The Recording Academy continues its fumbling of how to present and categorize artists and songwriters who are considered people of color as America continues its push for a shift in cultural practices pertaining to race relations and the Black Lives Matter movement.
According to a press announcement shared by the organization on Wednesday which runs and produces the Grammy Awards every winter, the Recording Academy will no longer use the term “Urban” to categorize genres pertaining to music traditionally performed by African-American artists in rap and R&B. What used to be the “Best Urban Contemporary Album” category will now be recognized as “Best Progressive R&B Album.” Strangely enough, however, the “Urban” label will remain attached to artists of the Latin community who are also considered people of color in America, as the announcement confirms the “Latin Pop Album” category has been rebranded as “Latin Pop Or Urban Album” while the “Latin Rock, Urban Or Alternative” category has been renamed “Latin Rock Or Alternative.”
As for the rap and hip-hop genres, the “Best Rap/Sung Performance” category will now also be known as “Best Melodic Rap Performance,” recognizing the efforts made by some rap artists today who are ditching older forms of spoken lyricism in favor of singing with a melody.
The announcement also confirmed the proposal of nominations review committees in hopes of addressing any potential conflicts of interest when it comes to handing out awards and nominations. As Stereogum points out, this decision likely comes in response to former CEO Deborah Dugan—the first-ever female CEO of the Recording Academy—being fired after a rather tumultuous tenure ahead of this year’s Grammy Awards. Dugan filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), calling the Academy a “boys club” with “corrupt” voting practices for the Grammy awards.
Interim Recording Academy president and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. told Variety,
It’s something we’ve been discussing for a couple of years, and the term has been a hot button for a while. A lot of creators and people in that genre didn’t like that description and felt it pigeonholed certain styles of music, so when our constituents brought that to us in the form of a proposal, we listened and voted to approve, as asked by the people in that community. “Progressive R&B” gives us a chance to lean more into the modern R&B and hybrid-style recordings and give us a little bit of flexibility in that category.
Click here to read the Recording Academy’s announcement in full.