Republic Records no longer using the world “Urban,” encouraging “rest of the music industry to follow suit”
In the midst of nationwide protests for racial justice, Republic Records (owned by Universal Music Group, one of the three existing major labels) have finally decided to do away with the term "Urban," which has long been used to group together hip hop, R&B, and other music by black artists, and which many believe is antiquated and marginalizes musicians. "Effective immediately, Republic Records will remove 'Urban' from our verbiage in describing departments, employee titles, and music genres," the label writes.
They continue, "As with a lot of our history, the original connotation of the term urban was not deemed negative. Nearly 50 years ago [black New York radio DJ] Frankie Crocker coined the term ‘urban’ to define the sound of his radio station in an attempt to better represent his audience. 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. While this change will not and does not affect any of our staff structurally, it will remove the use of this antiquated term."
"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industry to follow suit as it is important to shape the future of what we want it to look like, and not adhere to the outdated structures of the past." Let's see if others in the industry (like maybe the Grammys) do indeed follow suit.
Republic also announced that they're working with UMG's task force to donate $25 million to a variety of racial justice organizations, including Black Girl Ventures, Black Lives Matter, Black Mental Health Alliance, Colin Kaepernick Foundation, Color Of Change, Equal Justice Initiative, National Association of Black Journalists, Silence the Shame, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, The Bail Project, When We All Vote and more.
A 2018 Billboard piece by Keith Murphy on the term "Urban" reads:
Has the time come to retire “urban”? As an umbrella term for hip-hop and R&B, it’s either convenient and apt or an antiquated shorthand for music made by black artists. And as a department at many labels dating back to the 1970s, it has arguably marginalized black musicians and those who work with them.
As conversations about race and gender have intensified culturewide, “urban” is getting reassessed too. In early August, Music Business Worldwide reported that several black executives wanted to see the term eliminated. Sources at Warner/Chappell confirm to Billboard that outgoing CEO Jon Platt, who is exiting his post to head Sony/ATV, is among those who want to do away with the term.
Most objections are to the word itself. “The connotation of the word doesn't hold a positive weight,” explains Sam Taylor, senior vp creative at Kobalt Music Group, the rights management and publishing company. “It’s downgrading R&B, soul and hip-hop’s incredible impact on music. And as black executives, we have the power to phase ‘urban’ out -- to change the description.”