Republic Records Has Struck Down the Term ‘Urban’ When Labelling Genres

republic records

As the #BlackLivesMatter protests gain momentum, musicians are doing everything they can to fight for racial justice. Some have taken their protests on foot. While others are making use of their social media platforms to spread information and conduct campaigns. In fact, it isn’t just individual artists that are pushing for change. It’s the entire music industry, taking a stand against racism. 

One prime example of this is Republic Records. The company made a promise to stop using the word ‘urban’ to describe music of African-American origin. Being one of the most powerful record labels in the US and housing stars like Drake, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, Post Malone, Nicki Minaj – it’s high time issues like this are resolved. 

The business put out a statement explaining that the term will no longer be in use when describing “departments, employee titles and music genres”. Republic Records also added, “We encourage the rest of the music industry to follow suit”.

Drake and Taylor Swift's record label says it will no longer use ...

Republic Records Points Out the Issue with this Archaic Term

The term itself dates back to the mid-1970s. Back then the black New York radio DJ Frankie Crocker coined the phrase “urban contemporary” as a label for the diverse mix of songs that he played. The tunes spanned across a spectrum of genres and styles.  

Back then, there were no negative connotations attached to the term. But, after being shortened to “urban”. It started being used as an umbrella term for music created by black musicians. Effectively boxing them in within a category, without bothering to actually observe the style and sound, distinctive to each track.

Other musicians like Billie Eilish have also noted issues with the way songs are categorized. She recently pointed out that “The industry shouldn’t judge an artist off the way someone looks or the way someone dresses.” She also condemned the term ‘urban’ calling it a “politically correct way to say the N-word”.

But since the passing of George Floyd at the hands of a white policeman, labels are being more proactive about serious issues like this. And so, finally, Republic Records had this to say:

“‘Urban’ is rooted in the historical evolution of terms that sought to define black music. However, over time the meaning and connotations of ‘urban’ have shifted and it developed into a generalisation of black people in many sectors of the music industry. We encourage the rest of the music industry to consider following suit as it is important to shape the future of what we want it to look like, as to not adhere to the outdated structures of the past.”

For now, we can only hope that other labels follow suit. 

By: Nina Karun

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