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DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince were the first rappers to win a Grammy

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince were the first rappers to win a Grammy
UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Photo of Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

On February 22, 1989, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince‘s Parents Just Don’t Understand which appeared on the duo’s second album, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, won Best Rap Performance at the 31st Grammy Awards. “Parents Just Don’t Understand” was the first hip-hop song to win a Grammy and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) were the first rappers to win a Grammy. LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, Kool Moe Dee and J. J. Fad were also nominated in the same category that year. “Parents Just Don’t Understand” peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

After finding out the new rap category would not be aired on television, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince didn’t attend the event to accept their award. Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen led a boycott of the 1989 Grammys. DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Fresh Prince, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Salt-N-Pepa, Ice-T, Slick Rick and more boycotted together.

Kool Moe Dee and J. J. Fad attended the event. While Kool Moe Dee went on stage to present the award for best male R&B vocal, he made a statement

“On the behalf of all M.C.s
My co-workers and fellow nominees
Jazzy Jeff, J. J. Fad,
Salt-N-Pepa and the boy who’s bad
We personify power and a drug-free mind
And we express ourselves through rhythm and rhyme
So I think it’s time that the whole world knows
Rap is here to stay – drummer, let’s go!”

The Grammys boycott worked, the next year, The Grammys aired the award for Best Rap Performance (Young MC won for “Bust A Move”).

Read: Naughty by Nature’s “Poverty’s Paradise” was the first album to win Best Rap Album at the Grammys

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince Grammys Boycott
Los Angeles Herald Examiner, February 23, 1989 Adler Hip Hop Archive, Cornell Hip Hop Collection, Cornell University Library

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