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Public Enemy Joins Sinead on the Sidelines

February 19, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ Taking Sinead O’Connor’s cue, rappers Public Enemy said they will boycott the Grammy Awards ceremony when it returns to New York on Wednesday for the first time in three years.

The band, nominated for best rap performance by a duo or group for its album ″Fear of a Black Planet,″ said Tuesday it was angered that only the major Grammys will be presented on prime-time television. A spokesman accused organizers of racism toward black rap artists.

Sheryl Feverstein, a spokeswoman for the Grammys, said the award for best rap solo performance would be broadcast. In addition, another black rapper, M.C. Hammer, is up for two major awards: record of the year and album of the year.

The 33rd annual ceremony will be held at Radio City Music Hall and will be broadcast from 8 to 11 p.m. on CBS. Security will be tight for fear of terrorism. The awards were held the last two years in Los Angeles.

Public Enemy supported a decision by Russell Simmons, president of its Def Jam record label, to skip the awards because of what Simmons called ″the same old broken record snub of inner-city contributions to the music industry,″ said publicist Tina Wynn.

Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, who has been nominated in four categories, said Feb. 1 she was staying away because the Grammys honored commercial success rather than artistic merit. She said would not accept a Grammy if awarded one.

The televised portion of the show usually features the major awards, including song of the year, record of the year and album of the year. Most of the 79 awards are given out with little hoopla before the cameras come on.

″It might be hard for some black people to tell if this is a slap or not, because some black people are so used to getting slapped,″ said Public Enemy spokesman Harry Allen. ″It’s a part of life - getting slapped by white people.″

″For the ceremony not to deem the contributions of rap music important to its three-hour televised broadcast ... is to in fact crush the dreams of many true rap fans,″ Simmons said in a statement.

Simmons also castigated the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for its decision to showcase Vanilla Ice as a performer on the show, blasting the chart-topping Iceman as an imitation of real rappers. Vanilla Ice is white.

An academy spokeswoman did not immediately return a phone call. Telephone calls to Public Enemy also were unsuccessful.

Pop singer Phil Collins had the most nominations with eight. The majority were for his ″... But Seriously″ album and its paean to the homeless, ″Another Day in Paradise.″

Quincy Jones grabbed seven nominations for his ″Back to the Block″ collection, making him the most-nominated artist in Grammy history with 76. He has won 19 Grammys.

Victories by Collins or Jones would mark the second straight year a veteran act cleaned up. Last year, Bonnie Raitt was the hit of the show with four Grammys.

Other top nominees include newcomer Mariah Carey and pop trio Wilson Phillips.

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