29+ Hip Hop Stars and Their Unexpected Real Names

Music

| LAST UPDATE 09/05/2023

By Alexa Alves

It's weird to think of Cardi B or Drake ever going by a different name. But back in the day, that's exactly what their reality called for - and they're not the only ones. Have a look at the unexpected birth names of 29+ stars in Hollywood…

Cardi B is Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar

Back in 2017, Cardi B took over the rap world with her instant hit, Bodak Yellow. And while she seemed like a star from the get-go, Cardi will happily remind you that she's "just a regular shmegular girl from the Bronx."

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Prince Williams/Contributor via Getty Images

So how did the "Queen of Rap" go from Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar to Cardi B? Well, apparently, it was all thanks to her sister Hennessy. "So everyone used to call me Bacardi," she told Jimmy Fallon. "And I started calling myself Bacardi, which eventually was shorted to Cardi B."

Offset is Kiari Kendrell Cephus

Offset is known as many things: Kulture's baby daddy, the 3rd member of hip-hop trio Migos, an investor in Esports, and the list goes on. But one thing we've never heard the artist being called is Kiari Kendrell Cephus - otherwise known as his birth-given name.

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Jerritt Clark/Contributor via Getty Images

Although we know Offset as the unstoppable force that he is, the artist didn't have an easy start. According to Cardi's husband, he used to be "a young child, dancing around… When I started getting older, dancing… wasn't making me no money." So, he switched lanes to music and, well, we know the rest.

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Nicki Minaj is Onika Tanya Maraj

We've watched the Anaconda singer climb to the very top, with her face plastered on screens all around the world. But to her family, 'Nicki Minaj' is simply her stage name. It turns out, Onika Maraj had to change up her identity in order to make it big in Hollywood.

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Frazer Harrison via Getty Images

"I fought him tooth and nail. But he convinced me. I've always hated it," Minaj confessed after a music executive urged her to change her name back in the day. "Onika" or "Nicki," we can't see Ms. Minaj as anyone other than the talented, outspoken queen we know and love today.

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Post Malone is Austin Richard Post

Post Malone isn't one to play it safe. But forget his controversial music for a second. We're talking about the story of how Austin Richard Post came to be the unapologetic rocker dominating the charts today: A random rap name generator. No, we're not joking.

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Matt Winkelmeyer via Getty Images for dcp

"I was like 14, and I had started getting into producing and rapping and singing over my own stuff. And I needed a name," the Rockstar artist revealed to Jimmy Fallon. But would we really expect anything less from the same guy who once shelled out almost 10 grand on Popeyes biscuits? He's a character.

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Travis Scott is Jacques Bermon Webster II

Thanks to Stormi Webster, most of us are already familiar with the fact that "Scott" is indeed not Travis's last name. But Jacques Bermon Webster II? Nope, we never saw that coming. As for how the proud father came to be the rapper we know him as today?

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Rich Fury via Getty Images

It actually all traces back to his uncle. His name? You guessed it: Travis. "He was like my favorite relative. I looked up at him… Always made good business decisions," the artist explained in an interview. "The Scott comes from him, too, that was his nickname."

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Rihanna is Robyn Rihanna Fenty

RiRi wasn't joking when she said she wanted to feel like the only girl in the world: There is only one Rihanna, and that's never going to change. But believe it or not, back in the day, the artist was answering to a very different - relatively common - name.

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Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images for Bergdorf Goodman

Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty, the Barbados beauty eventually ditched her first and last name to opt for a catchier one. Little did she know, we'd never learn how to pronounce her new name properly. That's right: "It is 'Ree-Anna' not 'Ree-Ah-Na,'" as the Fenty goddess explained. Mind = blown.

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Snoop Dogg is Calvin Cordozar Broadus

We thought we knew what was going on behind closed doors, but did we really? The god of greens might have no problem reminding us of his favorite pastime, but there's a lot more we didn't know about Uncle Snoop. Of course, we're talking about his real name, which is nothing we ever saw coming.

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Joe Scarnici via Getty Images for Lexus

"Calvin Cordozar Broadus." That's right, take a minute to let that one sink in. As for how he managed to go from that to what we know him as today? His mom nicknamed him Snoopy as a child (yes, referring to his resemblance to the cartoon character) and, well, the rest is now history.

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Iggy Azalea is Amethyst Amelia Kelly

From Nick Young to Playboi Carti, we've kept up with Iggy's public relationships for years now. But believe it or not, the most important man in her life actually has four legs and a soft spot for belly rubs. In fact, so much so, that the rapper honored her childhood dog by turning him into her stage name.

