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The artist formerly known as Jay Z brings back his hyphen to confuse us all

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“Ha! You thought I retired the hyphen?! I’m full of surprises,” Jay-Z could be saying in this photo. (Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)

Today, I got an email from TIDAL with a subject line that surprised me: “JAY-Z 4:44 6.30.17”

It wasn’t all of the numbers that caught my attention (which we explain in this post), but the name. JAY-Z. JAY-hyphen-Z. What the heck was that hyphen doing in the middle of Jay Z’s name?!

Let’s rewind. Three years ago, it became clear that the musician Shawn Carter was going by the moniker “Jay Z.”

He had actually been going by the hyphen-less name for a few years prior to that, dropping the dash on Watch the Throne, his 2011 album with Kanye West. But it took a tweet from an editor at Billboard in 2013 to get me to notice the updated name.

I remember the loss of the horizontal line making waves in our newsroom and prompting a USA TODAY-wide decree that we would hitherto refer to Beyoncé’s beau as Jay (space) Z, even though he had gone by Jay-Z on album The Blueprint 3 and memoir Decoded. 

But I should’ve known that the elusive hyphen’s retirement wouldn’t last, just like Jay’s never did.

So, what’s the correct way to say the music mogul’s moniker today?

Well, Hov doesn’t have a hyphen on his artist page on TIDAL, and he doesn’t have it in the Dropbox file he shared on Twitter last week. But there is a colon in between “JAY” and “Z” on his TIDAL album announcement.

And, of course, there’s the aforementioned hyphen that was in the subject line of an email from TIDAL. After I clicked through the link on the email, I saw another hyphen, talking about “JAY-Z’s album.”

So is JAY-Z capitalized now, too? (I mean, so is this publication, so I’m not hating.)

Yes, according to Pitchfork. USA TODAY has reached out to Roc Nation for confirmation.

Meanwhile, I think Sean John Combs still goes by Diddy.

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