The genre musicians are categorized by for Grammy nominations should be based on the music produced and not on the race of the artist. After the 2020 Grammys were given out, fans and musicians alike voiced their opinions on this year’s categories.
Tyler, the Creator spoke up about this after his album “IGOR” won Best Rap Album of the Year, even though the music itself contains less than 30% of actual rapping. Tyler called the win a “backhanded compliment” in a speech after receiving the award because he would prefer to leave the rap and urban categories for a more mainstream title.
“It sucks that whenever we, and I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre-bending, they always put it in a ‘rap’ or ‘urban’ category,” Tyler said. “I don’t like that ‘urban’ word. To me, it’s just a politically correct way to say the N-word. Why can’t we just be in pop?”
The same could be said for Lizzo’s album, labeled “urban contemporary” by the Grammys, which fans are now voicing would have fit better in the pop category.
While there is a lot that goes into the decision-making process at the Grammys, one of those factors should not be race. Tyler, the Creator does rap, but did not feel like his album reflected that enough to be placed in the rap category of the Grammy nominations. When considering the nominations for next year’s winners, the decisions should be based solely on the content and impact of the music when placing tracks into genre categories.
In this year’s pop category, every nominee for Best Pop Vocal Album was white except for Beyoncé, and all nominees in the Best Alternative Music Album were white. Meanwhile, all nominees in the Urban Contemporary and Best Rap Album categories were people of color.
Bill Freimuth, the Recording Academy’s SVP of Awards, said to Fast Company that every part of the award’s show, including genre definitions are up for debate each year. He said “urban contemporary music is that while it has R&B at its base, it’s more likely to include elements of hip-hop and dance/electronic music.”
Freimuth also said that will all of current work, a lot crosses over different genres and they’ve been struggling to define which categories and artists belong where. He defines urban contemporary as under the umbrella of R&B while there is currently genre-mixing happening between R&B and jazz.
These Grammy decisions are not easily made and are intensely debated each year. While trying to adjust to current music culture, the Grammys should not define artists by their race and put them in separate categories from other contenders.
Artists like Tyler, the Creator, Beyoncé and Lizzo work hard to produce music and should not be confined to a specific genre based on race. While the lines are blurred in genre as new content becomes available, artists should be able to compete alongside each other within genre categories that match the nominated piece of music.