Boston rapper Moe Pope calls out New England Music Awards over elimination of hip-hop category


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UPDATE 7:32 a.m.: According to a post by Lisa Finelli of Xperience Creative, the New England Music Awards have responded to Moe Pope’s open letter in an email, stating that the removal of hip-hop and jazz were due to apathy of its nominating committee. Finelli noticed the exclusion of hip-hop from the NEMA categories the morning after this past weekend’s awards ceremony, and after personal inquiries received a response back from co-founder and director Joe Graham on May 2.

“Throughout the year — submission/response/return ballots/replies from nominating committee members all over New England were not strong enough to produce an accurate picture/representation of the artist in these categories,” Graham writes, “there is nothing more to it than that.”

Last night, Vanyaland emailed Graham for comment, but he declined, stating that his explanation is in his emails and Pope’s “over politicized hyperbolic rant is not something I wish to comment on, other than to say the man is wrong and I believe we are all better than this.”

Read the full note from NEMA below at the end of this post. Our original article is below.


The 2017 New England Music Awards wrapped up with a party over the weekend at Showcase Live in Foxboro, but one genre of music was missing among the nomination categories and performers: Hip-hop.

And Moe Pope took exception.

Pope, a longtime fixture in the Boston hip-hop scene and currently one-half of duo STL GLD, penned an open letter on Facebook Tuesday afternoon questioning why the NEMA eliminated its hip-hop category. Searching through past nomination posts, it appears the annual awards group eliminated the category after its 2015 edition, when Lady Essence took home the prize. There is no hip-hop category listed in this rundown of the 2016 nominations, and there wasn’t one this past weekend.

“I’m not sure [I’ve ever] been nominated, never cared ’bout it any of that stuff, but I’m seeing how this city as a whole has no opportunity for us,” Pope tells Vanyaland. “I’m not sure most people know that hip-hop isn’t allowed at most venues, so there is only a few places we are allowed to perform. I’m speaking out because as a hip-hop artist I know how little people think of our art, it’s getting to the point the disrespect level needs to be talked about… after 20 years of making music I can barely get opportunities here, I see now everywhere how the playing field is not level and these awards are just another part of the cycle.”

Pope’s post comes on a day when many in Boston are discussing racism after a Red Sox fan allegedly yelled racial slurs at Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones during a game last night at Fenway Park. The Red Sox addressed the situation this morning and apologized to Jones and the Orioles.

Pope’s full post is re-printed below, with his permission. We’ll update this post with any public rebuttal or explanation from NEMA founder Joe Graham, who Pope mentions by name in his letter.

Dear New England Music Awards,

It has been brought to my attention you have made a few changes to your award ceremony and cut out hip hop entirely….no disrespect to the winners of any awards that may have been won, some of the artist I know personally and love their music ….I am directing my thoughts mostly but not entirely at the organizers but you all know the relevance of any award that excludes me and mine in my opinion needs to be thrown right back at those same ass clowns who don’t want to open the doors of opportunity for all ….how possibly can you claim relevance with out the most popular music in the world …no jazz , gospel, r&b and certainly no hip hop ….essentially no black music , which in turn means there is no people of color at your event , which in turn is non inclusive, which means a drastic white washing which means No Fucking Thank You….and all this when segregation is becoming more prevalent in modern society

Maybe you are uneducated and misinformed about the hip-hop scene here, or not privy to the culture as a whole, which has moved this beautiful nation as well as across the globe ….just maybe…..but to bill yourselves as The New England Music Awards and not have any hip hop represented is lazy and blasphemous and you should be laughed at, and all awards should be thrown at you or in the garbage as you are sending a message that no one should want to be a part of…. Joe Graham said there is reason as to why we were excluded….

well we want that Joe ….Asap ????

I am a fan of music first and foremost ..

I have been at a lot of my peers shows even when they have not come to mine….. I just love music all music and if any musicians were excluded from a music ceremony that claims to represent where your from and it excluded rock , or folk , electronic, punk, hardcore, Metal, bluegrass, etc etc …. I would stand up for every single one of y’all….. thank you

Sincerely yours,
Moe Pope”


Here is the full text of the NEMA response:

“The NE Music Awards Staff collectively agreed to remove the Hip Hop and Jazz categories from the program, and this year we removed the Blues categories — (also this year — the Metal category went under the scope too) the reason, simply put; Throughout the year — submission/response/return ballots/replies from nominating committee members all over New England were not strong enough to produce an accurate picture/representation of the artist in these categories — there is nothing more to it than that. As the producer of the event and the final say when it comes to releasing/announcing the nominees — I send the ballots, I see the returns, and I also resend ballots on occasion, and forward ballots to new/other members every year asking for stronger returns — and when the nominees are ultimately selected, before they are announced — they are sent to a sub-committee, a smaller group that I ask to help me solidify;

The shortcoming in the process is a flawed nominating committee — so I chose to remove the category rather than generate a weak list of 5 or 6 New England acts — the success of event relies and moves on feedback, without it. the end result is clear;

also, last year I received a similar message regarding the removal of the hip hop category — and in my reply I invited the sender to join us/be part of the committee (representing their state) — unfortunately they declined. it’s also important to note that every year we lose members and every year I am (constantly/year round) seeking out/inviting new members to assist and get involved.
This year I got a couple messages about the Blues category — I even got an apology from a member of the Blues committee who was supposed to help generate these nominees — instead they sent no ballot, submitted no one, and never replied to any of my messages asking to help me sort out the acts and assist with the nominations; it was only after they noticed no Blues nominees this year that they reached out to me, and by then, it was obviously too late;

so again; — my decision to remove these 3 categories over the last 2 years was the result of an indifference/apathy from a collection a committee members invited/selected and who agreed to assist, but when the time came, they never answered the call — this left me with only 2 choices.

1) announce a collection of nominees that I feel doesn’t/didn’t properly reflect or misrepresents the music —

2) remove the category from the program,

I chose the latter —

last but not least — if you have a stake/play a role in the music scene of new England and feel your background/involvement qualifies you as a member of The NE Music Awards Nominating Committee , I would love to have you involved! and/or if you know others in the region (all over new England) who might want to get involved, I would welcome that as well.