Many consider the term an antiquated generalization that marginalizes black musicians

By Claudia Harmata
June 08, 2020 01:10 PM
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Republic Records

Republic Records has announced its decision to ban the use of the term "urban" within the music label's verbiage.

The company — which represents artists like Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, Taylor Swift and more — shared their statement on Instagram over the weekend.

"Effective immediately, Republic Records will remove 'URBAN' from our verbiage in describing departments, employee titles and music genres," they wrote.

The term was first coined by black New York radio DJ Frankie Crocker in the mid-1970s, Billboard reports. It didn't carry any negative connotations at the time, however, the term later evolved into a way for the music industry to lump black artists into one generalized category, marginalizing them.

Republic Records then urged 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industry to "follow suit as it is important to shape the future of what we want it to look like, and not adhere to the outdated structures of the past."

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Their announcement came just one day after music executive Lucas Keller shared that his entertainment management company, Milk & Honey, would also eliminate use of the term.

"Change starts at home. Therefore, we, here at Milk & Honey have decided to formally ELIMINATE the term 'urban' at our company," his statement read. "We will no longer be using the term, as we believe it's an important step forwards, and an outdated word, which has no place in 2020 onwards."

Last week, dozens of companies within the music industry and beyond participated in "Black Out Tuesday," an initiative created by two black music executives to recognize racial injustice and start a conversation about the marginalization of black creators in the entertainment space.

Many artists have also called on music companies to take action beyond social media.

The Weeknd tweeted, "To my fellow respected industry partners and execs- no one profits off of black music more than the labels and streaming services. I gave yesterday and I urge you to go big and public with yours this week. It would mean the world to me and the community if you can join us."

According to Billboard, as of June 8, many have done so, including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group and Warner Music Group.

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  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.