The Grammy Awards Just Changed the Name of Its “Best Urban Contemporary” Album Category

Starr Bowenbank
·3-min read
Photo credit: Rachel Luna - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rachel Luna - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

  • The Recording Academy has made significant changes to its “urban” categories.

  • The Best Urban Contemporary and Best Rap/Sung Performance categories have new names now.

The 2021 Grammy Awards are taking place in two months, and the Recording Academy made some v important changes to its category setup ahead of the 63rd annual airing of the program. In light of recent events (see: the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests), the awards show just made changes to its “urban” categories, which have historically placed Black and brown musicians into a box.

The Best Urban Contemporary category—aka the award that Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You won earlier this year—is now called the Best Progressive R&B Album category in an effort to “appropriately categorize and describe this subgenre” as well as acknowledge albums that feature song and production elements of hip-hop, rap, dance, pop, euro-pop, country, rock, folk, and alternative music.

The Best Rap/Sung Performance category is now the Best Melodic Rap Performance to “represent the inclusivity of the growing hybrid trends” within the genre. It will nominate solo artists and song collaborations that feature elements of R&B, rock, country, electronic music, and more.

After taking home the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album this year, Tyler, the Creator made a commentary of the Grammys’ history of giving Black artists awards in “urban” categories. While he was grateful for his win, Tyler felt that calling his album rap “urban” was a “backhanded compliment.”

“It sucks that whenever we—and I mean guys who look like me—do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything, they always put it in a rap or urban category,” Tyler said. “I don’t like that ‘urban’ word—it’s just a politically correct way to say the N-word to me.”

“When I hear that, I’m just like why can’t we be in pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was just a backhanded compliment,” he added. “Like, my little cousin wants to play the game. Let’s give him the unplugged controller so he can shut up and feel good about it—that’s what it felt like a bit.”

In addition to these changes, the Latin Pop Album and Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album categories are now called the Best Latin Pop or Urban Album and Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album. The Best New Artist category didn’t get a name change, but the rule that states “a specified maximum number of releases prohibiting artists” from being nominated was removed. Going forward, the nomination committee will determine if an artist is eligible based on how successful they have been.

See the 2021 nominees for these newly named categories, below:

Best Progressive R&B Album

  • Chilombo
    Jhené Aiko

  • Ungodly Hour
    Chloe x Halle

  • Free Nationals
    Free Nationals

  • F*** Yo Feelings
    Robert Glasper

  • It Is What It Is

Best Melodic Rap Performance

  • “Rockstar”
    DaBaby feat. Roddy Ricch

  • “Laugh Now, Cry Later”
    Drake feat. Lil Durk

  • “Lockdown”
    Anderson .Paak

  • “The Box”
    Roddy Ricch

  • “Highest in the Room”
    Travis Scott

Best Latin Pop or Urban Album

    Bad Bunny

  • Por Primera Vez

  • Mesa Para Dos
    Kany García

  • Pausa
    Ricky Martin

  • 3:33
    Debi Nova

Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album

  • Aura

  • Montruo

  • Sobrevolando
    Cultura Profética

  • La Conquista del Espacio
    Fito Paez

  • Miss Colombia
    Lido Pimienta

Best New Artist

  • Ingrid Andress

  • Phoebe Bridgers

  • Chika

  • Noah Cyrus

  • D Smoke

  • Doja Cat

  • Kaytranada

  • Megan Thee Stallion

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