It’s not unusual for rappers and hip hop heavyweights to take on a stage name. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a top tier rapper out there that uses their own name ahead of a streetwise alias. The same ethos was also in place during hip hop’s golden age, as rappers ditched their birth names for something a little more cutting. However, it is unusual for an artist to change their name in the middle of their career.
Of course, some can pull it off. