Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Clearly in the world of rap, the answer is yes. Uhhh, would the real Slim Shady please stand up. We’re gonna have a little problem here.
It’s always baffled me why rap artists have to continually introduce themselves. Halfway through a Take That record you don’t find the phrase Gary Barlow comin’ atcha or some such nonsense, so why is rap so different as a genre? And I say this as a fan, and someone who has not had the Marshall Mathers LP 2 out of the CD player in nearly a month because it’s that good (well, some ropey production decisions aside).
My initial guess was that rappers simply think we might have forgotten their name since the last verse. But that seems unlikely; even rap fans have some semblance of long-term memory.
It may stem from the underground notion of battles whereby rappers take it in turns to freestyle over a beat to win the audience over and prove they’re king of the mic. Repeating your moniker in rhymes not only ensures people remember your name, it’s also a simple way to make battling easier to win, because there are plenty of things you can think up in advance that rhyme with your own name (unless you’re called William of Orange). Plus, for those people fetching a cheeky pint at the bar, hearing the name of your home boy is a signal to start whooping like a redneck on race day.
One outlying thought is that perhaps rappers are so insecure or afraid of sounding the same as one of their peers, they feel the need to continually reaffirm their identity. Can you imagine the tedious conversation at a dinner party where Nas, Eminem, Kelis, Dr. Dre, Eve, Wyclef Jean, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Snoop Dogg are present?
- Hi, my name is (chigga chigga) Slim Shady.
- Back track, think back, E-V-E.
- Yo, Kelis, yo, Neptunes, yooo.
- No don’t weep, Wyclef’s in a state of sleep.
- Nas is coming.
- My momma named me Kanye so you all gonna call me Kanye.
- Jay-Z be popping tags.
- Still Snoop Dogg and D-R-E.
Enough already, you guys. Just pass the hors d’oeuvres.