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Alexander Tamargo Getty Images for Univision

"I got a name-plate necklace made in his honor," Azalea explained of how she first thought of the idea. "Everybody started to think that my name was Iggy, so it kind of became my nickname, and I took it on board and started rapping with it." As for "Azalea?" The name of the street her family grew up on.

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DaBaby is Jonathan Lyndale Kirk

Granted, it's no surprise that "DaBaby," isn't the name our next rapper was born with. Nonetheless, the North Carolina native wants everyone to use it - and he intends on keeping it that way. In fact, we really don't recommend ever calling him Jonathan Lyndale Kirk.

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Aaron J. Thornton/WireImage via Getty Images

"I hate when fans try to call me by the government name and misspell," the BOP rapper warned. How does he explain it? "Bro... you don't know me, bro." Fair point. As for how he settled on his famous stage name? Growing up the youngest child, he's always been "the baby" of his family. How cute.

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Tyga is Micheal Ray Stevenson

For someone who goes by the name of "Tyga," you probably wouldn't have expected Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson to have once known him as Michael Ray. But perhaps the most shocking part of the Go Loko rapper's stage name? The inspirational meaning behind it.

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Rachel Murray via Getty Images for Spotify

Yep. Unlike Snoop or Iggy, there were no cartoon characters or childhood pets involved in the making. Instead? "Thank you God always," the artist credits his famous moniker to have originated from. And while T-Raww isn't exactly a stranger to scandal, at least he's got wise words to live by. Right?

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T-Pain is Faheem Rashad Najm

Long before he dominated the early 00s with his signature auto-tune and distinct hits, T-Pain's reality actually looked very different. The truth? The one aspiring artist had so much trouble breaking out into the industry, he turned his struggle into his stage name.

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Kevin Mazur via Getty Images for Firefly

Back in the day, Faheem Rashad Najm was just another small-town boy with a dream of making it big. Of course, a lot has changed since then, but he'll never forget where he comes from. Perhaps that's why he opted for "T" - "Tallahassee," his native stomping grounds - and "Pain," for the pain it took to get to where he is today.

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Lizzo is Melissa Jefferson

Sorry to disappoint, but it appears the truth behind Lizzo's stage name isn't as glitzy as the ensembles she typically prances around in. Instead? The Truth Hurts artist has actually got a popular Jay-Z song to thank for that. Any guess which we're referring to?

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Emma McIntyre via Getty Images for dcp

Back when Melissa Jefferson - or "Lissa" - was 14 years old, the talented teen found herself in a rap group with two classmates. Given the fact that Jay's song Izzo was huge at the time, she eventually opted to give her nickname a twist. And, well, here we are today.

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21 Savage is Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph

We know how many M's he's got in the bank account (psst, it's 8), but don't get it twisted: There's still lots to be learned about 21 Savage. Did you know the Bank Account rapper actually hails from London? But believe it or not, his former stomping grounds isn't the only shocking thing about him.

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Roy Rochlin via Getty Images

As for how he managed to go from Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph to the stage name we know today? "21, that's my gang, that's my crew," the artist explained to HNHH. As for "Savage?" Don't give it too much thought. "I was just looking for an Instagram name," he joked.

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Meek Mill is Robert Rihmeek Williams

From his time behind bars to spitting bars at Drake (cue Wanna Know), Meek's name has hijacked headlines more times than we can keep count. Well, his stage name, actually. So what exactly is the rapper's real name? Perhaps not as surprising as 21 Savage's.

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Shareif Ziyadat/WireImage via Getty Images

Growing up, the Philly native earned the nickname "Meek Millions" by friends and family - a reference to his middle name. As the story goes, the artist eventually shortened the name and has been known by his moniker ever since. Similar to our next star...

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DJ Khaled is Khaled Mohamed Khaled

Long before he taught us the major key to success, the reigning Snapchat legend held a very different title: "DJ Attack." Safe to say, his former stage name didn't last long. But what name was he going by before he decided to step out on the scene in the first place?

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Bennett Raglin via Getty Images for BET

Back in the day, Khaled Mohamed Khaled spent his days in New Orleans before embarking on a career as a DJ. Eventually, the Palestinian-American decided to tweak his name - and has been blessing us with our favorite summer anthems ever since. Anotha one!

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Logic is Sir Robert Bryson Hall II

For some of our celebrities, their birth names might not come as too much of a shock. As for our next famous face? We've got a feeling you're about to be just as surprised as we were: Meet Logic, otherwise known as Sir Robert Bryson Hall II. That's right.

