The Recording Academy Faces Backlash for Calling Virgil Abloh a “Hip-Hop Fashion Designer”

If the Oscars taught us anything, it’s that putting a bunch of uber-rich celebrities in an auditorium together is bound to result in shenanigans aplenty.

Putting this theory to practice, the 2022 Grammys played host to some particularly memorable moments: on behalf of survivors everywhere, the Recording Academy forgave Louis C.K. for sexual misconduct and awarded him the Grammy for Best Comedy Album; Justin Bieber wailed a down-tempo version of “Peaches” like it was Björk’s “Jóga”; SZA was on crutches that she definitely didn’t need.

But nothing quite prepared us for the tragedy that was the Recording Academy’s tribute to the late Virgil Abloh.

The Off-White™ founder and creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton was remembered during the Grammys’ “In Memoriam” segment as a “Hip Hop Fashion Designer.”


In case it wasn’t clear, “Hip Hop Fashion Designer” hardly scratches the surface of what Abloh did throughout the course of his storied career.

He certainly dressed hip hop legends (Jay Z, A$AP Rocky, and Kid Cudi are just a few examples), but Abloh did far more than that: he essentially birthed contemporary streetwear; he was the first Black man to be appointed creative director at a French fashion house; he collaborated with the likes of Nike, IKEA, and Rimowa.

Reducing Abloh to “Hip Hop Fashion Designer” felt kind of like the Recording Academy’s longstanding tradition of boxing Black musicians into the “Urban” category.

Of course, the Grammys boasts an extensive history of minimizing — and all together failing to recognize — the impact of Black creatives, the reason big-name artists including Drake and The Weeknd have chosen to boycott the event.

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