SCH, PLK, Jul, Vald: why have rappers’ names never been so short?

Unless you have spent the last twenty years on a desert island in the middle of the Pacific and have just returned to the country of Michel Houellebecq and Noël Le Graët, this information could hardly have escaped you: rap and its derivatives (the ” urban music” to use the term now consecrated) is the favorite musical current of the French, and not only of the youngest.

In the first days of January, the SNEP (the national union of phonographic publishing, that is to say the main employers’ organization bringing together producers, publishers and distributors of recorded music) has just attested heavily by publishing the ranking of the 200 albums having generated the most sales physical and digital and/or listening on platforms in 2022.

Obvious fact: urban music grabs almost everything. If we stick to the 50 best sellers, around thirty artists from the rap movement crush the game (some even with two discs on the honor roll). There is also an enormous domination of French (and Belgian) productions – cocorico. The box is impressive. But not really a surprise, then. Just listen, everywhere, in car radios, at parties, in the headphones of your friends, your cousins, your colleagues: rarely has a musical genre dominated the debates to such an extent. And at the same time redesigned the aesthetic and economic landscape of an entire sector.

Funnier to note, the big record sellers of 2022 are a majority to have very short artist names. Let us judge in this top 50 of the best sellers: Orelsan, Ninho, Gazo, Jul, Lomepal, Vald, Tiakola, Niska, TAYC, PLK, S-Crew, Damso, Slimane, Stromae, SCH, Alonzo, Josman, Laylow , Djadja & Dinaz, Dadju, SDM, ZIAK, Timal (…)

READ ALSO : We read Booba and Kery James: Rappers, heirs of poets?

The graphic presentation of the SNEP prize list (with this long column of artists’ names written in capital letters) leaves the eye no choice but to be struck by the cohesion of the stylistic and syntactic offer: names in three letters, in four letters, in five letters, rarely more. We also note the total disappearance of “The”, once so common among Anglo-Saxon artists: only the Canadian artist The Weeknd does in the tradition, but compensating with a typographic coquetry à la Weeknd, just to distinguish himself well all the same . Just as we note, without necessarily regretting it, the disappearance of first-name combos modeled on civil status – with the notable exception of Clara Luciani, Harry Styles, Mylène Farmer and Juliette Armanet. Would it have become totally old-fashioned, totally “out of the game”, to appear under his surname?

In the world of hip-hop, this “traditional” choice to sing under one’s real name, inherited from French songs, has never been an option anyway. The rap “gesture” since the 80s is something else: a hybrid space where you invent your own codes, your visual and sound signatures, your acronyms. Out of the question to release his music under the name of Julien Marie: it will be Jul and nothing else. For Valentin Le Du, it will be Vald. For Aya Coco Danioko, Aya Nakamura (eleven letters in all, an exception these days…) And for Aurélien Cotentin, it will be Orelsan. Simple, basic, ok. Easy to remember. And it’s very good like that: rap imposes its mark. But the fact remains that this epidemic of increasingly short names is not just a question of style.

The shorter, the better?

For SEO on the Internet, two boxes must be ticked: simplicity (and brevity greatly contributes to this), but above all uniqueness, ie the immediately distinctive character. An example: when you type Niska in a search engine, all of the content offered for several menu pages is indeed dedicated to the native rapper of Evry: his clips, his Wikipedia notice, his Twitter accounts, Instagram, his next dates gigs come out instantly. A short and distinctive name: the insured full box.

In labels and record companies, the search for the right signature, the right acronym, the right label – short and catchy, visually “paying” but also gratifying to the ear – has therefore become a considerable strategic issue.

Is it really that new? Yes and no. No, because the NTM and IAM groups obviously did not wait for the 2020s to identify themselves in three round and striking letters. Since then, with their surnames in five or six letters, artists firmly rooted in the landscape like Booba (who started with Lunatic, seven letters), or even Nekfeu, Kaaris and Gradur have also played the card of sober and memorable. But ultra-brevity, obviously, has been at its peak for three or four years.

The essential Gims (shortened to Maître Gims since 2019) still attest to this, but also Dinos, Zola, Fresh, Kalash, Keen’V or even Laylow. And the trend continues to grow. Just browse on listening sites like Deezer and Spotify and look at the composition of “trendy” playlists in urban music. The vast majority of names of emerging artists are capped at five or six letters (and often less): RK, Favé, Naps, Hamza, Shay, Mig, Niro, Sadek, VVES, Zkr, Guizmo, A2h, Nemir, Luidji , Ashh, Kekra, Zed, OBOY, Paky, Bosh, Anas, NEJ, SZA, RZKO, RM, Yanns, Naps, Leto, Dosseh, Niro, REMA… And we could go on for pages.

Is this only the case in “urban music”?

No, even if it is clearly in this aesthetic that the quest for the brief is most flagrant. But electronic music – in all its variants, from house to the French touch – has largely played on this register since the 80s and 90s: we think of Air, Modjo, Demon, Proxy, Yuksek, Feadz, Mr Oizo, M83 , I:Cube, Cheek, Shazz, or even ZZT, Buzy P and Tiga. But also, going up to seven or eight letters, to Justice, Cassius, Phoenix, Para One and Vitalic – among many others.

