The Grammys are removing the term “urban” from their award categories

Industry executives have also penned an open letter to labels making requests to combat racism

10.06.20

Words by: Billy Ward

The Grammys are set to discontinue the use of the term “urban” at their award ceremonies after facing backlash from artists such as Tyler, the Creator, and Billie Eilish, who previously spoke out against the category groupings.

Starting at next year’s 63rd annual ceremony, the change is part of a wider overhaul of the Nominations Reviews Committees which will see updates to categories such as Best New Artist, Latin, R&B, Rap and more.

Speaking of the new changes, CEO Harvey Mason Jr. told Variety: “It’s something we’ve been discussing for a couple of years, and the term has been a hot button for a while. A lot of creators and people in that genre didn’t like that description and felt it pigeonholed certain styles of music, so when our constituents brought that to us in the form of a proposal we listened and voted to approve, as asked by the people in that community.”

“‘Progressive R&B’ gives us a chance to lean more into the modern R&B and hybrid-style recordings and give us a little bit of flexibility in that category.”

After Tyler, the Creator’s experimental 2019 record ‘IGOR’ won Best Rap Album at the start of the year, he labeled it a “backhanded compliment”, reportedly saying: “it sucks that whenever we – and I mean guys that look like me – do anything that’s genre-bending or anything – they put it in a rap or urban category which is – and I don’t like that “urban” word, it’s just a politically correct way to say the ‘N-word’ to me.”

Music industry executives have also penned an open letter to labels making a number of requests in order to combat racism in the industry, including the removal of the word “urban” to describe or categorise music.

Signed by the Black Music Coalition, The Show Must Be Paused UK, as well as staff from Warner, Universal, Atlantic, Columbia, Sony, Ministry of Sound and more, the letter reads: “The music industry has long profited from the rich and varied culture of Black people for many generations but overall, we feel it has failed to acknowledge the structural and systematic racism affecting the very same Black community and so effectively, enjoying the rhythm and ignoring the blues.”

The letter makes five requests including career development opportunities for black staff, anti-racism and unconscious bias training for all non-black staff, establishing a task force that reviews the companies equality goals, replacing the term ‘urban music’ with ‘black music’, and setting aside some money each year to support black projects.

You can read the full open letter here.

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