Additional reporting by Cheryl Krucas
One of the sweetest moments at the 2020 Grammys found Tyler, the Creator hugging his mother onstage, a gold trophy in his hand and a win for Best Rap Album under his belt. “To my mother, you did a great job raising this guy,” he said while looking at her to his left.
But while Tyler has long spent his music career in the hip-hop realm, his recent albums have explored more experimental elements, especially 2019’s warm R&B odyssey Igor. As Igor is now the reigning Best Rap Album, a Rolling Stone reporter in the Grammys press room had questions about how Tyler — a genre polyglot whose explosive performance on the Grammys stage earlier in the night hewed closer to a rock performance — felt about that. His comments were measured and thoughtful.
“On one side, I’m very grateful that what I made could just be acknowledged in a world like this,” he said. “But also, it sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or anything, they also put it in a rap or urban category. I don’t like that urban word. It’s just politically correct way to say the N-word to me.”
Igor‘s musicality certainly spans rap, but also a classic R&B-inspired sound that wouldn’t be out of place being called simply pop. Tyler addressed that in his remarks as well.
“When I hear that, I’m just like, why can’t we just be in pop?” he said. “Half of me feels like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment, 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.”
But Tyler was quick to reiterate the gratefulness he expressed onstage accepting his award earlier in the evening, where he gave a heartfelt shout-out to Pharrell Williams for making music that he connected with as he felt “left-of-center” of mass media growing up. “But another half of me is very grateful that the art that I made could be acknowledged on a level like this, when I don’t do the radio stuff, I’m not played at Target, I’m in a whole different world than what a lot of people here listen to.”
Tyler walked away from the 2020 Grammys one for one, winning for Igor and bringing to life one of the most electric clone-centric performances since Eminem flooded the 2000 VMAs with Slim Shady lookalikes.
Find all of MTV News’s 2020 Grammys coverage right here.