Tyler Gregory Okonma, most known as, Tyler, the Creator, recently won Best Rap Album for his work, IGOR during the 2020 Grammys. Although the overall response was overwhelmingly positive, some were taken back by the award category itself.
Okonma has heavily diverted the music industry’s expectations, making original work that appeals to more than one demographic. Because of this, he has made it clear that he does not like to classify his music in a specific genre.
Upon receiving the award, in his acceptance speech, he reiterated his unconformity. He stated, “I’m very grateful [for the award]. But also, it sucks that whenever we – and I mean guys that look like me – do anything that’s genre-bending… they always put it in a ‘rap’ or ‘urban’ category.”
This brought up a recurring theme between award winning: African-American artists automatically labeled into R&B and Rap. Oknoma took the award as a slightly back-handed compliment, flattered, but left an ill-taste in his mouth.
Plenty of African-American artists have been put under the label of rap despite their music. These racist undertones have twisted the music industry into racial stereotypes. Because of the forced urbanization of African-American artists, Black artists have been pushed to change their musical agendas to make the charts.
While many Black artists do encourage and promote their culture, not all want that to be the center of their music. Without an aspect of rap in their music, it is rare that Black artists make it to the top of the billboards. An unfortunate circumstance that Okonma has tried to divert.
Okonma certainly has defied musical expectations, making new, original music that appeals to a larger audience. While it is great that diverse artists are getting the acknowledgement they deserve, it is questionable whether their talent is being awarded appropriately.