Awards show season continued last night, with the 2022 Grammys presented by the Recording Academy. The evening, committed to honoring musical excellence, featured stellar performances, Grammy surprises, upsets and first-time awardees, and an ‘In Memoriam’ segment that caught us off guard. The Recording Academy took the time to honor Virgil Abloh, who recently passed away in November 2021. However, in the midst of the organization’s efforts to pay respect, the moment was not received as it was intended due to its tone-deaf messaging.
Honoring Virgil Abloh at the Grammys wasn’t the problem, as he was very much a force across industries, including music. Abloh was a long time DJ before his fashion takeover and he even continued to DJ while working at Louis Vuitton and running Off-White, along with directing music videos and designing artwork for album covers. He was known for bridging the gap between music and fashion, and for heavily incorporating music genius into his fashion shows.
The downfall of the Grammy’s shoutout was that the Recording Academy reduced the cultural pioneer to a “Hip Hop Fashion Designer”. For one, Abloh’s involvement in music was not limited to Hip Hop. Despite this, ultimately the label seemed like another example of how the industry and society try to downplay a Black artist’s range, to pigeonhole them into a certain corner. Despite this, the tone-deaf message was not missed by viewers – they quickly reacted on Twitter. It was clear that this moment was another instance of the industry labeling a Black artist as “urban”.
The Recording Academy has yet to address the situation after being called out, but will an official statement of apology suffice again? How many times will we continue to let white-led organizations slide for being tone-deaf? Will they ever learn if we continue to support them instead of holding them accountable?