Tyler, the Creator Says His Grammy Win is a ‘Backhanded Compliment’

On Sunday night, 18.7 million mainstream music fans tuned into the 2020 Grammy Awards to watch their favorite music artists recognized for their albums released last year.

Rapper Tyler, the Creator was one of the winners, taking home the award for Best Rap Album for his 2019 hit IGOR.

During backstage interviews following his win, the rapper talked about how the National Recording Academy and its controversy of racial bias for categorizing Black artists in the rap or urban category.

“On one side, I’m very grateful that what I made could be acknowledged in a world like this, but also it sucks that whenever ‘we’ – and I mean guys that look like me – do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything, they always put it in a rap or ‘urban’ category which is – and I don’t like that ‘urban’ word, it’s just a politically correct way to say the ‘N-word’ to me. So when I hear that I’m just like, ‘why can’t we just be in pop’ you know what I mean?” Tyler, the Creator told reporters.

“Half of me feels like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment, like ‘oh my little cousin wants to play the game, let’s give him the unplugged controller so he could shut up and feel good about it.’ That’s what it felt like a bit. But another half of me is very grateful that the art that I made could be acknowledged on a level like this,” he continued.

Tyler, the Creator isn’t the first Black artist to criticize the Recording Academy for its racial bias and how the Academy’s voting process can be unfair.

Music artists who have criticized the Recording Academy:

  • The day before the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, Sean “Diddy” Combs slammed the Academy for its lack of diversity during his acceptance speech after receiving the Salute to Industry Icons Award at the Clive Davis and Recording Academy’s Pre-Grammy Gala, Billboard reported. After Diddy was handed the award from the academy’s board chairman and interim president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr., he told the crowd of artists that he had “been conflicted” about the award. During his speech, Diddy said: “Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be. So right now in this current situation, it’s not a revelation. This thing’s been going on. It’s not just going on in music. It’s going on in film, going on in sports and going on around the world. And for years we’ve allowed institutions that have never had our best interests at heart to judge us. And that stops right now. I’m officially starting the clock. You’ve got 365 days to get this shit together. We need the artists to take back control, we need transparency, we need diversity.”

  • When rapper Jay-Z won the same award in 2018, he explained why he boycotted the Grammys in 1999, the Associated Press previously reported. The rapper said that he did not attend the 1999 award ceremony after DMX was snubbed that year. Despite the snub, Jay-Z did win Best Rap Album for “Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life.” The rapper returned to the Grammys in 2004 to support his wife, Beyoncé.During his speech, Jay-Z said: “I realized, ‘Man, art is super subjective and everyone is doing their best, and the Academy, they’re human like we are and they’re voting on things they like and it’s subjective.

    And if we believe in it — ‘cause we do, we can pretend that we don’t care but we really care — we care ’cause we’ve seen the most incredible artists stand on that stage and we’re inspired to be that, so I was like, ‘I have to be here. That is the idea for all of us to get involved and to push this thing further no matter what happens at the Grammys, it’s going to be what it is.”

  • In 1989, D.J. Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith boycotted the Grammy Awards after it was announced that the award for Best Rap Performance would be announced off air, The New York Times reported.

It’s Not Just The Grammys

This is not the first time artists of color have boycotted an award ceremony over racial bias. In 2016, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trended on Twitter over the lack of diversity for the Academy Award nominees. Films like “Creed,” “Straight Out of Compton,” “Sicario” and “Beasts of No Nation” were not nominated for the that year’s Oscars. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee and Michael Moore were some of the directors and actors that boycotted the award show due to the lack of diversity.

Following the backlash, the Academy announced it would do more to increase diversity by establishing three new seats on the Board of Governors. Despite this, there has still been a lack of diverse nominees. Earlier this month, the nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were released - with white artists again dominating. The hashtag Oscars SoWhiter And With More Men trended on Twitter while actors and fans criticized the board for its lack of diverse nominees, including snubbing actress Golden Globe winner Awkwafina for her role in the movie “The Farewell” and Lupita Nyong’o’s lead role in the thriller “Us.”


About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.