Black Artists, Such As Himself Are Pigeonholed Into Being Classed As Rap or Urban And It’s Wrong


By Kieran Webber

Tyler, The Creator recently took home a Grammy for Best Rap Album with his 2019 release ‘IGOR’. On paper the 28 year old musician should be ecstatic with his win, it’s a great achievement. However, Tyler feels mixed about the award. In a post interview he explained that “It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything they always put it in a rap or urban category. I don’t like that ‘urban’ word — it’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me.” He continues “When I hear that, I’m just like why can’t we be in pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was just a backhanded compliment. Like, my little cousin wants to play the game. Let’s give him the unplugged controller so he can shut up and feel good about it — that’s what it felt like a bit.”

For some these comments seem ungrateful or perhaps divisive but he is absolutely right. Tyler, The Creator has been on a creative path for some time now. Although he started as a rapper and has featured in many rap songs at the core of his talent is something more. Tyler is a creative, ever expanding artist that deserves more than to be labeled ‘urban’.

His latest album ‘IGOR’ is arguably not a rap album. It’s as experimental and genre defying as someone like Harry Styles or Sia. It doesn’t deserve best rap album as it is so much more. As an artist he deserves to be recognised for more than his skin colour. I beleive this is at the core of his comments during the interview.

Tyler, The Creator isn’t the first black artist to suggest that the Grammys fail to correctly represent genre defying black artists. Frank Ocean and Kanye West have also spoken out about it’s perceived racial bias.

From an outside perspective (at least to me) it feels that there is a total bias towards black artists doing anything different. As a black artist you’re expected to just do rap and if you divert from that, it doesn’t matter you’re still a rapper. Rap has been driving towards the mainstream for decades now, it’s ingrained in our pop culture. It’s about time the artists are treated with more respect.