Republic Records Bans The Internal Use Of The Term ‘Urban’ And Urges Industry-Wide Change

Republic Records has banned the internal use of the genre term “urban” and issued a statement pushing for industry-wide change, according to Billboard. The change comes amid calls from multiple artists, including Billie Eilish and Tyler The Creator, to update outdated genre distinctions that hold racist connotations and histories. The label is home to some of the biggest stars in pop music and hip-hop, including Drake, Jaden Smith, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, and The Weeknd.

Republic announced the change with a post on Instagram reading: “Effective immediately, Republic Records will remove ‘Urban’ from our verbiage in describing departments, employee titles, and genre titles. We encourage the rest of the music industry to follow suit as it is important to shape the future of what we want it to look like, and not adhere to the outdated structures of the past.” Billboard notes the origin of the term as “urban contemporary,” as coined by New York radio DJ Frankie Crocker in lieu of “Black music.” Republic’s announcement comes after the music industry’s Black Out Tuesday this week, which was launched by industry professionals Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang to encourage workers in music to meaningfully engage with Black people and culture, who drive much of the business’ creativity and success, in the wake of the police killing George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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Since the term was first introduced, it has drawn criticism for being used to “silo” Black artists, regardless of musical style, into one category without affording them the distinction of specific genres. In January of this year, Tyler The Creator called out this practice, saying, ““It sucks that we — and I mean guys who look like me — do anything genre-bending or anything, they also put it in a ‘rap’ or ‘urban’ category.” Meanwhile, just days ago, Billie Eilish expressed similar concerns, pointing out how the industry’s double standards in categorizing artists seemingly according to ethnicity rather than style. “Look, if I wasn’t white I would probably be in ‘rap,'” she lamented. “Why? They just judge from what you look like and what they know. I think that is weird.”

See Republic Records’ statement above.