Having a “rap name” has almost become a stereotype at this point. Although people change their names all throughout the entertainment industry, rap and hip hop pretty much expect you to reinvent your title.
While some rappers have names that relate to their own given name or a nickname in real life—like Drake, Biggie, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, and Chance the Rapper—others have names that sound like they are straight out of someone’s imagination.
There are so many inspirations that can birth a hip hop name, especially with all of the creative choices floating around nowadays. It’s definitely enough to get people wondering bout how and why certain rappers have picked up certain stage names. Far more so than when hollywood stars pick their own SAG name.
If you’ve ever wondered how your favourite rapper ended up with the name they did, stick around, because there are a few stories that may just surprise you.
The true stories behind 5 rappers’ names:
5. Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean was actually born Christopher Breaux, which seems like it could be the perfect basis for a rap name. However, Breaux was inspired by Frank Sinatra, specifically in his performance in the original Ocean’s Eleven film.
In 2010, the rapper even legally changed his name to reflect his stage name. It’s the kind of move that only bonafide superstars can make.
4. Childish Gambino
How on earth did Donald McKinley Glover Jr. get from his birth name to Childish Gambino? Simple—using an online Wu-Tang Clan name generator. Glover is also an actor, who goes by his given name for film and television roles.
He actually spoke with R.Z.A. of Wu-Tang about his name choice, having picked it back in college while goofing off and never changing it.
3. Rick Ross
This one’s got a little heat behind it, literally. Rick Ross was born William Leonard Roberts II, but he took his rap name from a drug dealer, Freeway Rick Ross. Even though plenty of rappers have past associations with the drug world, there’s a reason why Ross still gets shade for this one.
Rick Ross actually served as a correctional officer for 18 months in 1995, making his name choice a bit of a sore subject for those who have beef with the cops.
British rapper M.I.A. was born Mathangi Arulpragasam, often nicknamed as Maya. Even though her rap name and nickname sound alike, she actually took her name for her cousin of the same age, who went missing in Sri Lanka.
The name also stands for London’s west suburbs, Acton, where the rapper was living at the time of her cousin’s disappearance. It’s a powerful sentiment that aligns with M.I.A.’s powerful pop politics.
1. A$AP Rocky
A$AP Rocky shares the first half of his name with the rest of the A$AP Mob, which stands for Always Strive And Prosper. Other members of the A$AP Mob include Twelvyy, Nast, and Ferg, all of whom take the A$AP label before their names. Rocky, however, is the most recognizable A$AP Mob member.
As for the individualized “Rocky”, he simply used a nickname his mother used to call him growing up. A$AP Rocky’s given name is Rakim Mayers, so Rocky makes plenty of sense for the rapper’s nickname, especially as a kid growing up.