Late fashion designer Virgil Abloh, who passed away on Nov. 28, 2021 after privately battling a rare form of cancer, was honored at the 2022 Grammy Awards. The memoriam referred to him as "hip hop fashion designer," and fans are taking issue with the reductive label. Of course, hip-hop is one of the most influential genres in music history, and Abloh was certainly friendly with several hip-hop artists and even designed the artwork for Kanye West and JAY-Z's "Watch The Throne" album. But that's not all he did. As the creative director of Off White, artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, and creative director of Kanye West's agency Donda, Abloh's contribution to the world is prodigious and far-reaching — and that's precisely why viewers find it problematic that he was put in a box.
When Tyler, The Creator won best rap album in 2019, his speech pointed to the Recording Academy's history of putting certain labels on Black artists. "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. I don't like that 'urban' word — it's just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me," he said.
Now, Twitter users are drawing comparisons to Tyler's message — which Abloh re-shared in support at the time — and the Grammys 2022 tribute to Abloh. "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," one user wrote.
Perhaps the more meaningful tribute last night was BTS arriving on the red carpet in coordinating suits from Abloh's final offering for Louis Vuitton. It was a style move that might have been expected, given the group's close ties to the fashion house, but it was also intentional and celebratory of Abloh's enduring impact.
Ahead, see several reactions from the Grammys 2022 tribute to Abloh.