The Grammy Awards Rename Their Urban Contemporary Category

Today, the Recording Academy announced a number of changes to its annual awards, including renaming categories like Urban Contemporary to be more inclusive and better reflect “the current state of the music industry,” interim President/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. announced.

Best Urban Contemporary Album will now be named Best Progressive R&B Album to more accurately describe the mixed subgenre, which may include elements of hip-hop, rap, folk, electronic, rock, and more. The category was first introduced in 2013, with Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange claiming the initial prize. Subsequent winners include Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Rihanna’s Unapologetic, The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness, and Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You just last year.

The term urban has been a contentious one in the music industry in recent years, attracting criticism for being outdated, generalizing language for music from Black artists, including hip-hop, rap, grime, and R&B. “Not only is urban an obviously wrong category, but it is also born out of racial stereotyping of black communities,” Kehinde Andrews previously explained in The Guardian.

The announcement comes just days after Republic Records—which houses artists like Ariana Grande, Drake, and Taylor Swift—announced that it would no longer use the word urban to describe musicians and genres, effective immediately.

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However, the urban term isn’t completely removed from the Grammys’ vocabulary, as Best Latin Pop Album is now Best Latin Pop or Urban Album, to acknowledge “the broad spectrum of Latin pop music style and culture.”

Other name changes include renaming Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album to Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album, and renaming Best Rap/Sung Performance to Best Melodic Rap Performance. There will no longer be a “maximum number of releases prohibiting artists from entering the Best New Artist category” as well.

The new rules also require that new members of the Nominations Review Committee disclose any personal connections to prospective nominees before award consideration. Those with recorded conflicts of interest will be asked to not participate in the nominations committee that year.

This change comes months after the 2020 Grammys were riddled with controversy, when ousted CEO Deborah Dugan alleged sexual misconduct within the company and made accusations that the board had a history of corruption and favoritism, often leaving deserving artists of color overlooked or ignored.

The release eligibility period for the 2021 Grammy Awards ends on August 31, 2020. The ceremony takes place on January 31, 2021.

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