Grammys drops the word 'urban' from major category as music industry moves away from the term

The Grammys have made several changes to their guidelines for the 63rd awards.
The Grammys have made several changes to their guidelines for the 63rd awards.
Photo: Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post/

  • The Grammy Awards has announced that it will change the Best Urban Contemporary Album category to Best Progressive R&B Album.
  • The word "urban" has been an issue for a while in the industry as it is usually used to describe music by black artists.
  • Major US record label, Republic Records, has also announced that it will drop the word with immediate effect.

The Grammys have announced a few changes to their upcoming 63rd awards - one of which is removing the word "urban" from the Best Urban Contemporary Album category. 

"Urban" has historically been used in music to categorise work created by black musicians.

Instead, the Best Urban Contemporary Album category will receive an entirely new name: Best Progressive R&B Album. 

Speaking to Variety, interim president of the Recording Academy, Harvey Mason Jr., said the word "urban" had been an issue for a while, and its removal had been discussed long before the decision was revealed. "A lot of creators and people in that genre didn't like that description and felt it pigeonholed certain styles of music," he told the publication.

The announcement of the changes to the Grammys, which also includes Best Rap/Sung Performance being altered to Best Melodic Performance, comes just days after major US record label, Republic Records, revealed that it would stop using the word "urban" with immediate effect. 

"Republic Records will remove 'URBAN' from our verbiage in describing departments, employee titles and music genres. We encourage the rest of the music industry to follow suit as it is important to shape the future of what we want it to look like, and not adhere to the outdated structures of the past," a message shared on the company's Instagram account reads. 

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#WeUseOurVoices, Use Yours.

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According to the BBC, the label, which houses Drake and Ariana Grande, said in a statement: "'Urban' is rooted in the historical evolution of terms that sought to define black music."

It further mentions that, even though the term did not start out with any negative connotations, over time the meaning behind it "shifted and it developed into a generalisation of black people in many sectors of the music industry, including employees and music by black artists."

Compiled by Nikita Coetzee (Sources: BBC, Variety)

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