There was time when JAY-Z boycotted the GRAMMY Awards, but everyone has Beyonce to thank for his return to the Recording Academy’s annual honors.
While accepting the 2018 Salute to Industry Icons Award at Clive Davis’ Pre-GRAMMY Gala at the Sheraton Time Square in New York City, the rapper opened up about his love and support for his wife and how it changed his perspective on the awards ceremony.
“My introduction to the GRAMMYs were, aside from seeing them on TV and seeing Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and all those guys inspiring [me] to do what they did, was 1998,” JAY-Z said, revealing that he opted to boycott the awards, despite earning his first three nominations, because he felt that not enough rap artists, like DMX and others with highly successful albums of the year, were not widely recognized at that year’s ceremony. “The same year, he had released two albums, and he wasn’t nominated for any GRAMMYs.”
That marked the beginning of the rapper’s absence from the ceremony, not returning until 2004, “when a beautiful young lady, whom I love dearly, had a solo album, and it was the breakout -- she was nominated,” he said. “My first time coming back, six years later, [was] for the Crazy in Love album with the beautiful Miss Beyoncé.”
During the 46th annual GRAMMYs, Beyonce took home five awards, the most for that evening. The singer has gone on to win 22 awards, while JAY-Z has 21.
The couple, who have recently opened up about their ups and downs of their marriage in the albums, Lemonade and 4:44, are both nominated at the 60th annual awards. The two are up together for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Family Feud,” while JAY-Z is nominated for a total of eight, including the top three prizes.
While accepting his award, the rapper went on to explain that he realized “art is super-subjective and everyone's doing their best,” before calling on the Academy to continue to recognize more people of color.
“The academy, they're human like we are and voting on things that they like. We can pretend that we don't care, but we do, because we see the most incredible artists stand on that stage and aspire to do that. So I was like, ‘I have to be here.’ That's the whole idea: for all of us to get involved and to push this thing further,” he said.
This year, JAY-Z is nominated for Album of the Year alongside Bruno Mars, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar and Lorde, marking the first time in GRAMMY history that no white man is up for the top prize.
During an interview with Van Jones for CNN, the rapper professed his love and devotion for his wife, calling Beyonce his "soulmate" and explaining that he fought to keep them together because she's the "person I love."
"For us, we chose to fight for our love, for our family. To give our kids a different outcome. To break that cycle for black men and women," he said, adding: "We were never a celebrity couple, we were a couple who just happened to be celebrities. We are real people."
Meanwhile, JAY-Z and Beyonce have celebrated like royalty all weekend leading up to the awards show. They kicked things off the Roc Nation Brunch at One World Trade Center, where guests included Diddy, DJ Khaled, Mariah Carey, Jaden Smith, Swizz Beatz and Susan Sarandon, before heading to the Clive Davis gala. The star-studded event was also attended by Katie Holmes, Zayn Malik, Cardi B, Camila Cabello, Pink and featured performances by Luis Fonsi, Barry Manilow, Migos and Ben Platt.
The 60th annual GRAMMY Awards, hosted by James Corden, will air live from Madison Square Garden starting at 7:30 p.m. ET and 4:30 p.m. PT on CBS.
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