Five rappers who failed to change their names
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Five rappers who failed to change their names

Stage names are an often overlooked but critical part of an artist’s identity. Some rappers possess two. Others have alter-egos. However, many are forced to change. In hip-hop, it is relatively common for an artist to have an official stage name and a nickname. Whether it’s Jay-Z, who also goes by Hov or Pharrell, who was known as Skateboard P, it is a commonplace practice. However, some artists seek to change their moniker but fail tragically.

Although it may seem trivial initially, if a musician’s name has a ring to it or is highly unique, it can help record labels with marketing and branding and, in the long run, can result in more record sales. Some emcees, such as Kanye West and Azealia Banks, use their real names, while many put a spin on their birth names. However, suppose an artist has used one moniker for an extended time; disassociating yourself from that pseudonym can be hard or even impossible. 

Over the years, stage names have been something MCs have fought to keep. Whether it’s in the UK or US, some rappers and DJs often get roped into lawsuits concerning their monikers. In the UK, the DJ, now known as Plastician, was made to change his stage name from Plasticman following a court case brought forward by a European DJ of that name. In the US, Biggie Smalls had to alter his pseudonym. Initially inspired by a character in the 1975 film Let’s Do It Again. The actor who played the role sued the rapper leaving him no choice but to change his name to The Notorious B.I.G.

If an artist wants to change their stage name smoothly, they should do it before fans have developed an attachment to their brand and moniker; otherwise, it will be a tricky transition unlikely to be well-received. Some artists have done it late in their careers. However, these are usually high-profile names with such a dedicated following that they will accept anything. So, the results will undoubtedly vary if a rapper changes their moniker. Over the years, several artists have tried to change their stage names and have failed tragically. Below we will explore some of those unfortunate MCs.

Five rappers who failed to change their names:

5. Young Thug

Legendary Atlanta rapper Young Thug has tried multiple times to rebrand himself permanently. However, his cult following has consistently rejected his sentiment as they had grown to love and respect Young Thug and no one else. In 2016, the President of 300 Entertainment (Thug’s label), Lyor Cohen, announced to the world that Young Thug was someone of the past and that, moving forward, the trap musician would be known as ‘No, My Name is Jeffery.’ However, fans were having none of it and didn’t care for the longer pseudonym the musician was adopting. 

It has since become evident that the stage name alteration was a career manoeuvre ahead of the YSL rapper’s mixtape, Jeffrey. Taking to social media after the announcement, the artist declared, “I’m Jeffery for one fucking week! If I don’t sell 100,000 copies, that’s it!” The impromptu declaration didn’t go down too well, as Jeffrey only sold 37,000 units in its first week, a massive dip in sales for Thug. In 2018 the Atlanta act tweeted “I’m changing my name to SEX…From now on call me SEX!!!” However, once again it did not stick and the YSL founder continues to be known as Young Thug.

4. Bow Wow

Bow Wow was somewhat of a hip-hop child star. Born Shad Moss, the rapper and actor surfaced on the scene before he became a teenager. Starring in the iconic 2002 film Like Mike and Roll Bounce in 2005Bow Wow, then known as Lil Bow Wow, was a young star. However, for many years the act has been attempting to rebrand himself and move away from his identity as Bow Wow. Still, it has proved an impossible feat for the Ohio emcee, who can’t rid himself of the moniker as it has been his primary stage name for over a decade.

In 2014, the rapper took to Instagram to persuade the media and his fans to address him by his birthname, Shad Moss, writing, “We made a lot of history as bow wow. Now it’s time for the next chapter and challenge.” However, following his post, trolls such as 50 Cent and Soulja Boy ridiculed Moss and told him to accept he would always be known as Bow Wow. Unfortunately, even his booking agent on this Millennial Tour failed to recognise the new name, stating, “Shad who?” when questioned about bookings. 


Most individuals know DRAM due to his 2016 smash-hit ‘Broccoli.’ The track, which featured Lil Yachty, was a catchy, carefree song with a hilarious video. Released the lead single for Big Baby Dram, the rapper’s debut album, ‘Broccoli’ for a period defined the Virginia rapper. Speaking on the single with GQ in 2021, the ‘Cha Cha’ act stated, “Those records, they took on a life of their own, and they brought me immense success and many, many spoils. It’s something that I can’t ever be ungrateful for. But also, I feel as though the core of what I do was being totally overlooked.”

Juxtaposing himself with Lil Yachty was both a gift and a curse. Yachty has never been considered an authentic musician or respectable creative. Sadly, by association, DRAM began receiving the same treatment when he crossed the mainstream. Intending to break away from his debut as merely DRAM, the rapper (real name Shelley Massenburg-Smith) began using his forename as his moniker. Shelley. However, the culture continued to refer to Smith by his former stage name. To emphasise the change, he added the acronym “FKA” (Formerly Known As) into his stage name, resulting in Shelley FKA DRAM. However, fans were indifferent to these changes, rendering the alterations useless.

2. Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg (real name Calvin Broadus) is not considered an icon for no reason. However, he has undoubtedly made some ill-judged decisions regarding his career. When Snoop first emerged as Dr Dre’s protégé on the legendary track ‘Deep Cover’ in 1992, he was actively performing and recording under the stage name Snoop Doggy Dog and did so for the entirety of the 1990s. However, upon parting ways with Death Row Records in 1998, the Long Beach Native began recording as Snoop Dogg. With the latter being less of a mouthful, Broadus quickly became pegged to this moniker.

It is impossible to forget the backlash that Broadus received when he released ‘Wet’ alongside David Guetta. However, that was just the beginning. Only three years later, his love for marijuana would lead him to explore the religious and cultural phenomenon of Rastafarianism. Snoop’s pseudo-spiritual journey would culminate in the emcee rebranding himself as Snoop Lion—a reference to the Lion Of Judah. Broadus’ Snoop Lion phase didn’t last very long.

Although the iconic artist did record some tracks in Jamaica and learn a bit about Rastafarianism, it appeared to be a bit contrived and slightly disingenuous for many. Fans got one album out of this brief rebrand entitled, Reincarnated. However, with guest appearances including Miley Cyrus, Chris Brown and Rita Ora, fans did not receive the project well.

1. Gunplay

Gunplay had an extremely short-lived career as a rapper. Arising out of Miami, Florida, in the early-2000s alongside Rick Ross as part of the Triple C’s, Gunplay (real name Richard Morales) was less lucky than Ross concerning commercial success. With a sense of duty, Ross did sign Gunplay to his label Maybach Music Group (MMG) in 2009. However, he only managed to release mixtapes such as 601 & Snort. In 2009, MMG had an abundance of young talented MCs such as Wale and Meek Mill. However, by 2009, Gunplay was 30 and, with little to no buzz, looked for a way to revive his career as Don Logan. 

In a 2010 interview with the Miami New Times newspaper, Morales explained, “We’re gonna make the transition, so we don’t have to go on BET, and they call me G-Play. No! The name is Don. Logan. If you don’t like that, it’s Jupiter Jack. Welcome to my universe! Yeah!” Since Ross broke away from Triple C’s in 2006, Morales has continued to be known as Gunplay and now features on the VH1 reality TV show Love & Hip-Hop: Miami.