Sean “Diddy” Combs has a message for the Grammys bureaucrats: “They work for us.”
Taking over the annual pre-Grammy party hosted by Clive Davis, Combs delivered a 50-minute speech that aired his grievances with the Recording Academy. His sentiments may be a prelude to other diatribes during tonight’s televised event, which are being held in the shadow of a legal battle with former CEO Deborah Dugan and the Recording Academy’s Board of Directors. Accusations of voting irregularities, sexism and cronyism have been floated in the dispute.
Diddy was given an icon award at the Davis party, and spoke of his pain at past treatment by the Recording Academy.
“I have to be honest. The last few days I’ve been conflicted. I’m being honored by this industry I love, this family that I love, but there’s an elephant in the room and it’s not just about the Grammys,” he said. “This is discrimination and injustice everywhere at an all-time high. But there’s something I need to say to the Grammys and I changed my middle name to love, so it’s Sean Love Combs now… I say this with love to the Grammys because you really need to know this. Every year, y’all be killing us man. I’m talking about the pain. I’m speaking for all the artists here, producers and executives – the amount of time to make these records, to pour your heart out into it… in the great words of Erykah Badu, ‘We are artists and we’re sensitive about our s–t. We are passionate.’”
That was the warm-up. Diddy then dug down into specific complaints.
“For most of us, this is all we’ve got. It’s our only hope. Truth be told hip hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be. So, right now, in this current situation, it’s not a revelation. This thing been going on and it’s not just going on in music. It’s going on in film. It’s going on in sports, It’s going on around the world.
“And for years, we’ve allowed institutions, that have never had our best interest at heart, to judge us. And that stops right now. Y’all got 365 days to get this s–t together… We need the artists to take back control. We need transparency. We need diversity. This is the room that has the power to make the change. It needs to be made. They have to make the changes for us. They’re a nonprofit organization that’s supposed to protect the welfare of the musical community. That’s what it says on the mission statement. That’s the truth. They work for us,” he said.
The speech ended with a salute to iconic black artists who were not fully recognized by the Recording Academy. “And I want to dedicate this award to Michael Jackson for ‘Off the Wall,’ Prince for ‘1999,’ Beyoncé for ‘Lemonade,’ Missy Elliott for ‘Da Real World,’ Snoop Dogg for ‘Doggy Style,’ Kanye West for ‘Graduation’ and Nas for ‘Illmatic.’”