Removing the Term ‘Urban’
The last couple of weeks have been interesting, to say the least. The murder of an African American named George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers has led to many protests and riots. Even though the world was already dealing with a unique situation due to Covid-19, a lot of people gave up “social-distancing” and put their lives on the line to stand up for the life of George Floyd.
Some of these events have been results of the Black Lives Matter movement, meant to raise awareness of social injustices amongst African Americans. One positive of these events is some of the reform we are seeing across the board in America, even the music industry. Republic Records announced they will remove the term “Urban” from their vocabulary. According to an article by Variety, Republic had this to say:
“over time the meaning and connotations of “urban” have shifted and it developed into a generalization of Black people in many sectors of the music industry, including employees and music by Black artists. While this change will not and does not affect any of our staff structurally, it will remove the use of this antiquated term.”
This may seem like a little thing to most people, but the term has been used for years. The term is used as an umbrella to which African American works of many different types and origins are thrown under for no reason, other than having been created by a person of color. This decision comes after a powerful speech at the Grammy Awards by Tyler the Creator after winning Rap Album of The Year for his album, IGOR.
In Tyler’s speech, he notes that he doesn’t like that all creations by black people are listed as “rap” or “urban.” He goes on to say that he thinks these terms are a more discrete way for people to say the N word.
The point that Tyler is trying to make is definitely there to be made and he is a good example of it at work. As a person who has followed Tyler every step of his music career, I can tell you that IGOR was different from any album Tyler has ever made. Although Tyler has the ability to rap and does it on occasion, he is much bigger than that as an artist. He is a great producer and maker of music in general.
Odd Future’s sound always flirted with the “other” or alternative parts of music. Tyler especially was always tittering the line of a lot of different genres. This is to be expected of a group of African Americans who are influenced by their own culture and the cultures of Rock & Roll and skateboarding. Over time, Tyler has developed to his sound into almost involving no rap at all and that was on display this last album.
He took a lot of creative leaps in sound and production and went a route that many did not expect from him. In fact, one of the hit songs from the album, “Earthquake,” is a ballad. He showed his versatility from beginning to end on this album and was rewarded by being jammed into a category that he did not belong in. This was a crime against music because it didn’t acknowledge Tyler’s growth as an artist, and it also denied a person who belonged in that category their recognition.
This would be like giving Eminem a Grammy for Country album of the year for “The Slim Shady EP,” knowing full well it was a rap album and continuing to do so because most Country music artists are Caucasian. That is racially motivated behavior and I’m excited that Republic Records is taking steps to correct that.
Great article. I’m not a huge fan of Tyler the Creator although his talent is undeniable.
I may give this album a try. Thank You Mr. Hendrix.
It’ll be interesting to see how our music is categorized moving forward.
RIP George Floyd