Hit Producer Om’Mas Keith On Why Winning a GRAMMY Still Matters
While many involved in the music industry have come to question the worth of receiving a Grammy award Om'Mas Keith, the producer of Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, feels that there is still significant value in receiving this kind of recognition and in the effect it can have on a career.
Guest Post by Om’Mas Keith
Over the years, I’ve met artists who say, “I just really don’t care about winning a GRAMMY.” That’s cool. But, please know: winning a GRAMMY will change your life.
Once you have it, the qualifier “GRAMMY Award winning” or “GRAMMY-Award nominee” will follow you for life. A whole new world of people start taking your calls, your commercial visibility increases, people start trusting your artistic vision like never before. That’s what’s happened to me. And, yeah… taking that statue back home to my elated mother in Hollis, Queens wasn’t too bad either.
On February 10, 2013, after years of hustling, producing, working 15-hour days, I, Om’Mas Keith, won a GRAMMY for producing Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange!
Calling myself a GRAMMY winner didn’t feel right until I actually got my statue in the mail. I opened that brown box, and there it was. I could see all the planning meetings, tireless work and complete focus that had led to that magical day. It was surreal.
Part of what makes the GRAMMY Award so magical is what it stands for. It signifies more than the prestige of having a gold statue on your mantle. It’s the recognition and respect of the music community.
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The Recording Academy is that community — whether you’ve won a GRAMMY or not. My win was actually my second GRAMMY experience. Years before that, during a tough time for my family, I had my first. My mother, renowned jazz vocalist Sister Mekea, had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and the GRAMMY MusiCares Foundation stepped in. Beyond helping my family, that initial GRAMMY experience shaped who I am today by making me feel like I was part of a community — a music community. It also showed me the importance of serving that community. To this day, that’s what drives my desire to help people, music creators specifically, become the absolute best they can be.
Both of those experiences led me to get more involved with The Recording Academy. I now serve on the L.A. Chapter Board.
Every year, a new class of talent emerges — young creatives who will push boundaries to drive music forward. It is very important that these up-and-coming creators know there’s a place where they can seek knowledge and be recognized for their achievements and contributions.
Let me stop for a minute. I’ll just say it: the Hip-Hop and R&B music communities have felt misrepresented and slighted by the GRAMMYs over the years, and the thought is the GRAMMYs are out-of-touch and give awards to only the most popular artists.
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But I’ll also say that like anything else in this world, if you want change, you have to get involved. Every music creator should be involved, especially creatives in Hip-Hop and R&B who haven’t historically seen their reflection in The Academy. You can’t voice your opinion on who’s best if you’re not a voting member. Well, technically, you can, but the truth is your opinion won’t matter because it won’t impact the award. And, I’m telling you, the award matters.
Your impact is your vote. You must become a Recording Academy member. You must vote. It’s that simple.
My biggest GRAMMY win has been the realization that music creators can be leaders. This is my message: It’s up to us to take control of our art — how it’s created, heard, valued and shaped. The Recording Academy is our platform to do that. Right now, too many others are doing it for us. But by getting involved and voting, we can preserve the integrity of our music for ourselves. Think of all the good we could do with full engagement… all through music and all for music.
Om’Mas Keith is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, arranger, producer, and engineer who has worked with the likes of of Jurassic 5, Pharoahe Monch, Erykah Badu and Jay Z as Sa-Ra Creative Partners. Keith won his first career GRAMMY for Best Urban Contemporary Album of Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2013. Keith released his debut solo album, City Pulse, in 2013.