I read this thought-provoking piece in Rolling Stone, "Separate and Unequal: How Pop Music Holds Black Artists Back," by Elias Leight. In the article, Leight really highlights how the terms "Pop Music" & "Urban Music" are not really used to categorize music but instead to SEGEGRATE Black artists from white artists. White artists are automatically put in this "Pop Machine," which allows them to take advantage of major radio push and larger marketing budgets. While most Black artists have to start in the "Urban Machine," which means only being pushed to Black listeners, and then fight to crossover to Pop audiences. This obviously puts Black artists at a disadvantage. Leight used artists Megan Thee Stallion and blackbear as a great example of how this longstanding practice worked in 2019. He wrote,
"Megan Thee Stallion invented the “Hot Girl Summer” meme and released an accompanying single, which was an “urban” radio hit. The white singer blackbear grabbed the concept for his own “Hot Girl Bummer,” which was played heavily on pop radio. Since that format reaches many more listeners — 93 million impressions last week on the “pop” Number One, compared to 36 million for the “urban” Number One — “Hot Girl Bummer” has nearly 160 million more streams in the U.S. than “Hot Girl Summer.”
Last week I tweeted, "Dropping the word "urban," but keeping the same behavior is doing nothing." I'm
curious as to what happens to Black artists once the term "urban" is removed. Will they be welcomed into the "Pop Machine" and get that big push and the massive marketing budgets like their white counterparts? If not, then fck it.
In the article, Leight claims in 2020, only a few Black artists like Rihanna, Jason Derulo, and The Weeknd get what is described as an "honorary pop pass." Artists like Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, and Travis Scott "still have to go through the process of crossing over." So established Black superstars have to work twice as hard as a white artist who has a buzz. I'm sure this works similarly for these new "Afro-Latinos."I bet Latinos don't have to wait as long as Black artists to be pushed out to the pop audiences.
POP STARS TO FANS, N*GGERS TO MUSIC INDUSTRY
We have always known that white artists who mimic Black artists and their sounds get put on a pedestal. But having this article shed light on what it's like behind the scenes, really should change people's views on Black artists who "crossover." Often times, Black artists who "crossover" or "go pop" are considered "sellouts." Are these artists selling out or just trying to get on a level playing field with their white peers.
Two of the biggest crossover rap artists, Nicki Minaj and Drake, have touched on some of these behind the scenes issues in the past.
In 2017, Nicki Minaj was branded a racist because she highlighted how white the iTunes Hip Hop Charts looked. Nicki's caption read, "It's a great time to be a white rapper in America, huh?" Nicki ended up deleting her post after some backlash. However, she did make a more revealing follow-up post. She told fans/haters, "I work in the music business. Therefore, I post on new developments in the music industry." Was Nicki Minaj hinting about the behind the scenes bullsh*t when it comes to the treatment of WHITE RAPPERS VS BLACK RAPPERS?
I doubt Nicki's labelmate Post Malone, who was labeled a rapper in 2017, was going through the "Urban Machine." While Nicki Minaj, who is considered a rapper/Pop Star, probably still has to start off "urban" and then fight to crossover.
Also, in 2017, in an interview with DJ Semtex, Drake expressed his frustrations with award shows like the Grammys. He was disheartened by always being put in rap categories, even though he writes pop music. Drake said that he never gets his credit and feels "alienated" by award shows and like they are "pacifying" him by handing him rap awards. I definitely agree that Drake should not be nominated in rap categories.
It's going to be interesting to see how the music industry deals with how they handicap Black artists. Republic Records was the first label to announce they will no longer use the term "urban," but no word on "pop." That is the label of Drake, Nicki, Post Malone, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, etc.
What do y'all think the solution is?
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