Organisers of the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards have ditched the Urban award category that sparked accusations of racism last year.

When Auckland singer Aaradhna took out the award for her record Brown Girl, explicitly about her experiences with racism, she refused to accept it.

“I feel like I’ve been placed in a category of brown artists,” she said.

This year, there will be two new categories instead: one for Soul/RnB and the other for Hip Hop.

Hip hop group SWIDT – who received Aaradhna’s Urban music award after she refused to accept it last year – said the update meant the two genres would no longer compete for the same award.

“They both deserve their own platform, their own recognition, their own award,” SWIDT band member Spycc told Radio NZ. “It’s kind of crazy that for this long they’ve been put under one umbrella, so it’s definitely a good move.”

The Urban Award isn’t the only category to be ditched. Recorded Music NZ has also abandoned Best Female Solo Artist and Best Male Solo Artist categories.

Doing away with gender distinction entirely – and cementing New Zealand once again as the most forward-thinking country in the Southern Hemisphere – The Awards will be replaced by Best Solo Artist.

Meantime, Recorded Music NZ has made changes to its album categories, changing them to ‘Best Artist’ categories instead. The genre album changes are:

Best Māori Artist
Best Pop Artist
Best Alternative Artist
Best Roots Artist
Best Electronic Artist
Best Worship Artist
Best Classical Artist
Best Hip Hop Artist
Best Soul/RnB Artist
Best Rock Artist

Recorded Music NZ chief executive Damian Vaughan said the changes were made after discussions with artists, labels and managers:

“Consultation with our own membership and the artist feedback and indeed last year in Aaradhna’s speech, find that things change, genres change and … music understanding changes over time so we’re just reflecting those conversations with our artists,” he said.

The awards will be held in Auckland in November. Nominations close on Wednesday 2 August 2017.