• October 1, 2020

Tyler the Creator’s Grammy Speech Sparks Debate About the Word “Urban”

 Tyler the Creator’s Grammy Speech Sparks Debate About the Word “Urban”

Los Angeles, CA-

Tyler the Creator received the Best Rap Album award for his IGOR project at the 62nd Grammys. During his post-show presser, he shared harsh words on how the music industry categorizes music.

The 62nd Grammys were held last night at the Staples Center in front of a sold out crowd. A reoccurring face on the stage was Tyler the Creator. He won the Best Rap Album award for his IGOR album and was asked about it after the show.

His views have sparked a debate about how the Grammys and the music industry uses the term “urban” to box in black artists.

Is ‘Urban’ offensive? Kind of.

Working in media, we’ve been using the term “urban” for decades. In our industry the term is used to categorize all music that sounds reminiscent of African American culture.

No, that’s not the official definition. That’s the inside definition from me to you.

In that regard, I have always found the term offensive. I began than see the different arenas that are tied to that word. City officials and politicians use the term to describe inner-city territories that are suffocating from smog, crime, grunge, and noise pollution. The opposite of their use is “suburban”.

However in music, there’s urban media and then there is pop media. The term ‘pop’ is shortened for “popular (media or music)” and I think that’s where Tyler is coming from.

Some urban artists make pop music. In fact, when I was on the radio in Indianapolis the station was considered more “pop” than urban. According to the term pop, we played popular urban records.

But just like Tyler said, why can’t it just be called “pop”?

Question for the reader: if the term ‘urban’ were to disappear, how would you distinguish your favorite pop records from others?

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