartel, you have loads of them, and I am a fan of their music.

You mention Vybz Kartel, what’s your opinion of the slackness in Dancehall music coming out in the last few years from artists like him?

I mean, the music I bought as a child was slack also. And I am a big advocate of freedom of speech. You have to be free to say something negative, to be free to say something positive. So I am a big advocate of that. And realistically, you know music is an honest way of making a living. You know, somebody could be out there doing something that isn’t…. Music don’t really hurt nobody. So if Vybz Kartel is making an honest living for himself, you have to respect that.

Damian, Stephen, Julian Marley
Damian, Stephen, & Julian Marley – W. Palm Beach * Photo Lynn Dearing 2010

Were you close with your brothers and sisters growing up?

We were very close growing up. Every vacation, summer holidays, I would always go and spend a few weeks with them, and you know, we were very close from when I was a child.

When you have performed with your brothers, it has been as the “Ghetto Youths Crew,” are you still working together on that?

Well, we still are a team, but performing as the Ghetto Youths Crew, we haven’t done that in many years now. But we still definitely work as a team. We have a whole lot of new young artists we are working with and getting ready to release some projects next year.

Collaboration with Nas

Your latest collaboration with Nas has been a huge worldwide hit. Can you tell me about the album title Distant Relatives?

Nas and Damian Marley
Nas & Damian Marley in Florida *. Photo Alex Broadwell

It’s called Distant Relatives because of different reasons. Nas and myself, being that we are ‘distant relatives,’ Hip-Hop and Reggae as two genres of music being ‘distant relatives.’ Then on a bigger scale now, all of humanity, because the album itself has the concept of Africa intertwined throughout the whole album. We are trying to say that all of humanity comes from the same birthplace, Africa. So, all of us as humanity are ‘distant relatives.’

Speaking of Africa, I have seen videos of you and your brothers performing in Ethiopia. Have you performed in any southern African country? 

I have performed in Ethiopia and Ghana, but those are the only places in Africa I have visited so far. But for sure, my father’s song is the national anthem of Zimbabwe. So, that’s definitely a place I want to go and visit.

You had a couple of big tunes a few years ago produced by Baby G, The Mission and One Loaf of Bread. Are you planning to do any more work with Trevor Baby G?

It’s funny you say that because he is actually here in Miami. We have been doing some work together over the last few weeks. We’re trying to get a few Dancehall tracks together, so actually, I have a few tracks with Baby G being released in the next few weeks.

You are coming to Perth as part of the Good Vibrations festival, a great national festival, what can we expect from your performance here with Nas?

Nas & Damian Marley
Nas & Damian Marley, Pompano Beach, FL *. Photo Alex Broadwell

You can expect the best of both worlds. You can expect a great coming together of two genres of music. We do some of the tracks together that we have on the album, then the both of us give a little bit of our own catalogue of music. You gonna get a nice mix of Hip-Hop and Reggae.

Do you have a message for the Perth people?

Yeah man, tell dem Love and we will be there soon. Respect.

Nas & Damian “Zilla” Marley – “Nah Mean” from 2010’s Distant Relatives LP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buju Banton: Dancehall’s DJ Prince – 1992 Reggae History

Love Mi Buju: Dancehall’s Ruff ‘n Gruff DJ Prince

By Simon Buckland      V10#5 1992

Buju Banton Cover v!0#5 1992Seriously troubling all the more established Dancehall DJs this year is Buju Banton, a young man with stylish but homely aspirations. Ghetto-born Mark “Buju Banton” Myrie, at only 19, has, in the space of just five months, risen from interesting but run-of-the-mill Kingston DJ to front runner in the ‘92 Superstar Stakes.

True, he doesn’t have anything like the striking bone structure of the man he’s compared to – Shabba Ranks (whom I shan’t even mention ‘cause the two are, according to Buju, ‘two different kekkle of fish’) – but his reassuringly gruff warmth is usually a little less (How shall we say it?) raw! Continue reading

Reggae Dancehall History: DJ Super Cat Interview 1992

Super Cat: The Ghetto & Glory

By Brian E. Rochlin.     V10#2 1992

Dancehall DJ Super Cat
DJ Super Cat lands a Columbia Records deal in the early-90s

In Kingston, Jamaica, neighborhoods start and end within blocks, and living on them is a whole other type of education. Instead of a classroom within a single building, the classroom of the streets teaches its students to know which buildings are which. Knowing where you stand geographically can be as important as where you stand politically. The two are often related.

