A rapper’s stage name is perhaps one of the most important aspects of their career. The monikers under which they choose to perform go a long way in defining what they represent, where they come from, and often serve as an extension of their real-life personalities. It’s no question that hip-hop is home to some of the most interesting pseudonyms in the entertainment business, but that also begs the question: where do these names come from?
In many cases, the origins of rappers’ names can be traced directly back to their childhoods and the neighborhoods they grew up in. Such is the case for Blueface and Gunna, who’ve openly explained that their rap names were bestowed upon them by their peers long before they started making music. Snoop Dogg has a similar story, but it was actually his mother’s pet name for him that laid the groundwork for who he was to become as an artist.
There have been plenty of instances in which rappers, who are historically known to look up to those who’ve found certain success in running the streets, name themselves after notorious crime figures. 50 Cent and Rick Ross are prime examples of that. Then there are Kanye West, Drake and Jack Harlow, who are perfectly content in simply going by adapted versions of their government names.
Another way a rapper may acquire their rap name is by pure happenstance. Post Malone, for example, famously stumbled upon his rap name in jest via a random online rap name generator while the root of Cardi B‘s moniker stems from her Instagram account being deleted.
Here, XXL explores exactly how the game’s top rappers got their stage names.