Freddie McGregor was the only reggae artiste brave enough to stand up and speak out against the injustices in the music where the Grammy Awards are concerned. Reggae and dancehall fans often voice their displeasure about the undeserved number of Grammy Awards that the Marleys were winning but almost all artistes remained silent until McGregor spoke up.
In 2016, after seeing Ziggy Marley being nominated for another Grammy Award and a lot of artists with higher quality music being ignored, McGregor referred to the Grammy nomination and selection process as “an embarrassment of indescribable magnitude to reggae music”.
Stephen Marley was quick to come to the defense of his family brother, as was expected but his argument did not make much sense. According to Stephen, the Marleys keep winning because of their hard work as if artists like Tarrus Riley, Chronixx, Sizzla and Jah Cure are not also hard working and talented musicians.
After Ziggy ended up winning the 2016 Grammy Award, McGregor said it was “scandalous but not surprising”.
After McGregor’s comments, a boastful and hype Stephen said that whenever the Marleys release an album, it was like Usain Bolt entering a race as everyone know who the winner would be. Stephen’s statement was a big disrespect to Usain Bolt as the Olympic Gold Medalist wins races because of his talent while the Marleys win Grammys because of their last name and Jewish connections.
Executives at the Grammy Awards heard McGregor’s complaints loud and clear, however, and they are now taking steps to make sure that the most deserving artists are nominated and selected for the Reggae Grammy and not only those with a Marley last name.
Late last week, Grammy executive got with members of the reggae and dancehall community to discuss a way forward in making sure that great reggae artistes will be recognized by the Grammys in the future. Among the attendees were Mr. Vegas, Clinton Lindsay, Major Lazer, Neil Peart and representatives from 18 Karat Reggae.
One of the main issues discussed in the meeting was the fact that Orly Agai Marley, the wife of Ziggy Marley, is the governor of the Los Angeles chapter of the Grammy Executives. This is a clear conflict of interest as this is the group responsible for deciding who is nominated and subsequently selected to receive the Grammy Award.
“The executives are also aware that for the past five years or so, Jamaicans are not satisfied with the final list, as they believe that the Marleys have a major influence on the selection. So the aim is to get rid of this misconception that the Grammy is not a level playing field as it relates to the Marleys,” Lindsay said.
He went on to state that everyone at the meeting was in agreement that the Marleys have used the influence of their last name to corrupt the system which has dealt a major blow to reggae music.
When music fans see the high number of Grammy Awards that Ziggy has won and listened to his music to find out that it is average at best, they think that is the best reggae has to offer and as a result they don’t take the chance to listen to the true greats of reggae like Beres Hammond, Sizzla, Capleton and Freddie McGregor himself.
Since the Grammys introduced the reggae category, Ziggy Marley has won eight Best Reggae Album Grammy Awards; five solo and three with the Melody Makers. Stephen Marley has won six Grammy awards including winning for an album one year and then winning for the instrumental version of the same album the following year. Damian Marley has won the Reggae Grammy three times but in this case, his Welcome to Jamrock album was deserving of the award that year.
Sadly, McGregor who got things moving in the right direction was not invited to the meeting by the Grammy Executives; nonetheless, McGregor is very happy that progress is being made.
“Sometimes we are afraid to speak, so we don’t see changes, but I am really proud of what is happening,” McGregor told 18 Karat Reggae.
“The committee has made a good selection and the nomination is more important than the win because there can only be one winner. All eyes are on Junior Gong and Chronixx. Both of them have exceptional albums, so the world waits with bated breath, to see who will emerge the winner,” he continued.
“If we feel comfortable with the albums that are nominated, then excitement will be generated and we will be satisfied with whoever wins. Things like this can only make the industry better,” McGregor concluded.