Each neighborhood has its own members of distinction, be they artists, politicians, musicians, or stalking DJs breaking into the international music scene. Seivwright Gardens, one of the toughest sections of the city, is noted for the many DJs that have broken away from it: U Roy, Ninja Man, Josie Wales, and Super Cat, the latest of the Gardens alumni to have graduated with honors. Continue reading

beenie man reggae

Beenie Man: The Dancehall Maestro Interview 1997 & 2020 Update

Update 2020: Moses “Beenie Man” Davis is the self-proclaimed King of the Dancehall, but I don’t think you will find too many people to disagree; especially after the Clash seen and heard-around-the-world in May 2020. Beenie and Bounty Killer, his arch-rival from the 90s Dancehall era, joined forces to deliver a Verzuz online sound clash witnessed by more than a half a million fans around the world.

The 46-year-old writer, producer & performer continues to work hard and put out numerous singles, EPS & LPs. Following the Verzuz Clash, Beenie released the single “Do You Want to Be That Guy?,” referring to the police officer who entered the studio during their live-stream. He never misses an opportunity to capitalize on the success and notoriety he’s earned over the past 35 years. What follows here is an interview with the “Maestro” while his star was blazing in the mid-90s Dancehall arena.♥

Beenie Man – The Maestro

By Sara Gurgen       V15#1 1997

beenie man reggae dancehall dj
Beenie Man – DJ of the Year – Two Years in a Row!

Maestro, the title of Beenie Man’s recently released album, perfectly describes this premier Jamaican DJ. After all, this proud member of the successful, hard-working Shocking Vibes crew has been wearing the crown of DJ of the Year for two years in a row; a dizzying array of his songs dot Reggae charts worldwide; and he is responsible for setting and/or popularizing numerous trends in Dancehall music. Two of his hits that best illustrate his trademark creativity are “Maestro,” which combines opera-style vocals with a Dancehall beat, and “Nuff Gal,” on which he chats over a finger-snapping, horn-laden Jazz line. Always one to try something new, this innovative music master has even fused good ol’ Rock’n Roll with Dancehall on his new album!

Continue reading

Bounty Killer: The Poor People’s Governor-1997 Interview & 2020 Update

Update 2020: Rodney “Bounty Killer” Price is a man with many names; fans call him General, Warlord, and Governor. From the height of the 90s Dancehall DJ era, Bounty has continued recording, performing, and doing some general ‘bad boy bizness.’ He also inspired such DJs as Mavado & Elephant Man and teamed up with young artists, such as Konshens. 

Recently he performed as part of an online soundclash with former rival Beenie Man as presented by the Verzuz IG Live series. 

Through the Bounty Killer Foundation and his “Give Back to…” program, Bounty assists single mothers and other people in need in his community and throughout Kingston.♥

Bounty Killer: The Poor People’s Governor

Interviewed by Shelah Moody & Rachel Campbell
Written by Shelah Moody    V15#3 1997

bounty killer reggae dancehall djs jamaican music
Bounty Killer

Since the September 1996 release of his fourth album, My Xperience, which features hard-hitting and brilliant collaborations with Barrington Levy, Fugees, Busta Rhymes, Junior Reid, and others, Bounty Killer has blown up in the Reggae and Hip-Hop communities. Between U.S. and international concert and club dates, video shoots, interviews, and publicity tours, it is no wonder the 25-year-old DJ has gained a reputation as one of the industry’s most elusive personalities. After months of endless calls to his record label, Blunt Recordings, his manager, Johnny Wonder, and Killer’s personal cellular number in Jamaica, I had almost given up hope on our long-awaited interview until it was announced that Bounty would headline Dancehall Day at the 16th annual Ragamuffins Festival (Feb. 14-16) in Long Beach, Calif. Continue reading

Dancehall’s Beenie Man & Bounty Killer-Clash of the Century

Beenie & Bounty – The Digital Dancehall Clash of the Century!

beenie man bounty killa verzuz clash 2020
Beenie Man and Bounty Killer Bring the Dancehall Vibe to Verzuz Soundclash

Kingston, JA – May 23, 2020 – Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, the two Dancehall legends that dominated Reggae’s DJ scene in the ‘90s, live-streamed a lively sound clash battle that was viewed—and engaged with—by virtually a half a million global fans.

The once-feuding competitors stirred up some dance hall memories: 1) remembering the traveling dance hall sound systems of the 50s and 60s when rivals-of-the-time would battle it out with rapid-fire lyrics relating to politics, women, sex, and the socio-economic injustices of the time, and 2) the “sonic dominance” of the traveling 70s, 80s, and 90s mega-sound systems.

Continue reading