10 Artists Formerly Known As…

Written by J.Monkey. Posted in Hip-Hop 101, Lists, Spotlight

Published on September 08, 2011 with 1 Comment

Mos Def may have one of the greatest monikers in the rap game but that doesn’t stop him from retiring it. When the year is done the man born Dante Smith will henceforth answer to ‘Yasiin.’ In honor of calling him whatever he wants to call himself (word to Ernie Terrell) TRU decided to take a look at 10 rappers who decided to quit banking on their previously established alias.

Mos Def Yasiin
Just like the legendary heavyweight previously known as Cassius Clay, the Mighty Mos his reasoning for a name change (it won’t just be a stage name but his legal name as well) is primarily rooted in his faith. Okayplayer states that Yasiin is “a distinguished muslim name which has Qu’ranic significance; the “Sura Yaseen” is the 36th sura of the Qu’ran which states the central arguments for the belief in Allah and is considered the ‘heart of the Qu’ran’.” Seems like he put more thought into it than the next entry on the list.

Puff Daddy Diddy
Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs earned his nickname with his notorious temper, huffing and puffing when he got angry as a child until his days on the football field in high school. The name deservedly stuck, with Sean throwing temper tantrums well into his career in the recording industry, even causing him to get fired from Uptown Records, at the same moment that Vibe Magazine featured a big story on his successes. Things would work out with Puffy as he would go on to start his own label ‘Bad Boy,’ which you might’ve heard of. The huge success of his various business ventures and his life in the public eye made sure it didn’t really matter if he called himself Puff, Puffy, P. Diddy or Diddy, people noticed Sean Combs anyway.

2Pac Makaveli
Before Pac met his tragic demise he recorded his last album ‘The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory’ on Death Row Records. The name on the album wouldn’t be ‘2Pac’ though. Reading the work of philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli inspired him to change his name to Makaveli, a moniker he also planned on using for his own record label that unfortunately was never to be. Machiavelli is primarily known for ‘Il Principe,’ a book that focuses on political realism instead of idealism and instructs how to rise to and maintain power, including the use of brute force and intimidation when needed. It’s a train of thought that meshes perfectly with the themes of the album, and his violent ending for that matter as well.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard Dirt McGirt
There is no father to the Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s style. The man could switch styles, moods and substances at the tip of a hat, and stage names were no exception to the rule. But whether Big Baby Jesus, Osirus, Dirt Dog, Ason Unique or the ODB was on the mic, Russell Jones was always funky. Among his fellow Wu clansmen it’s not a rare occurrence to have a slew of aliases, but when Ol’ Dirty got out of prison and signed to Roc-A-Fella Records his most prominent and well-known stage name would not be on the album art. ‘Dirt McGirt’ was what he formally changed it to, but the album that would bear that name still has not been released ’til this day.

Prince Rakeem Rza
The Genius wasn’t the only one who released music before the Wu-Tang Clan formed like Voltron. Prince Rakeem released a 12″ called ‘Ooh I Love You Rakeem’ in 1991 on Tommy Boy. The B-side even has a ‘Wu-Tang mix’ to the song ‘Sexcapades,’ ‘Wu-Tang’ being the slang he nd his friends used for real, rough or plain cool stuff, but its playalistic rhymes didn’t catch on with the public and the label decided to not use the option to an album deal they had in his contract. The Genius met a similair fate on ‘Cold Chillin’ and the two vowed to never compromise their creativity again for a mountain climber who played an electric guitar and from then on released nothing but Wu-Tang material.

Zev Luv X DOOM
Zev Luv X was a part of reasonably succesful golden era crew KMD when his brother and musical partner Subroc died in car accident. Zev disappeared for years before he returned with a more gravelly voice and even more remarkable wordplay while wearing a mask styled like that of Fantastic Four foe Dr. Doom. The appropriately renamed MF Doom (MF for Metal Face, or in his instrumental mode, Metal Fingers) would become an underground sensation, but it wouldn’t be the last time he changed his name. Recording albums under the guises Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah and Madvillain (a duo with Madlib) never vanquished MF Doom though, that didn’t happen until his last album ‘Born Like This’ when he relinquished the moniker in favor of DOOM. Remember all caps when you spell the man’s name.

Snoop Doggy Dogg Snoop Dogg
Snoop recieved his nickname at an early age, legend has it because of his resemblance of Charlie Brown’s dog of the same name. It sounded cool rolling over Dre’s G-Funk beats in Snoop’s smooth smoked out cadence, but a doggy grows up and becomes a bif dogg. After a while, Snoop shifted his persona from ghetto youth to wisened pimp and quitely slipped the ‘doggy’ out of his stage name. You’ll have a hard time convincing anyone it was a bad decision since there are few rappers who can boast about such an enviable longevity in the game as Snoop D-O double G.

Killer Mike Mike Bigga
Killer Mike was the rough rhymer stepping out of Big Boi’s shadow when he started his own ‘Purple Ribbon’ label. Equal parts political poet and street thug ensured that Mike’s album wouldn’t be easy to ignore, but having ‘Killer’ in your name doesn’t drive up sales in more conservative parts of the market. Parts you’ll have to reach if you wish to maintain mainstream success. So the Killer went Bigga, but occasionaly still employs his old moniker when releasing material to the web for free and sales are of no concern. Then it’s f*ck yo’ supermarket, b.

Common Sense Common
Common released his debut ‘Can I Borrow A Dollar’ to critical acclaim, but a band already using that name was none too happy with it and sued for the rights to his moniker. He simply dropped the ‘Sense’ from his name and honestly, it sounds better that way anyway, despite the fact that there is very little that is common in his impressive discography. Incidentally, the album ‘Can I Borrow A Dollar’ was producedin its entirety by an up-and-coming Chicago producer named ‘Immenslope’ who now goes by the name ‘No ID.’

Ruck Sean Price
Duck Down duo Heltah Skeltah individually went by the names Ruck and Rock but when the time came for Ruck to release a solo record he chose to put his name ‘Sean Price’ on the sleeve. Since then he hasn’t stopped adopting new aliases, among them Decepticon Sean, MegaSean, Kimbo Price, Jesus Price and recently it seems even Big Sean might have been added to the list. The name Ruck hasnot been formally retired and seems to still be in use when he forms a duo with Rock, but in proliferance and popularity ‘Sean Price’ has eclipsed his other names by far.



1982 was when Jaap van der Doelen aka J.Monkey shot his way out his mom dukes. A mere two years later he was already battling Big Brother and The Illuminati. Whenever he has time to spare from those efforts he writes (about music, mostly), hosts a radio show and designs graphics for a living. He lives in The Netherlands where he continues to be winning.

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1 Comment

There are currently 1 Comment on 10 Artists Formerly Known As…. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. I knew DOOM had to be on this joint…couldn’t have said it better myself; “just remember all caps when you spell the man’s name.”

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