The Recording Academy has long fielded criticism for how Black artists’ musical contributions have historically been pigeonholed into the urban and rap categories.
While the music institution has made strides over the years to address calls for more diverse representation both within its membership ranks and on the music front, the Recording Academy’s 2020 Grammys Awards ceremony was still off-center in terms of representation in the eyes of many who tuned for the 62nd annual iteration of the event.
Following his first-ever win for Best Rap Album for his 2019 record IGOR, Tyler The Creator expressed that he felt conflicted about the accolade in a backstage interview. While he was “very grateful” for the award, Tyler felt that categorizing his music as rap was a “back-handed compliment.”
“It sucks that whenever we, and I mean guys that look like me, do anything that's genre-bending, they always put it in a rap or urban category,” he voiced. “I don't like that 'urban' word. It's just a politically correct way to say the N-word to me.”
Afrobeat sensation Burna Boy fell victim to the miscategorization after his acclaimed 2019 LP, African Giant, failed to receive a single nomination in any of the major categories at the 2020 Grammys. Instead, the Nigerian artist was nominated under the dubious World Music category, which he ultimately lost to Angélique Kidjo.
Kidjo would later dedicate her win to Burna Boy and the emerging, new generation of African artists carrying the torch forward, but the moment has only brought further criticism upon the Recording Academy.
Most recently, Naomi Campbell took to her Instagram where she also called attention to the lack of recognition for the Afrobeat music genre. The supermodel posted her lengthy address to her Instagram on Tuesday (Jan. 28). She first congratulated Kidjo on her win before criticizing the Record Academy for lumping Afrobeats into the World Music category instead of giving the genre its own separate category.
“Afrobeats is a musical genre played on mainstream and primetime radio not only across the continent of Africa, but across the world,” she stated. “This misrepresentation diminishes an entire genre in which such a high standard of talent has emerged; a genre that has been a force of hope and positivity for many, and a vehicle for artistry on the continent of Africa.”
Naomi continued, “please take the next 363 days to reassess and reflect on your perspective of ‘World Music….what will this neglectful categorization of music mean to individual cultures? Cultures who contribute their blood, sweat and tears, and every level of their creativity and work ethic into making music for YOU and for all of us. Please get up to speed on the state of all popular music today, and include Afrobeats Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and all the subcategories that this genre so deserves - just as any other respected and recognized musical genre. This is bigger than you, so open your eyes, ears and minds and treat us right and with the respect we deserve.”
Read her letter to the Recording Academy in full below.
(Photo L-R: Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic and Joseph Okpako/WireImage)