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DJ Semtex: The Weeknd’s Grammy boycott is ‘game-changing’

DJ Semtex (Niall Carson/PA)
DJ Semtex (Niall Carson/PA)

Broadcaster DJ Semtex has described The Weeknd’s move to boycott the Grammy Awards as “game-changing”, and warned it might prompt more high-profile stars to do the same.

The influential hip hop DJ, who has interviewed artists such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West, suggested the Recording Academy, the body which oversees the Grammys, needed to be “careful” or it risked alienating other key names.

R&B superstar The Weeknd, former One Direction member Zayn Malik and pop singer Halsey have all complained about the voting process after being snubbed in the nominations.

The 88th Academy Awards – Arrivals – Los Angeles
The Weeknd (Ian West/PA)

And on Thursday, The Weeknd announced his intention to boycott the awards, saying to the New York Times in a statement: “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”

Manchester-raised Semtex, real name John Fairbanks, told the PA news agency: “When I saw the post I was like, ‘Wow, this is actually game-changing’. If Rihanna, Kanye, Jay-Z, Beyonce and everybody else does the same thing, you have got no show.

“If you go to the other side and it is Justin Bieber, you’ve got no show.

“They have really got to be careful what they do next basically. I say that as a fan of music.”

Committees play a key role in the Grammy nominations and the process has long been criticised for alleged bias, with detractors saying artists of colour have been poorly represented in the top awards. Organisers say the process protects the integrity of the awards.

Top Boy UK Premiere – London
DJ Semtex has interviewed artists such as Drake (Ian West/PA)

Semtex, who recently launched a new podcast called Hip Hop Raised Me, acknowledged that the Recording Academy had made changes in recent years.

He added: “I don’t know how The Weeknd was overlooked. That is crazy. Whatever changes they have made, it clearly hasn’t worked.

“The fact that he can then go and say he doesn’t want his label to submit his music to the Grammy committee anymore, that is deep. Could you imagine if every artist says that? There is no event.”

Semtex said the Mercury Prize in the UK still commanded an unrivalled “respect, kudos and appreciation” among both artists and fans, and that the Brit Awards had also improved its representation of diverse music and artists.

But he added: “The Grammys have got a long way to go and I think it is going to be five to 10 years before they figure it out and do it right. My version of doing it right is different to what sponsorship governs.”

Harvey Mason Jr, a producer and songwriter serving as the Recording Academy’s interim chief executive, responded to The Weeknd’s statement, saying the organisation is “constantly changing”.

He told the New York Times: “We’re all disappointed when anyone is upset. But I will say that we are constantly evolving. And this year, as in past years, we are going to take a hard look at how to improve our awards process, including the nomination review committees.”

After promoting parties in Manchester, Semtex spent 15 years at BBC Radio 1Xtra before moving to Capital XTRA.

Chuck D of Public Enemy, US rapper French Montana and grime pioneer Ghetts have so far appeared on his podcast.

Hip Hop Raised Me is available on all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher

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