Tea Time

The Perceived Monolith of Black Culture at the Grammys

The 62nd Grammy Awards went ahead on the night of 26th of January night with all of the best, and apparently brightest, that the music industry had to offer.

Tyler The Creator was the winner if the best Rap album category and in his interview which annoyed and surprised some people and led to a discussion of why his album received a win that category, when, many felt, the album was not a Rap album at all.

Tyler himself said in an interview after the event that “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 (…) and (…) [urban] is just a politically correct way to say the N-word (…) a when I hear that I’m just like, why we just be in pop (…)

This sentiment is one which has been echoed by many people I’ve spoken; all of them questioning why are genres of music, which white artists gravitate more towards, such as rock and pop, can be separated into endless sub-genres, but all music made by black artist is RAP or HIP HOP.

The primary reason for this is that the broader media has typically always stereotyped black people. We see it all the time, in films, who they choose to support and how they choose to write about us. Whether these stereotypes are disrespectful or not, as in the case of the Igor Rap album award, ultimately they are always harmful because they stop us from being viewed as people with specific needs, feelings, preferences and intersectionality, instead forces black people to embody this generic, form dreamt up by the white media, whether this body fits us or not.

And many would argue that it is a good thing that Tyler The Creator is getting his music out there; that a black artist is getting their music out there at all, and the mere fact that he’s getting a Grammy should be reason enough for him to be grateful and keep quiet. But, despite his gratitude what he is saying rings true: that he shouldn’t be so thankful for a Grammy or acceptance that he forgets what makes him Tyler The Creator and not just another black artist.

And anyone who has heard Igor can attest to the fact that it is not a straight Rap album. While it definitely has Rap in it, it is more of a combination of experimental soul, r&b, techno and pop; driven by melody rather than lyrics. But this discussion is not about Tyler specifically, rather, it speaks to a much larger and problematic habit within the media and the entertainment industry, of viewing black people and black culture as a stereotypical monolith, which the ‘backhanded compliment’ that they would never give to their own.

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