Music’s Biggest Night Slammed For “Pigeonholing” Black Artists

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This year’s Grammys was a night that many will not soon forget, full of emotions and sorrow following the sudden and tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Although the awards began on a somber note, host Alicia Keys was determined to bring viewers, artists, and mourners together in the name of music. 

An article featured on CNN on Monday morning shared just some of the many grievances aired by artists off stage. Among one of the night’s winners was Tyler the Creator who’s 2019 record IGOR won best rap album. IGOR debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and became Tyler’s first number one album in the United States. After accepting his award, Tyler voiced his frustrations with the Recording Academy for consistently organizing “guys who look like me” in rap and urban categories. He felt that classifying his music as rap was a “backhanded compliment” that failed to acknowledge the complexity of his genre-bending sound. Like many hip-hop artists, Tyler feels that regardless of how genre-bending his work becomes, it will always be categorized as rap or urban. Tyler even went on to criticize the use of the term “urban,” which he feels is just “a politically correct way” to say derogatory terms in reference to the black community. Tyler expressed his desire to be accepted and recognized “on a mainstream level” and not forever restricted to “urban” categories. 

This criticism has been consistently vocalized by black artists who feel they suffer unwavering mistreatment by the Academy. Artists like Frank Ocean and Kanye West have since boycotted the awards in recent years due to the Academy’s failure to recognize “era-defining” black artists. Both Ocean and West have been known to work in a range of genres outside of rap, including gospel, pop, and R&B. Tyler’s remarks come soon after the Academy announced a new diversity initiative enacted to ensure inclusivity, diversity, and equal representation of artists. Such changes, however, will offer little change if not put into practice on an industry-wide scale.


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