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Virgil Abloh Grammys controversy explained as ‘Hip-Hop fashion designer’ tribute sparks backlash

The 2022 Grammys came under fire for labeling Virgil Abloh a “Hip Hop fashion designer (Image via Edward Berthelot/Getty Images and Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images)
The 2022 Grammys came under fire for labeling Virgil Abloh a “Hip Hop fashion designer (Image via Edward Berthelot/Getty Images and Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images)

Late artist Virgil Abloh was recently honored at the “In Memoriam” section of the 2022 Grammy Awards. The Recording Academy paid tribute to the fashion icon, who passed away last year after a secret battle with cancer.

However, the authorities came under fire for labeling Abloh as a “Hip-Hop fashion designer” during the tribute. Following the memorial, fans were quick to point out that the label undermined the many talents of the late icon.

Abloh’s career spanned several directions, including being a DJ, producer, creative director, brand founder, visual artist, and engineer.

“Virgil Abloh, Hip Hop Fashion Designer” #Grammys https://t.co/33ggWUFIcn

Alongside Abloh, the “In Memoriam” segment of the 2022 Grammys remembered late artists like DMX, Ronnie Spector, Betty White, Taylor Hawkins, and Lee “Scratch” Perry, among many others.

It also featured a performance by Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ben Platt, and Rachel Zegler, who sang together to pay tribute to late composer Stephen Sondheim.


Look into Virgil Abloh’s Grammy tribute controversy

The Grammys labeled Virgil Abloh a “Hip Hop fashion designer” in their tribute (Image via Philip Lewis/Twitter)
The Grammys labeled Virgil Abloh a “Hip Hop fashion designer” in their tribute (Image via Philip Lewis/Twitter)

The 64th Annual Grammy Awards faced severe criticism for referring to Virgil Abloh as a “Hip-Hop fashion designer” while paying tribute to the late artist. The Illinois native was a man of many talents and has often been dubbed a “creative polymath” in his obituaries, per Dazed.

Before his untimely demise, Abloh served as the artistic designer of Louis Vuitton menswear and CEO of Off-White, an Italian fashion label he founded in 2013. Before his career in the fashion industry, Abloh received a Master of Architecture degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

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Abloh also spent a significant part of his life working as a professional DJ before being nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package for his work on the cover art of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s 2011 album Watch the Throne.

In 2018, Abloh released an EP with the electro-house producer Boys Noize and continued to direct music videos for artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Pop Smoke, and Quavo until his tragic demise.

That same year, Time magazine named Abloh one of the 100 most influential people in the world after he made history by becoming the first African-American to serve as the artistic director at a French luxury fashion house.

Following his memorial at the 2022 Grammy Awards, several viewers noted that labeling Virgil Abloh as a “Hip-Hop fashion designer” failed to acknowledge his multitude of talents and pigeonholed his multiple contributions to the world of entertainment.

In light of the controversial tribute, social media users also remembered Tyler, The Creator’s 2019 Grammys speech that called out the “genre-bending” nature of the “urban” category:

“It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending, they always put it in a rap or urban category. I don’t like that ‘urban’ word. It’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me.”

The speech led to the Recording Academy dropping the “urban” categories from the Grammys in an effort to prevent limiting African-American musicians into a specific segment.

I could never expect the #Grammys to properly acknowledge who Virgil Abloh was and continues to be. Anything done by someone black is inaccurately considered hip hop.

Although Abloh was known for his remarkable collaborations with hip hop artists like Kanye West, Pharell Williams, and JAY-Z, his legacy and work went beyond the genre of hip hop and impacted several people across the world.


Fans react to Virgil Abloh tribute at 2022 Grammys

Social media users called out the Grammys for controversial its Virgil Abloh tribute (Image via Johnny Nunez/Getty Images)
Social media users called out the Grammys for controversial its Virgil Abloh tribute (Image via Johnny Nunez/Getty Images)

On November 28, 2021, Virgin Abloh passed away after privately battling cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, for two years. His sudden demise left the world of fashion and entertainment wholly shocked and heartbroken.

While the 2022 Grammy Awards decided to pay tribute to Abloh in the “In Memoriam” segment, its authorities faced criticism for restricting the multi-hyphenate star within the label of “Hip Hop fashion designer.”

Following the tribute, netizens took to Twitter to call out the Grammys for their debatable dedication to Abloh:

Gm. When the Grammys calls a multi-hyphenate like Virgil Abloh a “hip-hop fashion designer,” we know we’ve still got a long way to go. You can do better, the Grammys. https://t.co/L0gd3mLJK6
Calling Virgil Abloh a “Hip-Hop Fashion Designer” is insanely disrespectful and blindly ignorant… do better https://t.co/zHXLhZB6vv
The list of accomplishments Virgil had in fashion, art, architecture, music, etc. is longer than most people at the Grammy’s combined. It’s crazy to me that they thought it was a good idea to diminish his life’s work to being a “hip-hop fashion designer”!
The Grammys calling Virgil Abloh a "Hip Hop Fashion Designer"...big yikes
The Grammys calling Virgil Abloh a “hip-hop designer” does not sit right with me. At all.
Minimizing Virgil Abloh to a “Hip-Hop Fashion Designer” is nasty behavior. Whoever at the Grammys that’s responsible, you’re not seeing heaven.
The way that everyone is collectively so angry about “Virgil Abloh, hip hop fashion designer” like HOW did that even get approved by multiple people????
i'm not even a big virgil abloh guy but calling him a "hip-hop fashion designer" is wild disrespectful
very disrespectful for the grammys to call virgil abloh a “hip hop fashion designer”… the micro aggressive racism we see in fashion and entertainment today still baffles me
Not the Grammys calling Virgil Abloh a "Hip Hop Fashion Designer" I expect nothing from them and somehow they still let me down, talk about disrespect.
The thing that irked me the most about this year’s Grammys was that they disrespected Virgil Abloh by labeling him a “Hip Hop Fashion Designer”.
Virgil Abloh, one of the best fashion designers of all time. Designed for Louis Vuitton, off white, etc. Changed the way many people see fashion only for the Grammys to box him into a “hip hop fashion designer” phrase. Nah these people are actually insane
not the Grammys calling Virgil Abloh a “hip hop“ designer … very distasteful
I wasn’t gonna say anything but the Grammys calling Virgil Abloh a “hip hop fashion designer” is super disrespectful
The Grammys called Virgil Abloh, the creator of off-white and known for much more a “Hip Hop Fashion Designer” is distasteful. 🤦‍♂️ https://t.co/80KbSwlqr7

As severe backlash continues to pour in online, it remains to be seen if the Grammys will address the situation in the days to come. Despite the controversy, a prime example of Virgil Abloh’s far-reaching impact was evident in K-Pop sensation BTS’ outfit for the night.

Members of the world’s biggest boyband wore one of Abloh’s final designs for Louis Vuitton to the 2022 Grammys ceremony, making it evident that his legacy will continue to be cherished worldwide.

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Edited by Ravi Iyer
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