"For years we've allowed institutions that have never had our best interest to judge us and that stops right now," Diddy said at a pre-Grammy gala

By Maria Pasquini and Darlene Aderoju
January 26, 2020 11:35 AM
Advertisement

Sean “Diddy” Combs is calling out the Grammy Awards for the lack of diversity among their nominations.

While attending the Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala on Saturday night, where he accepted the Clive Davis Icon award, the rapper and mogul, 50, addressed the controversy surrounding the Recording Academy’s ousted CEO and President Deborah Dugan, who has claimed the nomination system for the award show is rigged.

“There’s something I need to say to the Grammys,” he said towards the end of his passionate speech. “You really need to know this. Every year, y’all be killing us man.”

“I’m talking about the pain. I’m speaking for all the artists here. The amount of time it takes to make these records. To pour your heart out into it. Like Erykah Badu said, we are artists and we are sensitive about our s—. For most of us this is all we got, this is all,” he continued. “Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be. So right now, this current situation, it’s not a revelation. This thing been going on.”

Sean “Diddy” Combs
Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

As his speech continued, Combs encouraged artists to “take back control,” instead of letting an award show dictate what success in the industry looks like.

“For years we’ve allowed institutions that have never had our best interest to judge us and that stops right now. I’m officially starting a clock. Y’all got 365 days to get this s— together. We need the artists to take back control. We need diversity,” he said. “They’re a nonprofit organization that is supposed to protect the welfare of the music industry. That’s what it says on the mission statement. That’s the truth. They work for us. If we don’t go, nobody goes.”

“We control what’s cool. We control what’s hot. We control what your kids dance to. We control everything. Now we’re not gonna solve this tonight but it’s gonna take all of us to get this done. It’s gonna take the artists and the executives to recognize their power,” he added. “I’m not here to bash y’all. I’m here for the artists, so sign me up. I’m here to help make a difference and help make a positive outcome and I believe all my brothers and sisters out there will be able to get this right.”

Continuing, he said: “My goal used to be about making hit records. Now it’s about ensuring that the culture moves forward. My culture. Our culture. The black culture and for me to be worthy of receiving an Icon Award, I have to use my experience to help make a change. Y’all got 365 days.

The event was also attended by JAY-Z — who previously boycotted attending the ceremony for six years — Beyoncé, Cardi B, Offset, John Legend, Janet Jackson, as well as all of the mogul’s children, who were there to support his big night.

Be sure to check out PEOPLE’s full Grammy Awards coverage to get the latest news on music’s biggest night.

Sean “Diddy” Combs and family
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

On Sunday morning, just hours before the awards show, the Recording Academy announced several new diversity initiatives.

“The music we create has always reflected the best of ourselves and our world. But what was true of music has historically not been true of the music business as a whole. Too often, our industry and Academy have alienated some of our own artists – in particular, through a lack of diversity that, in many cases, results in a culture that leans towards exclusion rather than inclusion,” Harvey Mason Jr., Chairman and Interim CEO of the Recording Academy said in a statement.

The new initiatives include hiring a dedicated Diversity & Inclusion Officer and establishing an Academy-funded fellowship that will review and report on their progress.

“It’s been a challenging week for our Academy family. I’ve heard from many of you who feel betrayed and hurt by the untruths being spread about our motives and actions, the integrity of our process and the artists who’ve rightfully earned their GRAMMY Nominations, and the reminders of the hard truths we do have to face as a community,” Mason Jr. added in the statement.

In the formal complaint that she filed, Recording Academy’s former CEO and President, who was placed on administrative leave earlier this month, alleged that some musicians did not get Grammy nominations due to favoritism and conflicts of interest. These allegations have been condemned as “categorically false” by the Recording Academy.

“Spurious allegations claiming members or committees use our process to push forward nominations for artists they have relationships with are categorically false, misleading and wrong. This process is strictly enforced with everyone involved and has no exceptions,” Bill Freimuth, the Recording Academy’s chief awards officer, said in a statement to PEOPLE.

“We remain fully committed to the integrity, transparency and robustness of the awards and look forward with excitement to celebrating the artists who deservingly receive them,” the statement added. “We are acutely aware that many artists have worked a lifetime for this moment at music’s biggest night and it is them we want to focus on when we celebrate this weekend.”

The Grammy Awards will take place at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Sunday, Jan. 26. The telecast will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. EST.