Thursday, June 26, 2008


RICHARD PRINCE, JOURNAL-ISMS "The New York Times rarely refers to rock stars such as Alice Cooper, Moby, and Elton John by their birth names," Chris Faraone writes in the May/June issue of Columbia Journalism Review.

But "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.' This nominal double standard surfaces from time to time in hip-hop articles throughout the mainstream press, but due to the Times' extensive urban-music coverage and its eternal struggle with honorific conformity, rap handles seem to inspire more copy dilemmas there.

"Despite having sold several million discs and served as president of Def Jam Recordings under his alias, Jay-Z still gets pegged as Shawn Carter. . . . No hip-hop artist is immune - Wu-Tang Clan ringleader RZA (Robert Diggs), Queens heavyweight 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson), and urban mogul Diddy (Sean Combs) are all routinely birth-named in the mainstream press.

Sam Sifton "Sam Sifton, the Times's culture editor, says that while such decisions are handled on a case-by-case basis, rap artists often get special treatment. 'There's a big difference between [Houston rapper] Bun B and Tony Bennett,' Sifton says, referring to Bernard Freeman and Anthony Dominick Benedetto, respectively. 'Tony Bennett took a stage name, which I think is a little different from taking an alias. Someone like Jay-Z can be Mr. Carter, certainly, or he can just be Jay-Z, but he's never going to be Mr. Z.'"

After examining the quandaries posed by Ghostface Killah, Alicia Keys, André 3000, Big Boi and Erykah Badu, Faraone writes:

". . . Even more confusing are articles that seem to follow no logic whatsoever: a December 3, 2006, Times profile on celebrity Sirius Radio hosts refers to rap personality Ludacris as Christopher Bridges (and as 'Mr. Bridges' in subsequent references), but allows Eminem (Marshall Mathers), Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus), and Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) to use their stage names. On second reference, though, Bob Dylan is 'Mr. Dylan,' while Eminem remains Eminem; Snoop is only mentioned once, but judging by former Times treatments he would have been called 'Snoop' or 'Snoop Dogg' had his name come up again.

"'If you look in our archives, which we famously refer to as our compendium of past errors, you'll see plenty of examples of us looking ridiculous,' Sifton says. '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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