TORONTO -- The record label behind big-name stars including Drake, Ariana Grande and The Weeknd has put out a statement saying it will no longer be using the term “urban,” explaining that it minimizes the distinct contributions of Black artists to the music world.

Republic Records posted on their Instagram on Friday that they would be removing the word urban “from our verbiage in describing departments, employee titles and music genres.”

“Urban,” or “urban contemporary,” has been used in the music industry as a catch-all term for a myriad of music genres and styles created and popularized by Black people, such as R&B, hip-hop and soul -- essentially cramming these specific and individual genres into one box.

The full memo from Republic Records, as reported by Variety, said the term was “rooted in the historical evolution of terms that sought to define Black music.”

“As with a lot of our history, the original connotation of the term urban was not deemed negative. Nearly 50 years ago Frankie Crocker coined the term “urban” to define the sound of his radio station in an attempt to better represent his audience,” the memo said.

“However, over time the meaning and connotations of “urban” have shifted and it developed into a generalization of Black people in many sectors of the music industry, including employees and music by Black artists.”

Others have criticized the use of the term over the years.

In her 2016 book, Urban Music and Entrepreneurship, U.K. author and sociologist Joy White said the “urban label” is sometimes imposed on artists by “commerce and the media, who want to create neatly packaged and palatable versions of black musical expression."

Sam Taylor, formerly executive vice-president of the Kobalt Music Group, told Billboard in 2018 that “the connotation of the word doesn’t hold a positive weight.”

“It’s downgrading R&B, soul and hip-hop’s incredible impact on music,” said Taylor. “And as black executives, we have the power to phase ‘urban’ out -- to change the description.”

Republic Records, which also represents artists such as Nicki Minaj, Post Malone and Taylor Swift, said in its Instagram post that it hoped others would cease using urban as a music descriptor as well.


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“We encourage the rest of the music industry to follow suit as it is important to shape the future of what we want it to look like, and not adhere to the outdated structures of the past,” the label said.

Milk & Honey Management, a group that represents producers and songwriters -- including creatives behind hits by artists such as Dua Lipa, Alessia Cara and Lewis Capaldi -- also posted an Instagram statement on Friday vowing to cut out the term urban.

“We will no longer be using the term, as we believe it’s an important step forward, and an outdated word, which has no place in 2020 onwards,” the statement reads.

This move to eliminate the term “urban” as a qualifier for Black music follows a wave of protests against anti-Black racism and police violence in the U.S. and countries around the world. The protests, which began with the death of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minn., have spurred larger conversations about anti-Black racism and the importance of supporting Black artists and creators.

Within the music industry, this has meant record labels pledging to donate money to organizations fighting against racism, pausing music sales temporarily and individual artists speaking up about racism and issues in the industry.

The Weeknd donated $500,000 to numerous organizations including Black Lives Matter and the National Bail Out fund last week, before tweeting a call for record companies to join him.

“To my fellow respected industry partners and execs- no one profits off of black music more than the labels and streaming services,” he wrote. “I gave yesterday and I urge you to go big and public with yours this week.”

According to Rolling Stone and Variety, Republic Records’ parent company, Universal Music Group, announced last week that they would be forming a taskforce for change and dedicating US$25 million to numerous organizations fighting against anti-Black racism.

Canadian singer Justin Bieber posted on Instagram on Sunday that he was “committed” to using his platform to “speak up about racial injustice,” after admitting that he was “inspired by black culture,” and “have benefited [sic] off of black culture.” White artists such as Grande and Bieber have been criticized before for seemingly appropriating Black culture and aesthetics within their music. White artists getting credit for Black creativity dates back to Elvis Presley getting praise for his renditions of songs that were originally written and performed by Black artists.