Tyler, The Creator Sheds A Light on Minority Content Mislabeling

Photo from billboard.com

“Backhanded Compliment.”

That’s what musical artist Tyler, the Creator said following his win at the 2020 GRAMMYs.

Rapper, singer, songwriter and producer, Tyler Gregory Okonma, AKA Tyler, the Creator has shared his thoughts and perspectives on common musical themes throughout his work with Odd Future and his personal albums.

Okonma’s album “IGOR,” the first of his five studio albums, was the only one to reach the status of the US number one album. Notable tracks include Billboard Hot 100 single, “EARFQUAKE.”

Following his first ever win and a Grammy performance, he told the media that he had mixed feelings about the award and felt “half and half” about it due to the lack of acknowledgment of minorities and their creative content.

This was Okonma’s third Grammy nomination and first win, having previously been nominated for albums “Flower Boy” and “Channel Orange.”

“It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything they always put it in a rap or urban category. I don’t like that ‘urban’ word — it’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me,” Okonma said. “When I hear that, I’m just like why can’t we be in pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was just a backhanded compliment.”

Classified by various media sources including Apple and Rolling Stone, “IGOR” has been labeled as a Hip-Hop/Rap album; however, many critics and fans have had their own perspective as to what category the album should fall under. The Academy’s voting members placed it in the “Best Rap Album” category.

“Like, ‘Oh, my little cousin wants to play the game, let’s give him an unplugged controller so he can shut up and feel good about it.’ That’s what it felt like a bit. Another half of me is very grateful that my art can be acknowledged on a level like this when I don’t do the radio stuff. I’m not played in Target. I’m in a whole different world than what a lot of people here listen to. I’m grateful and like ‘eh,'” Okonma says.

Notable figures in the music industry have pointed out the lack of equality and recognition by The Recording Academy. Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, Jada and Will Smith, Diddy and The Carters (Beyoncé and Jay Z) are among many to bring awareness to the issues of the accolades given.

Many artists in minority groups have called the selection process of nominees “outdated,” and have stated that there is a lack of inclusivity and respect by The Academy.

“Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be,” Diddy says.

In response to the criticism that has continuously piled on, The GRAMMYs have gone from creating a category to acknowledge Rap, Hip-Hop, and R&B to televising the categories. In response to Okonma’s comments, The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has stated it will now implement new diversity initiatives.

“Too often, our industry and Academy have alienated some of our own artists — in particular, through a lack of diversity that, in many cases, results in a culture that leans towards exclusion rather than inclusion,” says Harvey Mason Jr, Recording Academy Chairman and Interim Chief Executive Officer.

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