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What Does Hip-Hop’s ‘Young’ Prefix Actually Mean?

In a post on its website Friday, Def Jam casually announced: “Its [sic] official, Young Jeezy had officially changed his name from 'Young Jeezy' to just 'Jeezy.'* Text 'TRAPORDIE2' To 66937 To Get The 'Trap or Die 2 Reloaded' sent right to your mobile phone.” We can’t move on that quickly, though: Up until a few days ago, Jeezy was the most famous current emcee utilizing hip-hop’s second-most-prevalent prefix (after "Lil," of course). So, what does the name-change connote for the industry at-large?

We’re assuming Jeezy — now 32 years old and releasing his fourth studio album, Thug Motivation 103 — feels he’s established himself beyond the point of relevance for “young.” But we’d always taken “young” to indicate a freshness and knowledge of youth culture as much as it did actual age: Young Buck, Young Dro, and Yung Joc aren’t necessarily spring chickens, but have all stuck with the prefix. And let’s not forget Young MC, who, if he were to follow Jeezy’s path, would have to go by the impossible-to-Google stage name "MC." Then again, we haven’t heard the 40-year-old Jay-Z refer to himself as Young Hov in quite a while. Should it be customary to drop the “young” as you age?

Things are a lot clearer with "Lil," generally tagged on to the junior members of any rap group and often abandoned with the years (note Romeo, Bow Wow). Surprisingly, Lil Wayne held on to it as he blossomed into stardom, although that may have to do more with his physically lil stature. By the way, before Jeezy was Young, he was Lil J, making him perhaps the most-experienced prefix-rapper alive.

Also important: How’s the music, now that he’s Jeezy? Pretty good! His new single, “Lose My Mind,” and “Hard,” his collaboration with Rihanna (both billed to his uni-name), sound like vintage “Young” Jeezy to us.

*The quotation marks helpfully point out he hadn’t changed his name to “Just Jeezy.”

Young Jeezy Changes His Name [Island Def Jam]

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Image