The five biggest hip-hop name changes
Artists do what they can to control their image, from their songs to their videos to their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. They hire publicists. They issue press releases. They give interviews. Sometimes, they even change their names in an effort to rebrand themselves, and sometimes these strategies work.
Case in point: Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs changed his name to P. Diddy in 2001 to try to distance himself from his 1999 club shooting (a case that he quietly settled just last year). Rapper 2 Chainz, who obviously loves his new name, never could have broken out the way he did if he remained Tity Boi. Snoop Dogg, meanwhile, says he would now like to be called Snoop Lion as he tries his hand at being a reggae artist.
Having already made a (quite successful) name change from Snoop Doggy Dogg to the much more succinct Snoop Dogg, Snoop probably figured he could get away with it again, no problem. But the idea of addressing Snoop Dogg as Snoop Lion just seems, well, dumb. Besides the fact that it is phonetically weaker than the powerful spondee "Snoop Dogg," Snoop Lion just doesn't make any sense.
Snoop decided on the change while in Jamaica recording with Diplo. He tells the story of visiting a Rastafarian temple, where he was stared down by a priest who told him he was the Dogg no more, "You are the light. You are the lion." Reasoning that he has conquered rap, a fact which no reasonable person can deny, Snoop wanted to begin anew, as "a kid again." Well, he's getting his wish, because that's about how seriously people are taking his new career path. Snoop's not alone in his rebranding efforts. Continue reading for five other significant hip-hop name changes.
5. B.o.B (Bobby Ray) In 2009, B.o.B announced that he was changing his name to Bobby Ray, pitting his two identities against each other on the mixtape B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray, saying, "I wanted to break away from that and not box myself in. Bobby Ray isn't a character -- he's really me." For a while, it seemed as if Bobby Ray might win the day with his debut album B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray topping the charts from the get-go. Apparently, B.o.B couldn't stand being really him for very long, because by this year's release of Strange Clouds, he had gone back to B.o.B.
4. Killer Mike (Mike Bigga) Apparently, in 2009, when Killer Mike announced that he would change his name to Mike Bigga, he had been considering the change for a while, believing that the "killer" part of his name was little too hardcore for mainstream America, saying, "You can't get corporate sponsorship with that." Mike still tentatively claims the Bigga surname, but, interestingly, has never put it on any of his album covers. Apparently he doesn't like it that much, either. Well, he never got his corporate sponsorship, but he did put out a killer album this year in R.A.P. Music.
3. 2Pac (Makaveli) In 1995, 2Pac was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to prison. While incarcerated, he studied political philosophy, most notably Sun Tzu's The Art of War and Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince. When 2Pac was released pending an appeal after serving almost a year of his eighteen month sentence, thanks to Suge Knight putting up $1.4 million in bail, and after releasing All Eyez On Me, he officially changed his recording name to Makaveli for Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. Rebranding an already popular artist is a difficult task, as this list demonstrates, but the second best selling hip-hop artist ever? Seems almost impossible. If anybody could have done it, though, it was 2Pac. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to see him do it. He was killed before the album was released. Bonus fact: Niccolò Machiavelli wrote about faking his own death to fool his enemies, which is the primary reason some still think 2Pac is alive.
2. Ol' Dirty Bastard (Big Baby Jesus) Ol' Dirty Bastard has gone by many names: Joe Bananas, Osirus, Dirt McGirt, Ason Unique, Dirt Dog... The list goes on. Once asked why he liked changing names so much, ODB said, "It's like Picasso painting a new picture. It feels good." Still, when he announced in 1998 that "there's no more ODB no more. No, there's no more Osirus. That's all lies. From now on, my name is Big Baby Jesus," he seemed pretty serious about it. But asking ODB to stick to one name is like asking Picasso to choose one painting. Just the next year, ODB had gone back to being ODB on his next album.
1. Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) Mos Def is a great name in so many ways: It is an exclamation of affirmation, most definitely, a claim to dopeness, the most definitive, the most deft, and an expression of rebellion, the most defiant. So when Mos Def decided to change his name to Yasiin Bey beginning in 2012, seemingly out of nowhere, it had people stumped. We know Mos Def. We love Mos Def. From Yasiin Bey, we're just not sure what to expect.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.