Hey, Mr. Z: Mind if we call you Shawn?

Categories: Music

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Ghostface Killah (a.k.a. Dennis Coles)

Columbia Journalism Review has made a thought-provoking funny, calling out The New York Times and others for a two-tiered system of referring to entertainers. In a nutshell, everyone gets the courtesy of being called by their stage names in Times articles except for hip hop artists, who routinely get the birth-name treatment.

[T]he unofficial guideline that once compelled former Times critic Donal Henahan to make subsequent reference to Iggy Pop and Sid Vicious as Mr. Pop and Mr. Vicious (instead of Mr. [James] Osterberg and Mr. [Simon John] Beverly, or even Pop and Vicious) does not apply, apparently, to hip-hop artists. At the Times, the penalty for being a rapper is twofold: you are routinely called out on your birth name (no matter how nerdy and ironic it might be), and you rarely are addressed as “Mr.”

Is it racism? Classism? Cluelessness? A desire to get to the existential truth of our treasured rap stars? Sam Sifton, the Times’s culture editor, tells CJR that his paper makes a distinction between stage names (which the Times uses) and aliases (which it doesn't). Which explains why, in one 2006 article, Ludacris gets identified as Christopher Bridges, but Eminem (Marshall Mathers) and Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus), are referred to only by their stage names.

Huh?

Adds Sifton: “One of the difficulties that the Times has in addressing contemporary culture, and certainly hip-hop culture, is that we risk looking stupid all the time.”

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Jay-Z, a.k.a. Shawn Carter




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