A lot of folks pointed to a conspiracy. It was days after the 2002 Grammy Awards ceremoor, and India.Arie, the Nubian-natural exotic, went horne trinketless, while the postmillennial mularto, Alicia Keys, went horne wirh arms full of grammaphoned statuettes. Interpretations of the disparity between Ms. Arie and Ms. Keys, whether emanating from The TomJoyner Morning Show, the students in my hip-hop course, Oe the various listservs I belang to, was pretty consistent: Ms. Keys WOll because she was "light-skin-ded." And thus the 2002 Grammy Awards were thrown into the mix of a two-cenrury-old debate about a colorcaste meritocracy within the black community. Truth be tald, borh Keys's Songs in A Minor and Arie's Acoustic Soul were solid, but hardly spectacular, debuts. Both were weil positioned in the pop-music marker by influential moguHike indusrry insiders. Early in his career, Motown
head Kedar Massenberg, broke the likes ofD'Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Cliico Debarge. It was in fact his work at Kedar Entertainment that positioned hirn to take over the legendary label that Berry Gordy founded more than forty years ago. Massenberg's exploits were every bit as impressive as those of Clive Davis, who early in his career helped launch the careers of Laura Nyro, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Carlos Santana. Davis is widely regarded as one of the most influential people in the music industry, an aging white mack-daddy who could legitimately be called the "head nigga in charge," and in an awards process that is all ab out industry politics and who's the "bigga nigga," it was not surprising that Clive's shortie won out over Kedar's. Alicia versus India? It was a non-issue. The reality is that both Keys and Arie are postmillennial exotics-Keys playing off a "post-race" America and Arie a naturalized Mro-essentialism. True indeed, Keys isalways gonna seIl more records 'cause she the "light" one, but that is hardly the point.