The radio-format term had long been used in the music industry as a synonym for traditionally Black musical genres such as hip-hop, R&B, and more dating back to the 1970s, pioneered by DJ Frankie Crocker. The company said in a memo (per Variety), “As with a lot of our history, the original connotation of the term urban was not deemed negative.”
But over time, the term “developed into a generalization of Black people in many sectors of the music industry, including employees and music by Black artists,” the note continued.
The Recording Academy has renamed its Best Urban Contemporary Album category: It will now be known as “Best Progressive R&B Album.” The update to the award, won by Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You earlier this year, was designed “to describe the merit or characteristics of music compositions or performances themselves,” according to a statement. Likewise, Best Rap/Sung Performance — last won by DJ Khaled, John Legend, and Nipsey Hussle for “Higher” — will now be known as “Best Melodic Rap Performance.”
Additionally, the Latin Urban genre has now moved into the Latin Pop category to create two new designations: “Best Latin Pop or Urban Album” and “Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album.” The criteria for Best New Artist has also been updated, so now if a “new” artist has released 10 albums (or mixtapes), they can still be eligible. “While there will be no specified maximum number of releases, the screening committees will be charged with determining whether the artist had attained a breakthrough or prominence prior to the eligibility year,” the language reads.