Flashback 1991: Public Enemy Boycotts The GRAMMYs

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Flavor Flav and Chuck D. of Public Enemy

Flavor Flav and Chuck D. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Twenty years ago, in 1991, the 33rd annual GRAMMY Awards were in New York City, home to one of the most influential rap groups of all time, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Public Enemy[/lastfm]. For the third year in a row, PE was nominated for Best Rap Performance; they’d previously lost to [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Young MC[/lastfm] (“Bust A Move”) and the next year to [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Quincy Jones[/lastfm] featuring [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Big Daddy Kane[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Ice T[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Kool Moe Dee[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Melle Mel[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Quincy Jones III[/lastfm].


The fact that Public Enemy might have felt ripped off could easily be reason enough to boycott the GRAMMYs. But according to the New York Times, the group was acting in solidarity with [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Russell Simmons[/lastfm], founder and owner of Def Jam Records, who stated that, by choosing not to televise the presentation for Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group, the GRAMMYs were continuing to ignore what he called “inner-city contributions to the music industry.”

[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Sinead O’Connor[/lastfm] boycotted the 1991 ceremony as well, stating that the show rewarded commercial success over artistic merit (they “respect mostly material gain,” she told NARAS president Michael Greene). She said she would not accept the award if she won. (According to Time, Joe Smith, president of Capitol-EMI Music, countered by saying, “If Sinead doesn’t like these shows, then that’s her opinion. They get good ratings. This is not the International Red Cross.”)

So did [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Public Enemy[/lastfm] finally get the GRAMMY that they deserved? No! The award for Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group went to [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince[/lastfm] for their song “Summertime.”

Public Enemy came up short again but hey, if it’s any consolation, The Flavor of Love was a much better show than The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air! Hey Public Enemy, when it comes to the GRAMMYs, Can’t Truss It!

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