Why the VGMA Board must review the category definition for the rap category

Nominees for the 2019 VGMA Rapper of the Year category
Nominees for the 2019 VGMA Rapper of the Year category

The nomination list for the 20th edition of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMAs) has been released. As expected, the inevitable and perennial controversies that accompany the release of the list has been flooding social media in the past few hours.

My focus for this article is the Best Rapper Category or the Rapper of the Year category. In this article, I seek to justify why the name of the category should read ‘BEST RAP PERFORMANCE’ and not ‘RAPPER OF THE YEAR’ per the current category definition, and I’ll also make other suggestions accordingly.

The category definition for the VGMA Rapper of the Year category is provided below:

The Best Rapper of the year is adjudged by the Academy, Board and the General Public as the rap Artiste with the best word compositions, rhymes and rap dexterity on a popular song released in the year under review.

Since the inception of the Best Rapper category in 2010, the artistes nominated in the category have always been nominated based on their performance on a single record which is popular, as stated above. This criteria clearly gives the indication that the lyrical performance of an artiste on a single record is enough to be eligible for being adjudged the best rapper.

In my view, I find this criteria to be more appropriate for a category named ‘Best Rap Performance.’ This will be a much better synchronization of the category’s name with its criteria. This is because, a determination of the best rap performance will obviously have to be made on the basis of a rap performance on a single record. It could be a verse(s) on the artiste’s own record or it could be a verse laid on another artiste’s record as a featured artiste.

In the year 2017 for instance, Sarkodie’s verse on Flowking Stone’s Fire Bon Dem Remix was picked by the board to serve as the basis for Sarkodie’s nomination in the Best Rapper category. Such a basis must appropriately be for a category bearing the title ‘Best Rap Performance.’ If ‘Rapper of the Year’ or ‘Best Rapper of the Year’ should be maintained as the category’s name, then it suggests to me that the criteria for the determination of the best rapper must be more holistic in nature.  The criteria would therefore have to go beyond the performance on a single record. The best rapper of the year must be a rapper who consistently made several lyrical submissions that were exceptional throughout the year on different records. I am of the conviction that such a category definition would encourage more lyrical activities in the industry.

To limit the criteria for the Best Rapper category to only a single popular song creates room for award conscious artistes to focus on only one record to perform exceptionally well lyrically. But where the criteria goes beyond one song, the artistes will always be poised to perform lyrically well on almost every song. It is either the Best Rap Performance category is introduced in addition to a Best Rapper category (with a holistic criteria) or the category definition for the Best Rapper category will only be made more holistic in nature.

Finally, I can understand that the VGMAs is dominantly a popularity-based scheme. However, there are some categories that are very technical hence, the category definitions for such categories have nothing to do with popularity. These categories include the Record of the Year and the Song Writer of the Year. I am of the view that the rap category must be placed within the domain of such categories. This is simply because the best lyrical outputs may not necessarily be the most popular.

By Seth Mireku,

Music Enthusiast.

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