Rap artists and women take center stage at Grammy Awards

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Cardi B (left) accepts the award for best rap album for “Invasion of Privacy” as Offset looks on at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 10, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Cardi B (left) accepts the award for best rap album for “Invasion of Privacy” as Offset looks on at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 10, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Los Angeles (AP) — Rap artists and women have felt shunned by the Grammy Awards in recent years. But this year, they both took center stage.

Childish Gambino’s disturbing look at race relations, “This is America,” won record and song of the year on last Sunday’s telecast. It was the first time a rap-based song won both of those awards, considered — with album of the year — the recording industry’s most prestigious.

Kacey Musgraves won top album and matched Childish Gambino with four Grammys total. A year after many women felt left out of the Grammy telecast, they delivered the night’s most memorable performances. The best new artist winner, British singer Dua Lipa, also cast major shade on the outgoing recording academy president.

Lady Gaga and Brandi Carlile won three Grammys apiece, and former first lady Michelle Obama was a surprise guest at the top of the show on CBS.

Childish Gambino, the stage name of actor Donald Glover, and another prominent rap nominee, Kendrick Lamar, both declined invitations to perform or attend Sunday’s show. Some rap artists feel the Grammys have been slow to recognize how the genre now dominates popular music.

Ludwig Goransson, a songwriter and producer on “This is America,” said backstage that he was surprised the victories were so historic. Just listening to the radio, watching the culture and seeing how many rap songs are downloaded is evidence of rap’s impact.

“It’s about time something like this happened with the Grammys as well,” Goransson said.

Cardi B became the first solo woman to win best rap album, although Lauryn Hill was the lead singer of the Fugees, which won the same award at the 1997 Grammys.

Dolly Parton starred in the best of the night’s two tributes to veteran artists, performing a medley of her songs with Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Maren Morris. The highlight of Diana Ross’ night was the cute introduction by a grandson with a mountain of hair.

The Grammys took some online blowback by having Jennifer Lopez deliver a tribute to Motown, once the nation’s preeminent label for black artists. Despite her hustle, Lopez was outshone by show host Alicia Keys and Smokey Robinson delivering one verse of “Tracks of My Tears” a capella.

Obama appeared on the show’s opening with Keys, Gaga, Lopez and Jada Pinkett Smith to describe the role music had played in their lives — seemingly a pointed reference to last year’s controversy over women artists.

“Music has always helped me tell my story,” Obama said. “Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves. It allows us to hear one another.”

Another ex-White House resident was awarded a Grammy on Sunday. Former President Jimmy Carter, who is 94, won an award for best spoken word recording.

It’s his second Grammy.