In South Korea, K Pop producers do nothing else: Iu, Rosé, Jimin, V, j-hope, SUGA, Jisoo, EXY, Hwasa, Yüna, Ni-ki, Sulli, Jessi, Jin and BoA have all walked in the footsteps of BTS. It is necessary to be synthetic, and here again immediately identifiable. The artist’s name goes beyond its function of yesteryear: it is no longer just a matter of being baptized, identified, it must also become a brand and its logo; the global label of a product tailored for export and international sales. As a result, most of these names no longer have any meaning (visible or hidden), they are not derived from a living language, such as English, Spanish or Korean, they are simply “name-logos almost barcodes on an Amazon package. Globalization in your ears.

And in the French variety?

The brief also has its followers, of course. And for a long time. Wouter Levenbach, born in 1944 in Amsterdam, has spent his entire career under four short letters, a D, an A, a V and an E. And from Zaz to Zazie, from Cali to Garou, from Fauve to Pneu, from Tryo to M, from Pomme to Hoshi, all the colors of conciseness have been deployed by local artists, who are also quite keen on using the first name alone: ​​Raphael, Vianney, Camille, Angèle, Louane, Amir, etc.

It will be noted in passing that in the hit parade of the year 1981 (therefore the equivalent, for the time, of the annual SNEP ranking), 31 artists out of 50 sang under their civil status name (first name + last name): Kim Carnes, Alain Bashung, Jean Shulteis, Daniel Balavoine, Kim Wilde , Alain Chamfort… 31 at the time, and therefore only 4 in 2022, as we have seen previously. ” The times are changing “as a certain Robert Allen Zimmerman (shortened to Bob Dylan) used to sing.

And rock in all this?

In great old fashioned popular music (OK boomer) this good old rock has already gone through all these stylistic evolutions, these permanent reinventions, these fashion effects as well. For a long time, especially in the United States, extended names like Quick Messenger Service and Creedence Clearwater Revival delighted fans who never imagined that one day, people could type the name of their favorite musician into a “search engine”. (a what?) on a “listening platform” (a what?).

Then very quickly, the brevity already advocated in the 1960s (Kinks, Who, Love, Doors, Byrds…) made a strong comeback, with Eagles, Queen, T.Rex, Kiss, Yes, Spirit, Genesis, Suicide, Ange , Trust, Bijou, Saxon, ZZ Top, AC-DC, Heart, Rush, MC5, REM, UB40, U2 and so many others, from XTC to Pixies… Or, to continue in indie-rock, Slint, dEUS, Pulp, Blur, Lush, Oasis, Eels, Hole, Ash, Muse, Spoon, Mogwai, Battles – all names that have a meaning, a meaning.

This is no longer always the case for the new generation heir to guitar rock, with names that are less “readable”, more coded, and therefore more “unique”: Idles, Shames, Lordi, Oxbow, The XX, Naam , Jakob, RQTN, Lack, Budd, Astra, LoOp, Cox, Buzz, Logo, Hrsta, Guapo, Tee, Ned, Pile, Polvo, sgt., Mityx, MOA, Opak…

Is this the end of extended names?

It takes everything to make a world, so clearly: no. In rock and its derivatives, poetic length has never been completely abandoned, and so much the better. Aren’t they magnificent, all these names that take their time: A Silver mt. Zion, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, A Place to Bury Strangers, Death Cab for Cutie, Two Door Cinema Club, TV On The Radio, Asian Kung-Fu Generation, We Were Promised Jetpacks?

In any case, in terms of length and complication, the recent palm undoubtedly goes to this British instrumental post-rock group which has chosen to call itself (be careful, hang in there): UP-C Down-C Left-C Right-C ABC+Start. Not easy to remember, but not that bad for SEO.

In France too, and especially on the side of the (so-called) festive song cut for summer festivals with giant refreshments, our artists play the card of audacity and anti-brevity, but we are less sure of be charmed: Listen to your mother and eat your shorts… Three Gourmet Cafés… The flattened groundhogs… Gilbert and his problems… The Smelly Squirrels…

READ ALSO : Does rap still have something to say about society?

What will we do when all the names in 4 or 5 letters have been “sold out”?

Very good question, thank you, but according to analysts, it should not happen before 2035. In the meantime, we can always retreat to our Scrabble board and look for the best new combinations (with bonuses for the Q, the Z, the W , the ex). Conversely, we rather advise against the solutions listed below, obviously attractive by their radical brevity, but not great for referencing and street cred: dick, damn, MDR, ass, dick, lame, nazi, LOL, dodo, BBQ, milf, WC, girl and cop.

Also not recommended are: TGV, cis, HLM, SNCF, fac, RATP, fax, PQ, ANPE, AQMI, PKK, TVA, PV, RER, CGT, CFDT, GIGN, IBM, Sida, ADSL, EDF, CDD, MST, Euro and CAC 40.

But after all, we said it: everyone does, does, whatever he pleases, pleases.

We wish to say thanks to the author of this post for this incredible content

SCH, PLK, Jul, Vald: why have rappers’ names never been so short?

Find here our social media accounts as well as the other related pages