Stop Calling Black Singers 'Rappers' AlreadyS

The New York Times really wants you to know that Chris Brown is a rapper. In fewer than 100 words of the original copy of John Ortved's tweet roundup "Chris Brown Signs Off," including the headline and picture caption, Brown is referred to as a "rapper" three times. Wrong. Chris Brown is not a rapper. Yes, he raps on occasion. Sometimes, he is specifically commissioned to do so. But he is also a dancer. And an actor. And, oh yeah, that thing on which he based his career in the first place: a singer.

Stop Calling Black Singers 'Rappers' AlreadyS

Characterizing black singers (and sometimes actors and moguls) as "rappers," especially in stories about public misbehavior, must stop. It feeds into decades-old "gangsta" rapper stereotypes. It proposes that one's profession makes him or her dangerous, or that his innate danger led him to his profession, while exposing that the writer or editor has actually no idea what that person does. It has happened so often in the New York Post, which is stupid (but understandable, by virtue of its stupidity). It should not be happening in the paper of record.

I wrote about this three years ago, and it still happens way too often - often enough that I have taken to collecting examples on my Twitter account. Just for posterity, here is a full list of non-rappers that have been characterized as such because they are black (or in some cases, something else that isn't white) people:

  • R. Kelly
  • Bobby Brown
  • Jamie Foxx
  • Russell Simmons
  • Damon Dash
  • Estelle
  • Sisqo
  • Shaggy
  • M.I.A.
  • Santigold
  • Kelis
  • Ray J
  • T-Pain
  • Akon
  • Ne-Yo
  • Omarion
  • Jodeci
  • Mary J. Blige
  • Ginuwine
  • Mario
  • Keyshia Cole
  • Lyfe Jennings
  • Anthony Hamilton
  • Trey Songz (again and again)
  • Usher
  • Frank Ocean
  • Willow Smith
  • T-Boz
  • No. No x 28.

    A proposal to anyone writing about black entertainers from now on: Make absolute sure you know what you are talking about by visiting the person's Wikipedia page or Vevo channel. It's so easy to be accurate in this respect. And when you are accurate, you won't look like a person who determines what someone does based on his or her skin color. In the words of Ice Cube, a rapper who now could more accurately be described as an actor, check yo self before you wreck yo self.

    [Image via Getty]