The record company behind big stars such as Drake, Ariana Grande and The Weeknd released a statement saying it would no longer use the term “urban”, explaining that it downplays the distinct contributions of black artists to the world of music. Republic Records posted on Instagram on Friday that they would remove the urban word “from our verbiage to describe departments, employee titles and music genres.”
“Urban” or “urban contemporary” has been used in the music industry as a catch-all term for a myriad of genres and musical styles created and popularized by black people, such as R&B, hip-hop and soul. – essentially group these specific and individual genres in a single box.
The full Republic Records memo, as reported by Variety, said the term was “rooted in the historical evolution of terms that sought to define black music. ”
“As with much of our history, the original connotation of the term urban has not been viewed as negative. Nearly 50 years ago, Frankie Crocker coined the term “urban” to define the sound of his radio station to better represent his audience, “says the memo.
“However, over time, the meaning and connotations of” urban “have changed and it has developed into a generalization of blacks in many sectors of the music industry, including employees and artists’ music black. ”
Others have criticized the use of the term over the years.
In his 2016 book Urban Music and Entrepreneurship, UK author and sociologist Joy White said that the “urban label” is sometimes imposed on artists by “commerce and the media, who want to create carefully packaged versions and enjoyable of black musical expression ”.
Sam Taylor, former executive vice president of the Kobalt Music Group, told Billboard in 2018 that “the connotation of the word does not have a positive weight. ”
“It degrades the incredible impact of R&B, soul and hip-hop on music,” said Taylor. “And as black executives, we have the power to phase out” the urban “- to change the description.”
Republic Records, which also represents artists such as Nicki Minaj, Post Malone and Taylor Swift, said in his Instagram post that he hoped others would also stop using urban as a music descriptor.
“We encourage the rest of the music industry to follow suit, because it is important to shape the future of what we want it to look like, and not to adhere to the obsolete structures of the past,” said the label.
Milk & Honey Management, a group that represents producers and songwriters – including creators behind successful artists such as Dua Lipa, Alessia Cara and Lewis Capaldi – also released an Instagram statement on Friday promising to remove the term urban.
“We will no longer use this term because we think it is an important step forward and an outdated word, which has no place in 2020,” the statement said.
This decision to eliminate the term “urban” as a qualifier for black music follows a wave of protests against anti-black racism and police violence in the United States and in countries around the world. The protests, which began with the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minn., Sparked greater conversations about anti-black racism and the importance of supporting black artists and creators.
In the music industry, this means that record labels have pledged to donate to anti-racism organizations, temporarily suspend music sales and individual artists to talk about racism and the issues of music. ‘industry.
The Weeknd donated $ 500,000 to many organizations, including the Black Lives Matter and the National Bail Out fund last week, before tweeting a call to record companies to join it.
“For my fellow partner and respected industry leaders, no one benefits from black music more than labels and streaming services,” he wrote. “I donated yesterday and urge you to go big and public with yours this week. “
According to Rolling Stone and Variety, Republic Records’ parent company Universal Music Group announced last week that they will form a change task force and allocate US $ 25 million to numerous organizations fighting anti-racism. black.
Canadian singer Justin Bieber posted on Instagram on Sunday that he was “determined” to use his platform to “speak out against racial injustice” after admitting that he was “inspired by black culture” and “took advantage of it” . [sic] outside of black culture. White artists such as Grande and Bieber have already been criticized for appropriating black culture and aesthetics in their music. The white artists who get the credit for black creativity go back to Elvis Presley who was praised for his interpretations of songs that were originally written and performed by black artists.