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The murder of George Floyd has sparked a wave of revisionism of the history of american culture which has now reached the music industry, where it has been raised replace the term “urban music” by “black music” .
In an open letter to agents phonographic industry, several executives of large multinationals such as Warner, Universal, Atlantic, Columbia or Sony are asking you to do this change because “the music industry has been used for generations of the rich and varied black culture without acknowledging the racism systematic and structural that it has affected the black community”.
“We have enjoyed the pace and we have ignored the blues”, continues the document, which gives thanks to all who participated in the summer musical June 2, in solidarity with Floyd, but calls for more action. “Your public demonstrations of support in these last few days have been passionate, and we appreciate, but we believe that we must move towards tangible changes , to give real power to that support.”
propose to four other concrete steps : carrying out of workshops anti-racism for the white workers of the industry; creation of an annual fund to financially support organizations and projects of black artists; impulse for the professional growth of black people in businesses and positions of leadership; and the establishment of a body to review the diversity of the companies engaged in the business of music.
This announcement comes only a few days after that the Republic Records , the label of stars like Drake , The Weeknd , Nicki Minaj , Post Malone , Taylor Swift or Ariana Grande , communicate the withdrawal of the label “urban music” and replace it with “black”.
Ariana Grande – ABC
“‘Urban’ is rooted in the historical evolution of the terms that sought to define black music”, says its press release. “As with much of our history, the original connotation of the term urban is not considered negative. However, with time the meaning and the connotations of ‘urban’ have changed and became a generalization of black people in many sectors of the music. industry, including employees and music from black artists. Although this change will not affect and shall not affect structurally to any of our staff, will eliminate the use of this term old-fashioned. No longer use the term because we believe that it is an important step forward, and a word obsolete , that has no place in 2020 onwards.
we Encourage the rest of the music industry to consider doing the same , as it is important to shape the future of how we want you to see, for not adhering to out-dated structures of the past.”
The first company that followed the example of Republic Records has been the most influential agency of management Los Angeles, Milk & Honey , but now it seems that it could cause an avalanche of adhesions after this joint statement of major multinationals.
the problem of terminology
The sociologist Elijah Anderson has talked of “urban music” long ago, ensuring that it is a notion based on the “icon of ghetto, which is where I live black people , symbolizing a very concrete part of the city marked by poverty, crime, drugs and violence”. With the help of the representation of this idea in the media and in popular culture, says Anderson, “the ghetto has achieved an iconic status, being a representation very stereotypical charged of prejudice and discrimination”.
The rapper Tyler, The Creator was one of the first famous artists who raised the issue. At the recent Grammy awards, held a few months ago, he asked with some irony if you include the category of “urban” in these awards was a “politically correct way of referring to the n-word” (the word nigger, derogatory term to refer to black people). He however does not advocate the change to “black music”, but simply “pop”.
Tyler, The Creator – ABC
The term dates back to the mid-1970s, when the DJ radio black New York, Frankie Crocker coined the phrase “urban contemporary” to define his style as a dj. For his part, the label “black music” has been around since the beginning of the TWENTIETH century to refer to all of the music created by black people. Throughout the decades, this expression has had connotations that could be considered racist since no one speaks of “white music”, but since the emergence of hip-hop in the mid-seventies, it acquired a meaning more empowering and less discriminatory.
The issue is that the definition of “black music”, as a substitute for “urban”, is highly ambiguous . What happens with all the artists of other races who sing rap, trap, R&B or reggaeton, it is almost always classified under that umbrella terminology? What Lincharán to Rosalia if he says he does black music? Do they not have roots in african-american ninety percent of popular music (white and black) today? The debate semantic is open, and promises strong emotions in the immediate future.