In a rousing speech, Sean “Diddy” Combs used his platform as a Grammys Industry Icon award-winner to call on The Recording Academy to treat hip-hop and Black music better.
“Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys.” Diddy told the crowd at The Recording Academy and Clive Davis’ Pre-Grammys Gala in Los Angeles on Saturday, the night before the nationally-televised music awards show.
Diddy also put the Grammys on notice, with the organization already under fire from back-and-forth accusations between them and its former CEO, Deborah Dugan.
“I’m officially starting the clock: you’ve got 365 days to get this sh— together,” he told the audience during his approximately 50-minute speech, according to Variety. “We need the artists to take back control, we need transparency, we need diversity.”
Diddy received his award at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, with Jay-Z, Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Cardi B, John Legend, and Byron Allen, among the onlookers.
Also, several performers from Diddy’s history performed in his honor, including Faith Evans, Ma$e, Lil’ Kim and his son King Combs. TheGrio was in the building and witnessed Combs enter the ceremony flanked by his three daughters, three sons, Swizz Beats, Wiz Khalifa, and an entourage of supporters.
As is the case with most traditional major entertainment awards, the Grammys have been called out for constantly snubbing and overlooking non-white and non-male contributors.
Well into his speech, Diddy said: “There’s something that I need to say to the Grammys — and I say this with love. Every year y’all be killing us. I’m speaking for all the artists and executives: in the great words of Erykah Badu, ‘We are artists and we are sensitive about our sh–.’ For most of us, this is all we’ve got. This is our only hope.”
He also spoke about the conflict between the Grammys and president Deborah Dugan, pushed out of the organization nine days earlier after five months on the job — a move Dugan fought, according to Variety, by accusing the academy of nominating practices that were corrupt and full of conflicts of interest, among other charges. Many of the initiatives Dugan had proposed when she was appointed had been aimed at greater diversity.
“There’s something that I need to say to the Grammys — and I say this with love. Every year y’all be killing us.”
“So right now, with this current situation, it’s not a revelation,” Diddy said. “This thing been going on — not just in music, but in film, sports, around the world. And for years we’ve allowed institutions that have never had our best interests at heart to judge us — and that stops right now.”
Diddy’s comments were met with enthusiastic cheers.
READ MORE: Diddy blasts Comcast over Byron Allen lawsuit: ‘Comcast is choosing to be on the wrong side of history.’
These were far from the first claims of the industry overlooking, at best, the contributions of Black music every year at this time, but Diddy is likely the best-known and loudest voice. With his one-year ultimatum, their response will be worth following long after this year’s Grammys are handed out.