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Urban or Not? Don Omar, Guaynaa & More React to Grammys Splitting, Renaming Latin Category

On June 10, the Recording Academy announced nine changes to its awards and nominations process, including the renaming and splitting of best Latin rock, urban or alternative album category.

The two new separate categories are best Latin pop or urban album, and best Latin rock or alternative album, and will take effect for the upcoming 63rd annual Grammy Awards.

The change, “came directly from the community,” Harvey Mason, Jr., Chair & Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy told Billboard. “The urban community, the reggaeton community tend to feel they’re closer in sound to the pop music. This is coming from them. They asked for this change.”

But pop and Latin urban are not one, argues Billboard’s Leila Cobo. “Latin pop often fuses with urban beats, or that Latin urban music is sometimes deemed the ‘New Latin pop,’ is not the same as saying they are one and the same.”

As the Latin music industry continues to process the renaming of the Latin category, Billboard reached out to reggaeton, Latin trap and rappers for their take on the change and the removal of the word “urban” in non-Latin categories.

The four artists who did respond to our request share exclusively with Billboard their thoughts on the matter and what the term urban means to them. Below, read what Don Omar, J Balvin, Guaynaa and Bryant Myers had to say.

Don Omar

How do you describe yourself?

I am an artist even though the world knows me as the king of reggaeton; I don’t limit myself to that genre. I have done bachata, salsa, ballads; I have fused my music with samba, kuduro, kizomba, EDM, rock and countless other rhythms in my career. I’m also a producer, songwriter and director, so I consider myself an artist in every sense of the word.

The Grammys announced pop and urban would be in the same album category. What do you think of this change?

I think it was a matter of time for this to happen. The term “pop” means “popular,” and we can all agree that reggaeton, trap and other genres considered “urban” are and have been for a long time amongst the most popular music not only in the Latin market, but worldwide.

What does the term “urban” mean to you?

I think the music industry tried to put a general label for the music we were making back in the day, the music that was playing in the disco or the caseríos. “Urban” for me basically means “from the streets,” and that’s where we came from.

What do you think about some labels and the Grammys dropping the word “urban”? (The Grammys will not use the word “urban” in the main categories.) 

I think a word doesn’t change the music and the quality of the music we are making, even though we have been grouped under the “urban” category for a long time. We are all doing different genres anyways; some of us are making reggaeton, trap, dembow, hip hop, rap, etc. I feel like “urban” is a broad term. We need to value the genres that our fans love, call it for its name — reggaeton is reggaeton.

Guaynaa

How do you describe yourself? 

I’m a rapper.

The Grammys announced pop and urban would be in the same album category, what do you think of this change?

I think those two categories should be separated. They are two different types of art.

What does the term “urban” mean to you?

Urbano is something that relates to a city. For example, zona urbana (the urban zone).

What do you think about some labels and the Grammys dropping the word “urban”? (The Grammys will not use the word ‘urban” in the main categories.)

I think categories should be divided by their actual names. For me, the word urbano encompasses more than one genre. You dismiss a lot of effort and talent once it’s generalized that way. We’re on the right track by eliminating that classification in [other] nominations.

J Balvin

How do you describe yourself?

I was one of the first to say that I am a reggaeton artist. There was a moment that seemed like reggaeton wasn’t sticking, and a lot of people started saying urbano. Since I was a big fan of reggaeton, I was proud to make reggaeton, so I had to represent it and I always said I [sing] reggaeton. I understand the reasons why people don’t want to say urbano, and I respect that. Simply artists. An artist who creates reggaeton or rap …

Bryant Myers

How do you describe yourself? 

The voice of a new generation. At the beginning of my career, because of my hoarse voice, everyone would recognize me, and my hairstyle started a new trend. I have been able to stay relevant with trap and reggaeton melodies while my fans continue to support me.

The Grammys announced pop and urban would be in the same album category. What do you think of this change?

Pop has been around for many years, and our urbano movement is young and new. If the Academy votes having in mind what the audience is actually listening to, then there is no difference. We have always worked hard and will continue to work hard.

What does the term “urban” mean to you?

The word “urban” is a mix of race, rhythms, neighborhoods, the city and the street. It’s what represents me and a generation that love this music. Us, as artists from the streets, have been able to reach millions of fans who support us on the street.

What do you think about some labels and the Grammys dropping the word “urban”? (The Grammys will not use the word “urban” in the main categories.)

The products produced by labels are sold on the streets. You cannot discriminate because the people who listen to our music are urban and being urban is in. I will continue to make music my way. Call it what you will.

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