T Rajendar can legitimately claim to be our first ever rap star. He could effortlessly rhyme thangachi with kottanguchi long before Baba Sehgal could pack chakraya and ghabraya into ‘Thanda Thanda Pani’. But unfortunately for TR, he was suppressed, oppressed, and repressed because of his pedestrian name. Had he repackaged himself as ‘Ra Gender’, ‘T Bear’, ‘Kara D’, or ‘Gangsta R’ he could have won a Grammy or two by now, for the Best Rap Performance!
Such is life. You’ve gotta have a ghettoesque name if you wanna do ghetto-style rap. Which is probably why a Curtis Jackson opted for the stage name 50 Cent.
For the unaware, Curtis chose this as a tribute to an American criminal Kelvin Martin who became infamous as ‘50 Cent’ for robbing just about anyone irrespective of how much they were carrying.
Most rapper names are monikers meant to grab attention - mostly the wrong sort of attention. You need to be smoking a warped kind of weed to call yourself ‘Shorty Shitstain’, ‘Yak Ballz’, ‘Boobe’, ‘Hot Rod’, ‘Young Thugga’ or ‘Pudgee Tha Fat Bastard’, right?
But there are also artists who don’t try to be too wannabe. Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arupragasam, the British Tamil artist, opted for ‘MIA’ after her cousin brother Jaana who went missing in action in Sri Lanka. Cordozar Calvin Broadus was nicknamed Snoopy by his mom as he used to watch a lot of Charlie Brown on TV. So he picked ‘Snoop Dogg’ as his identity.
Shawn Carter opted for ‘Jay Z’ inspired by the ‘Jazzy’ label that was associated with him when he was young. The white rapper Marshall Matthers flirted briefly with ‘Slim Shady’ before settling on Eminem, drawn from his initials M&M. Nayvadius Wilburn selected the offbeat ‘Future’ as he heard many of his buddies say, ‘he’s the future’.
Indian artists have learnt their lessons fast from their blingy brothers in the west. Otherwise why would the ‘Lungi Dance’ man rename himself from Hirdesh Singh to ‘Yo Yo Honey Singh’? The aim to layer the business card with a coat of coolness also prompted Taran Kaur Dhillon to experiment with ‘Hard Kaur’. Bangalore’s up and coming ‘Brodha V’ wouldn’t have made it had he stuck with his given name ‘Vighnesh Shivanand’. The Zambian Tam Bram ‘Lakshmi Narasimha Vijaya Rajagopala Sheshadri Sharma Rajesh Raman’ would have spent all his life saying ‘abhivadye’ had he not shortened it to ‘Blaaze’ (derived from ‘Blasé’, meaning nonchalant)! Ergo, the crux of the matter is: don’t use the name given by your mother; to rock in rap, choose some other!