Tyler, the Creator says his Grammy win felt like a backhanded compliment

Shelby Bell, Staff Writer

Tyler, the Creator poses in a press room after his 2019 album IGOR wins Best Rap Album during the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. (Photo via xxlmag.com)

On Sunday night, when Tyler the Creator’s IGOR took home the year’s award for Best Rap Album, he spoke up about the mixed feelings he had. 

“I’m half and half on it,” he said, immediately after accepting the award, “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 — I don’t like that ‘urban’ word. That’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me.”

               “When I hear that, I think ‘why can’t we just be in pop?’ Half of me feels like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment,” Tyler said. “Like, oh, my little cousin wants to play the game, let’s give him the unplugged controller so he can shut up and feel good about it. That’s what it felt like a bit.”

“Another half of me is very grateful that the art that I made can be acknowledged on a level like this, when I don’t do the radio stuff,” he went on, “I’m not playing to Target, I’m in a whole different world than what a lot of people here listen to.”

During this year’s annual Clive Davis pre-Grammy gala, American rapper Diddy — who also skipped Sunday night’s ceremony — said “Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be.” He also expressed similar sentiments at the Roc Nation brunch on Saturday, which brings together some of the industry’s most influential Black artists to celebrate what Diddy himself called a display of Black Excellence. 

“It’s 2020 y’all, and it’s different than when it was 2016,” Diddy said during a toast surrounded by Jay-Z, Meek Mill, and others. “We at a Black billionaires brunch. You understand? And we here together and we’re gonna keep staying together. United we stand and there ain’t nothing else.”

Given the Academy’s long-criticized reputation, are big names skipping a show where they don’t actually feel seen?

Boycotting awards shows isn’t new for Black artists. Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff boycotted the 31st Grammy awards in 1989 after a decision had been made that the first-ever award for Best Rap Performance would be announced off air. Salt-N-Pepa, Russell Simmons and LL Cool J, all joined Smith and Jeff in boycotting the show. Smith later joined his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee, boycotting the 88th annual Academy Awards amid the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. In 2016, Frank Ocean opted not to submit his music for the 2017 Grammys, saying the awarding, nomination, and screening systems were “dated.” After 2016’s Grammy ceremony, Kanye West — who threatened to boycott the 2017 awards if Ocean was not nominated — stated that he felt the Grammy awarding system “is way off and completely out of touch.”