Under the current Grammy rules, mixtapes and free music are not eligible to win awards.
The music industry's traditional model of revenue stream has collapsed in the past decade, which in turn has affected the way in which artists distribute their music. The Grammys have yet to adapt to these changes (read: include music that is released for free).
The Grammys outdated rules disproportionately affect hip hop, a genre in which many of the most popular artists -- Chance the Rapper, Future, and Young Thug to name three -- have released much of their most popular music for free. According to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences bylaws, a musical release can only "qualify" for the Grammys is if it is a "commercially released in general distribution in the United States, i.e. sales by label to a branch or recognized independent distributor, via the Internet, or mail order/retail sales for a nationally marketed product. Recordings must be available for sale from any date within the eligibility period through at least the date of the current year’s voting deadline (final ballot)."
A petition filed on Change.org is asking the Academy to update their rules to better suit the modern landscape of the music industry. "Not all artists should be forced to release their music for free," writes Max Krasowitz, author of the petition. "But the ones who do should not be punished for doing so."