Drake Schools the Grammys on How Freedom Promotes Diversity, Democracy, and Minority Rights

So apparently it takes a Canadian rapper to remind us Americans about the beautiful, and profoundly democratic, diversity that comes with freedom. The occasion was the 61st Grammy Awards, and Drake had just taken the stage to accept his award for best rap song. You tired and scared moguls of American Music, Listen Up:

“We play an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport. This is a business where sometimes it’s up to a bunch of people that might not understand what a mixed-race kid from Canada has to say, or [pointing to Cardi B] a fly Spanish girl from New York. The point is, you’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word, if you are a hero in your hometown. Look, if there [are] people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here. I promise you, you already won.”

With that, his microphone was cut off, thus launching a tiresome debate about why. Were his words too unpopular with the Pooh-Bahs of the Music Industrial Complex? Or was it just time to go to another commercial break? I don’t know, but all of the articles about his speech seem to center on this drama, tragically ignoring what Drake actually had to say.

The context is important. The Grammys have been losing relevance for years, as styles of music and new songs in all of their beautiful mutations challenge the old categories. It almost seems silly to try to force music into these boxes anymore. Equally important, artists of color—“a mixed-race kid from Canada… or a fly Spanish girl from New York,” for instance—have accused the awards process itself of bias against them and their innovations.

So do the Grammys still matter? Not so much, and that’s not going to change. Far more important, in our radically democratized world, is a musician’s ability to connect directly to a passionate audience. With democracy comes diversity and niche markets and weird sub-sub-genres and your right as a musician to play whatever you want for whomever you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone or take their stuff.

Do we really want a single top-down institution deciding tastes and preferences for us? That’s how it was in music, when the old warlords of commercial music used to decide for us. They would force us to fall into line and listen to the songs and styles they determined, from the top down, were right for us. And guess whose opinions determined who would win the Grammy?

Happily, those days are gone, replaced by liberating technologies that allow each individual music lover to be exactly right about his or her choices. Right now on Spotify, Drake and Cardi B live in peaceful coexistence with Willie Nelson and Kacey Musgraves, Childish Gambino and Wayne Shorter, Dua Lipa and Chris Cornell. These musicians all do wildly different stuff, and represent very different communities of fans. And everybody gets exactly what they want, without some central scrutinizer picking winners and losers long before anyone shows up for the show.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s broader lesson here somewhere. In our era of culturally divided, tribal, and increasingly angry politics, why don’t we just let all minorities—singers and fans, producers and consumers—of all tastes and preferences, decide for their own selves. Our peaceful coexistence in a beautifully diverse nation might well depend on it.

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Free the People publishes opinion-based articles from contributing writers. The opinions and ideas expressed do not always reflect the opinions and ideas that Free the People endorses. We believe in free speech, and in providing a platform for open dialog. Feel free to leave a comment!

Matt Kibbe

Matt Kibbe is President at Free the People, an educational foundation using video storytelling to turn on the next generation to the values of personal liberty and peaceful cooperation. He is also co-founder and partner at Fight the Power Productions, a video and strategic communications company. Kibbe is the host of BlazeTV’s Kibbe on Liberty, a popular podcast that insists that you think for yourself.

Dubbed “the scribe” by the New York Daily News, Kibbe is the author three books, most recently the #2 New York Times bestseller Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto.

He was senior advisor for a Rand Paul Presidential Super PAC in 2016, and later co-founded AlternativePAC to promote libertarian values.

In 2004 Kibbe founded FreedomWorks, a national grassroots advocacy organization, and served as President until his departure in 2015. Steve Forbes said: “Kibbe has been to FreedomWorks what Steve Jobs was to Apple.”

An economist by training, Kibbe did graduate work at George Mason University and received his B.A. from Grove City College. He serves at the whim of his awesome wife Terry, and their three objectivist cats, Roark, Ragnar and Rearden. Kibbe is a fanatical DeadHead, drinker of craft beer and whisky, and collector of obscure books on Austrian economics.

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