Republic Records is currently one of the most powerful labels in North America. This week, Universal Music Group, which owns Republic, announced its pledge to donate $25 million to social justice organizations in support of Black Lives Matter. Now, Republic is taking a progressive step towards eliminating terms that show marginalization in music.
The label announced this week that it is banning the use of the term “urban” from its company verbiage.
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Over the years, the term “urban” has been used to describe primarily hip-hop and rap genres. Despite the common use of the term, many have felt that the word largely marginalizes music created primarily by black artists.
Now, Republic Records is taking a stand. The label announced that “urban” will no longer be used to describe artists, teams, departments or music genres at the label. Along with its industry partnerships, Republic houses a number of artists including The Weeknd, Drake, Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber.
“Effective immediately,” the statement reads. “Republic Records will remove ‘urban’ from our verbiage in describing departments, employee titles and music genres. 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industry to follow suit as it is important to shape the future of what we want it to look like and not adhere to the outdated structures of the past.”
— Republic Records (@RepublicRecords) June 5, 2020
According to Billboard, the term dates back to the mid-1970s when black New York radio DJ Frankie Crocker created the phrase “urban contemporary” which was later shortened to “urban.” At the time, the term didn’t carry negative connotations, but many today argue that the term simply lumps music by black artists into one category.
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Over the years, various label executives have expressed their dislike for the term. Music Business Worldwide ran a report in 2018 that revealed a number of execs think the term is outdated and does not accurately represent the music it’s being used to describe. Within the findings, former Kolbat SVP of Creative Sam Taylor said they despise the word.
“I hate and despise the word urban,” Taylor says. “The word urban to me feels like a project. It feels like something that needs to be built. It’s basically like, ‘Oh this urban neighborhood.’ It means it’s low-income, not safe, etc. So when you say urban music, to me, it’s letting me know that you think it needs to be rebuilt.”
Along with the elimination of the term “urban” from its label, Republic Records is also showing support for Black Lives Matter. Republic has launched the new Republic Records Action Committee (R2AC) which focuses on social justice issues. The committee will work closely with Universal Music Group’s own task force and will donate $25 million to social justice organizations.
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On June 2, The Weeknd called out various labels as well as Apple Music and Spotify for remaining quiet amidst the George Floyd protests. As a result, some labels have now pledged large sums of money. Along with UMG, Warner Music Group announced a vague $100 social equity pledge. As well, Sony Music pledged $100 million to social justice and anti-racism initiatives.
Along with labels, artists themselves are getting involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. Kanye West was seen protesting in Chicago this week and is creating a college fund for Floyd’s six-year-old daughter. Halsey and YUNGBLUD have been joining the protests in California. Machine Gun Kelly and blink-182‘s Travis Barker joined forces with protesters for a Rage Against The Machine cover.
As well, Creeper, Every Time I Die and Code Orange are auctioning off rare items and donating proceeds to BLM and various organizations. On June 3, FEVER 333 did a live performance livestream and raised thousands of dollars for the movement. Set It Off, Nothing, Nowhere. and Emo Nite have also raised money through livestreams.
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To show support through donations, connect with grassroots campaigns and obtain resources for allies, please refer to the links below.
Help the family of George Floyd here.
Fight for Breonna Taylor here.
Help the family of Ahmaud Arbery here.
To sign petitions for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and more, click here.
Donate to one or more community bail funds for protesters here.
Click here for more resources for protestors including pro-bono lawyers.
Visit Movement For Black Lives for additional ways you can help the cause.
Click here to connect with leaders building grassroots campaigns.
Here are some anti-racism resources for allies who want to learn more.
For other ways to donate, please head here.