Kendrick Lamar was skunked by the Grammys for Album of the Year again this year, with the recording academy once again voting for the most adult-contemporary-friendly option — in this case, Bruno Mars (“24K Magic”). But why wait around for music’s top prize when you can go for film’s highest honor? He co-wrote the entire soundtrack album for the new Marvel film “Black Panther.” He might actually have a better shot at the Oscars since the motion picture academy has demonstrated that it’s far more open to hip-hop music than the Grammys are. Watch Lamar’s video for “All the Stars” with SZA above.
The Oscars have spent recent years trying to respond to the #OscarsSoWhite backlash from 2016 when there were no people of color represented among the 20 acting nominees. Since then the academy has opened up to a broader, more diverse, more international membership, but they were already downright woke compared to the Grammys — at least when it comes to music. By the time the controversy about Oscar diversity reached its peak three rap compositions had already won Best Original Song. Compare that to zero rap songs that have won Record or Song of the Year at the Grammys and one rap album that has won Album of the Year (“Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” by OutKast, 2004).
The first was “Lose Yourself” from “8 Mile” (2002). It was performed by Eminem and co-written by Jeff Bass and Luis Resto. Eminem is a white artist, so his victory wasn’t a triumph of ethnic diversity, per se (though co-writer Resto is Puerto Rican). However, it was a musically bold choice since it was up against artists who might have been considered more Oscar-friendly, like Kander and Ebb (“I Move On” from “Chicago”), U2 (“The Hands That Build America” from “Gangs of New York”) and Paul Simon (“Father and Daughter” from “The Wild Thornberrys Movie”). It’s worth noting that “Lose Yourself” was also nominated for Record and Song of the Year at the Grammys, but lost to Coldplay (“Clocks”) and Luther Vandross (“Dance with My Father”), respectively.
The Oscars were even bolder three years later when they awarded “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from “Hustle and Flow” (2005). It was co-written by the hip-hop group Three 6 Mafia with Cedric Coleman, who took down Dolly Parton (“Travellin’ Thru” from “Transamerica”) and Kathleen York (“In the Deep” from “Crash”).
Most recently Common and John Legend won for “Glory” from the docudrama “Selma” (2014). Their rivals that year included perennial Oscars bridesmaid Diane Warren (“Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”) and country legend Glen Campbell (“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”). Common and Legend also won a Grammy for Best Visual Media Song, though “Glory” didn’t contend for Record or Song of the Year.
So perhaps Lamar should consider composing music full time since the movie industry seems more inclined to reward him for it.
Be sure to check out how our experts rank Oscar contenders in all 24 categories. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see the other categories. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your Oscar winner predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4.