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Instagram via @logic

Yes, that's the name he was born with. No, he doesn't descend from Queen Elizabeth or British royalty (though we certainly wouldn't know any better). So how exactly did "Sir Robert" land on the name "Logic?" It's actually quite simple: He "wanted to make music that challenges the mind," as he put it.

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2 Chainz is Tauheed Epps

Sure, rappers and chains practically go hand in hand. But 2 Chainz's affinity for dripping in ice goes much deeper than our other stars. So much so, that he actually named himself after his love for jewelry. Well, his stage name, at least. How did he explain it?

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Bennett Raglin via Getty Images for BET

"I always talk about jewelry, and I always been saying 2 Chainz in a lot of my songs," he explained. But believe it or not, he almost opted for a completely different (and slightly questionable) moniker: "Tity Boi." We'll let you interpret that however you want...

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The Weeknd is Abel Tesfaye

There are lots of faces to our favorite starboy - literally. But forget the face-bandages and bruised cheeks for a second. We’re talking about The Weeknd’s real name and how he came to be the lonely boy we know and love. For starters, Abel Tesfaye’s stage name is exactly what it sounds like.

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Kevin Mazur/MTV VMAs via 2020Getty Images for MTV

He left home one weekend. It's that simple. "I was about 17… never came back," the Billboard artist revealed. "I hated my name at the time, though, so I tried it as a stage name. It sounded cool." As for why he ditched the "e?" A Canadian band named The Weekend had already beaten him to the punch.

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A$AP Rocky is Rakim Mayers

Sure, we’ve watched him get into trouble on several occasions. But despite the rapper’s past stints with law enforcement, he’s doing just fine. In fact, Flacko - born Rakim Athelaston  Mayers - is striving and prospering, as he’ll happily remind you himself. 

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Jacopo Raule via Getty Images

And that’s exactly how the once aspiring artist stumbled upon his stage name. That’s right. Ever wondered what A$AP stood for? “Always Strive And Prosper.” As for how he landed on “Rocky?” That was actually a nickname his mother had given him growing up.

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Macklemore is Benjamin Hammond Haggerty

Long before Macklemore was busy poppin’ tags, the Thrift Shop artist led an equally interesting life. In fact, from the sound of it?  Benjamin Hammon Hagerty was busy sporting flannel zebra jammies and granddad’s clothes long before he was busy singing about it. 

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Roger Kisby via Getty Images

Years before he stepped out onto the scene, the rapper was busy getting into trouble at Pratt Institute. "I was going to thrift shops and dressing up in random crazy outfits," he revealed. "Whenever I do that—and I'd go out in the town and get drunk... I was "Professor Macklemore," eventually, people just started calling me that."

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Chance The Rapper is Chancelor Jonathan Bennett

One listen to his mumbling masterpieces, and it’s no surprise Chancelor Jonathan Bennett headed down the path he did. But back when he was 7-years-old, not everybody saw it that way. So much so, that the aspiring artist changed his name to signify exactly that.

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Nicholas Hunt/FilmMagic via Getty Images

“I remember they asked me, and I said, “A rapper.’ And my dad laughed it off,” the Hot Shower artist reflected of being asked what he wanted to be as a child. So, what’d he do? Ditch part of his name and add exactly that. “I’m a rapper! You should be able to say that.”

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Nelly is Cornell Iral Haynes Jr.

Unlike Chance, our next famous face never dreamed of taking a pen to the paper and blessing us with hit after hit. Instead, the formerly troubled teen was actually headed down a slippery slope after his parent’s messy divorce. As the story goes, he eventually shifted his focus into writing, and, well, the rest is now history.

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Dilip Vishwanat via Getty Images for VEVO

But how did he finally land on his stage name? After forming a hip hop group, the St. Lunatics, with 5 of his childhood friends, he realized his name didn’t have a catchy ring to it. So, he ditched the long name before settling on a nickname. And he’s been climbing the charts ever since.

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Ne-Yo is Shaffer Chimere Smith

What do a poetic genius and a sci-fi blockbuster have in common? Actually, a whole lot… In fact, that’s exactly how our next celebrity landed on his famous stage name. Born Schaffer Chimere Smith, the So Sick artist originally opted to go by “GoGo.” Safe to say, that didn’t last long.

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Rachel Murray via Getty Images for Spotify

What happened? Eventually, producer Big D Evans began calling him “Ne-Yo” - and we’ve actually got Keanu Reeves to thank for that. That’s right, the musician indeed copped his name from the Matrix’s “Neo.” Why? As Evans had put it, he claimed the artist viewed music like Neo viewed the world. 

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T.I. is Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr.

What started as a nod of respect to a fellow music legend soon left T.I. with a whole lot of regrets. Back in the day, as Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. was beginning to get his name out there, he did it using his childhood nickname: “TIP.” What changed?

