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Tyler, the Creator on His Grammy Win: It ‘Feels Like a Backhanded Compliment’

“They always put it in a rap or urban category,” the rapper said after winning his first Grammy. “I don’t like that ‘urban’ word. That’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me.”

Tyler, The Creator - Best Rap Album - Igor 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, USA - 26 Jan 2020

David Fisher/Shutterstock

On Sunday night, Tyler, the Creator won his first Grammy when 2019’s IGOR took home the year’s award for Best Rap Album. He had mixed feelings about it.

“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.”

IGOR is widely considered to be the best album in Tyler’s discography, and also the furthest from a traditional rap album. There are relatively few verses of straightforward rapping, and often the album pulls from disco, funk, and R&B, and aesthetically had little in common with the albums he beat out in the Best Rap Album category.

“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.”

Watch Tyler’s earlier performance of “Earfquake” and “New Magic Wand” on the Grammy stage here.