In pop music, most rappers go by stage names. However, the use of a stage name instead of an original name is nothing new. There is a long history of artists changing their names so that they become more recognizable and memorable in the public eye.
Managers and record labels often recommend a name change if they think an artist’s birth name is forgettable or too difficult to pronounce.
Many artists in the music industry have taken stage names one step further and made them their own. Oftentimes, an artist’s stage name was based on their nickname or street name growing up. Other times, it is a joint effort coming up with a name that is unique and catches the public’s attention.
A$AP Rocky’s birth name is Rakim Mayers. He was named after the hip hop artist Rakim, who was part of a duo called Eric B. & Rakim. Rocky became a nickname for Rakim, while “A$AP” was inspired by A$AP Mob, a Harlem-based artistic group for rappers, producers, music video directors and more. Rocky joined the group in 2007, after he was inspired by the death of his brother to pursue his artistic career.
His song “Purple Swag” became widely popular in 2011, and he continued to rise to fame with his next single “Peso” and mixtape “Live. Love. A$AP.” From there, he signed a $3 million record deal and his second album “At. Long. Last. A$AP” topped the Billboard charts.
Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, better known by her stage name Cardi B, grew up in the Bronx in New York. Her mother is from Trinidad while her father is from the Dominican Republic. This upbringing inspired her musical style and led to her 2018 number 1 Billboard hit “I Like It,” a remake of “I Like it Like That” which features Latin artists Bad Bunny and J Balvin.
Cardi B’s stage name is based off of her nickname Bacardi, which her parents coined as an allusion to her Caribbean heritage. She first garnered attention by posting videos on social media and appearing on the VH1 reality show Love & Hip Hop: New York” in 2015.
In 2017, she left the show to focus all her attention on her music career. That same year, she reached stardom with her debut single “Bodak Yellow.” In 2019, she was awarded a Grammy for her debut album.
Unlike most artists in the public eye, Childish Gambino is well-known by both his stage name and birth name, Donald Glover. This is due to his work as a producer, director, co-writer and actor for the FX TV show Atlanta, a comedy about two aspiring rappers in Atlanta, Georgia.
He has also been featured in a number of action movies and animated movies and voiced the role of Simba in the 2019 remake of “The Lion King.”
Glover used the Wu-Tang Clan’s name generator to create his stage name. Under the name Childish Gambino, he has produced three albums: “Camp” in 2011, “Because the Internet” in 2013 and “Awaken My Love!” in 2016. He was nominated for two Grammy awards in 2015 and five more in 2018, winning one for the best traditional R&B performance of his track “Redbone.”
Lady Gaga grew up as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in Yonkers, New York. At 4 years of age, she already knew how to play piano. She continued to study music as a teenager and then enrolled in the NYU Tisch School of Arts, but eventually withdrew to continue her music career on her own.
She first gained success writing songs for Interscope Records in 2007. During this time, she created the name Lady Gaga, based on the song “Radio Ga-Ga” by Queen.
Gaga eventually drew the attention of R&B artist Akon, who attended her burlesque show “Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue.” After signing a contract with Akon, she released her debut album “The Fame.”
She has since received for 24 different award nominations, won nine Grammy awards and starred in the recent film “A Star is Born.”
Jay-Z was born Shawn Corey Carter and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in the “Marcy Projects.” This neighborhood was known for violence, gun-culture and drug dealings. Carter was a street hustler for most of his teenage years, but eventually met the rapper Jaz-O, who taught him about rapping and became his mentor. Carter’s nickname was originally Jazzy, but he changed it to honor his mentor.
He eventually gained fame by founding a record label with two other collaborators. Since the 1990s, he has become one of the most influential and well-known artists of his generation.