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Robin L Marshall via Getty Images for BET

“ I found myself in very good company on the same label with Q-Tip,” the artist explained. In order to avoid any confusion, he dropped the “P” - and he’s been regretting it ever since. In fact, fast forward to today? And T.I. is officially “TIP” again, after reverting back to his former name. You’re welcome for the tip. 

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Flo Rida is Tramar Lacel Dillard

Step aside, Pitbull. It appears Mr. 305 isn’t the only one with love for the Sunshine State. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly how our next rapper went from Tramar Lacel Dillard to Flo Rida. Though it wasn’t always that way - and let’s just say we’re really happy things turned out the way they did.

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Aaron Davidson via Getty Images

When he first started out, Tramar stepped out as Ruckus Pimp. Yep. "I just thought that was like a little bit out there," Flo admitted of his decision to change things. Same, Flo same. "So… I sat up there for about an hour, and finally, it hit me: Take Florida, break it in half, and there you go."

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Akon is Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam

Yep, that’s not a typo. Our next rapper’s birth name is so tricky, “if anybody out there can repeat it, I’ll give you $1,000 right now,” as the artist himself joked. Born Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam, the West-African native is proud of his roots.

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Prince williams/Contributor via Getty Images

So why did he opt to ditch it and instead keep one of his many middle names? The answer is simple: “It’s a lot easier,” the star explained. And while perhaps we’ll never understand why he chose “Akon” over “Lu Lu Lu,” we certainly admire how devoted the musician is to his heritage.

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Future Hendrix is Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn

We’ve got a feeling the backstory behind our next famous stage name might just come as a shock. For starters, it appears Post Malone isn’t the only one feeling like a rockstar: The Life is Good rapper is so devoted to the swanky lifestyle, he changed his name to exude exactly that.

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Andrew Chin/Contributor via Getty Images

"I'm not just a hip-hop artist; I feel like I'm a rock star," Future proudly admitted. You know who else is a rockstar? Of course, "Jimi Hendrix. He was a rock star," the artist, born Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn, explained of how he settled on his new name.

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Drake is Aubrey Drake Graham

He’s a certified loverboy, there’s no doubt about that. But before he was busy getting caught up in his feelings, what did Drizzy’s reality look like? For starters, his name was slightly different: Born Aubrey Drake Graham, the Toronto native eventually decided to switch it up. Why? 

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Vivien Killilea/Contributor via Getty Images

While he probably opted to swap it for a catchier moniker, it doesn't really matter what nickname Champagne Papi goes by. Drake will always be Aubrey Drake Graham: "Drake is me in my everyday life, Drake is who I am," as the What's Next artist explained.

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Wiz Khalifa is Cameron Jibril Thomaz

Wiz Khalifa is wise beyond his years. So much so, that he actually changed his name to serve as a reminder. That’s right. Born Cameron Jibril Thomaz, the rapper earned the nickname “wizard” as a young boy - hence, how he landed on his new name. As for where “Khalifa” comes from?

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Kurt Krieger/Corbis/Contributor via Betty Images

For starters, the word translates to "successor or ruler" in Arabic. "And my granddad is Muslim, so he gave me that name," the Black and Yellow artist explained. Factor in “Wiz,” and we might just be looking at one of the wisest kings to ever dominate the hip hop world... 

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Tekashi 6ix9ine is Daniel Hernandez

We’ve found his name plastered on endless headlines over recent years. But when he’s not busy getting caught up in the latest scandal, what does the FEFE rapper’s reality look like? For starters, it appears it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, after all (see what we did there?).

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Shareif Ziyadat/Contributor via Getty Images

As Daniel Hernandez put it, he's as misunderstood as it gets - and that's exactly what led him to become the colorful troublemaker we know today. "The true meaning of 69 is just because you're right doesn't mean I'm wrong: YOU JUST HAVEN'T SEEN LIFE FROM MY PERSPECTIVE," he explained.

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Megan Thee Stallion is Megan Jovon Ruth Pete

Last but not least, let’s talk about the girl taking the hip-hop world by storm. From Billboard hits to Grammy wins, it appears Megan Jovon Ruth Pete is officially one to look out for. But not only because she’s a woman of many talents: Standing at 5’10,” there’s literally no getting in the rapper’s way…

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Tommaso Boddi via Getty Images

 "In the South, they call girls that are tall and fine stallions," the Hot Girl Summer artist explained to Vulture. But her stage name almost looked very different: "Because I've always had a nice body, older guys have just been like, 'Ooh, you jailbait.' So it could've [also] been Megan Thee Jailbait."

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