Sources tell Variety that the decision was made by Drake and his management and the Grammys honored the request, although his motivation was unclear at the time of this article’s publication.
Drake was one of five nominees for Best Rap Album, for “Certified Lover Boy,” and for Best Rap Performance, for his song “Way 2 Sexy” (featuring Future and Young Thug).
Rather than giving a nomination to the recipients of the sixth-most votes, as the Academy did when it suddenly decided to expand the top four categories from eight to 10 last month, the voting for those two rap categories will go forward with just four nominees, presumably because the voting period already has begun; Grammy ballots were posted for voting members on Monday morning.
Grammy nominations must be submitted by a representative, usually the artist’s record label, and if an artist does not want their music considered, the label simply doesn’t submit it. The decision to remove a nomination at this late stage — after it has been submitted and announced, let alone on the day the ballots are posted — may be unprecedented.
Drake’s choices of nominations were unusual, however. While it is uncertain whether he chose not to submit the blockbuster “Certified Lover Boy” or any songs from it for the big categories — Album, Song or Record of the Year — his absence from any of those categories on even the preliminary ballot distributed to voters, which includes thousands of releases, seems to suggest that he did not. He clearly did choose to submit — and was nominated — for the two rap categories he has withdrawn.
Some have speculated that his decision might have something to do with him being named in lawsuits surrounding the tragedy at the Astroworld festival in Houston last month, where 10 people died when the crowd rampaged during headliner Travis Scott’s set, which featured a guest appearance from Drake. However, Drake is scheduled to perform with Kanye West at the “Free Larry Hoover” benefit concert in Los Angeles on Thursday, so that explanation feels unlikely.
Drake has had a long and at times contentious relationship with the Grammys. A year ago, he called for them to be replaced with “something new that we can build up over time and pass on to the generations to come,” after it failed to recognize his peer and fellow Canadian artist the Weeknd in any of its 2021 categories, despite him having one of the top albums and singles of 2020.
“I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artist that exist now and the ones that come after,” he wrote in his Instagram Story. “It’s like a relative you keep expecting to fix up but they just won’t change their ways. The other day I said @theweeknd was a lock for either album or song of the year along with countless other reasonable assumptions and it just never goes that way. This is a great time for somebody to start something new that we can build up overtime and pass on to the generations to come.”
In 2017, he declined to submit his album “More Life” for any 2018 Grammy awards, even though it qualified; the rancor around that year’s show intensified after Jay-Z won no awards despite being nominated for eight.
Drake also threw shade at the Grammys during his acceptance speech in 2019, when “God’s Plan” won Best Rap Song. The awards show producers cut off his mic after he claimed awards hold no value.
“We play an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport,” he said. “You already won if you have people singing your songs word for word, if they’re singing in your hometown. You’re already winning, you don’t need this right here.”
However, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. has made a strong and concerted effort to overhaul some Academy procedures and staff and effectively clean up the organization’s act in the wake of years of accusations of insider deals and self-interest. Just weeks after the 2021 awards, the Academy announced that it was eliminating the “secret” nomination-review committees that for decades had curated the final list of nominees. And although some cried foul when the Academy abruptly expanded the nominees for Best Album, Song, Record and New Artist from eight to 10 last month, Mason insisted it was a decision that had long been in the works that Academy execs and board members saw an opportunity to finalize (although some suggest it was done to ensure that Taylor Swift, who had no other 2022 nominations, got one).
Variety will have more on this situation as it develops.