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Why we should stop using the term “urban”

Often criticized by artists and listeners, the qualifier “urban” is, however, still present in the music industry, which is starting to annoy some players in the industry.

A term connoted

On August 3, GIMS relaunched a debate: the use of the term “urban” to designate an artist. A raging debate since rap has returned to the front of the stage and who is not ready to stop…

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Originally this expression, born in the 70s in the USA, designated Afro-American music that was played on the radio. Today “urban music” no longer has the same meaning. For many it means “scum music”“suburban music” pejoratively.

In early 2020, Tyler, the Creator even said: “It sucks that every time we, and I mean guys that look like me, do a genre, they always put in a rap or urban category. I don’t like this word ‘urban’, it’s just a politically correct way to say the ‘N-word‘. When I hear that, I just think, “Why can’t we be in pop?”.

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Awareness

Subsequently, the American label Republic Records had raised his voice against the term “Urban music” adding that they “encourage the rest of the music industry to follow suit.”

A call which aroused a strong mobilization which made the Grammy Awards act. Indeed, the organization then decided to change the name from “Best Urban Album” to “Best Progressive R&B Album”.

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And now ?

Despite these efforts, the term persists. Streaming platforms, media, and record labels continue to categorize hip-hop, R’n’B, soul, and rap the same way. More specifically, it is criticized for using “urban music” to define the music made by black and Arab artists.

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Music is therefore no longer defined by its style but by its performer.. Aya Nakamura and Gazo are not at all on the same register and yet they are often placed in the same category.

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The term “urban music” can therefore easily be perceived as a stigma. It would now be time to change things and have categories based on the music and not the appearance of its author.

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