After winning his first Grammy Award this past Sunday, Tyler the Creator spoke some serious words that stuck with me. He said he doesn’t like the word urban because it’s a nice way of saying ni**er. Here’s the clip.
He has a point that Black artists are usually put in specific categories. The album he won for is not rap. It’s an eclectic sound, not necessarily my taste, and there are rap lyrics included, but it’s not rap. Here’s his highest charting song to date, Earfquake, and a short history of the evolution of his music. He may have started out in rap, but he’s expanded to include so many influences that it doesn’t make sense for his work to still be in that category. You can hear the rock and metal influences in his new music.
His comment made me think of the current racism fight happening within the Romance Writers of America. I’ve been following the drama on Twitter, and Jezebel does a great job of summarizing what’s happening.
So what do you think of the way Black artists are often segregated into categories like “urban” and “rap” for music or the way books by Black authors are often put in one section in the bookstore instead of being shelved under the various topics? Some things to think about:
- Does it promote or destroy the us vs. them attitude?
- Does it highlight Black achievement or keep us out of the mainstream?
- Can it both help and hurt?