7 of the Grammys' best political and protest moments over the years

7 of the Grammys' best political and protest moments over the years
(From left) Macklemore, Mary Lambert, Madonna, Ryan Lewis and Queen Latifa onstage at the 56th Grammy Awards Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images
(From left) Macklemore, Mary Lambert, Madonna, Ryan Lewis and Queen Latifa onstage at the 56th Grammy Awards Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

Millions tune in to watch musicians perform and win accolades at the Grammys each year. But sometimes it's not all about the glitz and music. With a huge event like this, many artists — and fans — use the Grammys as a platform to make political noise and protest an array of interests, from the Recording Academy's system to non-music topics. 

Frank Ocean Jordan Strauss/AP

In 2017, singer Frank Ocean is skipping the Grammys to make a statement about what he sees as the show's bias toward black artists. 

Here's a look back at seven other political and protest moments at the Grammys that grabbed our attention over the years.

Eminem and Elton John team up

Elton John and Eminem at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards Hector Mata/Getty Images

Back in 2001, rapper Eminem was under fire by gay rights and women's rights activists who criticized his lyrics as violent and homophobic. On the day of the Grammys, about three dozen activists gathered and protested the Detroit emcee's music outside the venue

Meanwhile, Eminem attempted to make peace by teaming up with iconic singer Elton John on stage. The pair held hands in unison at the end of their performance. 

"I came to make an impact, I came to make a statement and I guess to piss some people off," Eminem told MTV.

Ol' Dirty Bastard of Wu-Tang Clan storms the Grammy stage 

Source: YouTube

In 1998, way before Kanye West was storming stages, Ol' Dirty Bastard of Wu-Tang Clan walked up to the stage to make a statement about his group's loss to Diddy for best rap album.

"I went and bought me an outfit today that cost a lot of money today, you know man, because I figured that Wu-Tang was going to win," he said. 

ODB of Wu-Tang Clan takes the Grammys stage unannounced in 1998. Mark Lennihan/AP

Meanwhile, Shawn Colvin and John Leventhal were just announced as winners for song of the year ODB was delaying their acceptance speech. He continued, seemingly unbothered by this fact. 

"I don’t know how y’all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children," he said. We teach the children, you know what I mean? Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best. I want you to know that this is ODB and I love you all.”

Hip-hop artists boycott the 1989 Grammys

Several hip-hop acts boycotted the Grammy awards in 1989 when they found out the Recording Academy would not air the winner of the rap category on television. 

D. J. Jazzy and Will Smith attend the American Music Awards in 1989. Lennox McLendon/AP

Will Smith, one of the rappers participating in the boycott, won the 1989 award for best rap performance for his song "Parents Just Don't Understand." When asked about the win, he expressed feeling some disappointment in not having the ability to receive the shine he felt hip-hop deserved.

"I'm not as happy as I could have been," Smith told the LA Times in 1989. "(The presentation not being televised) detracts from the excitement of the award." 

Billy Joel protests treatment of Sinatra

Singer Billy Joel made a statement of his own against the Grammys in 1994, when the telecast abruptly cut to commercial before Frank Sinatra finished his acceptance speech for the legend award. During Joel's performance later that evening, he purposely paused in the middle of his hit "The River of Dreams" and looked at his watch. 

Source: YouTube

"Valuable advertising time going by," Joel said as the crowd laughed. "Valuable advertising time going by.  Dollars. Dollars. Dollars." 

He then smiled and continued with his performance.

Macklemore and Queen Latifah's mass wedding 

While performing "Same Love," a song protesting the discrimination of the LGBTQ community, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis filled the aisles with 33 couples for a mass wedding at the 2014 Grammys. 

Queen Latifah officiated the marriages, many of them same-sex unions, live on the telecast. 

Thirty-three couples exchanged vows during Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' Grammys performance in 2014. Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

“We are gathered here to celebrate love and harmony in every key, in every color," Latifah said. "As I look out on this audience, I’m delighted to see the faces of 33 couples who’ve chosen this moment to celebrate their vows with us here in Los Angeles."

After Latifah announced the newlyweds, Madonna appeared onstage to sing her song "Open Your Heart."

Kanye West defends Beyoncé ... again 

In 2009, Kanye West walked on stage at the VMAs and interrupted Taylor Swift to tell the world Beyoncé should have won the award for best female video. 

Beck reacts as Kanye West leaves the stage at the 57th Annual Grammy awards in February 2015. Robyn Beck/Getty Images

In 2015, the rapper pulled a similar, more silent stunt when he walked onstage at the Grammys after Beck was given the album of the year award, for which Bey was also nominated. Kanye later clarified his protest after the ceremony. 

"Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé, and at this point, we tired of it," he told E!.

Jay Z boycotted the Grammys for several years

At the 2014 Grammys, Jay Z performed "Drunk in Love" alongside his wife Beyoncé. Over the years, the rapper has taken home 21 Grammys, but there was a time the rapper was totally anti-award-shows. In 2002, he spoke about not planning to attend the ceremony after not accepting an invitation since 1999. 

Jay-Z at the Grammys in 2013 Matt Sayles/AP

"I didn't think they gave the rightful respect to hip-hop," he told MTV

During this time, Jay Z was also concerned about whether producers planned to televise the hip-hop categories, an issue that was first raised in 1989 when Smith announced a rap boycott on the show.

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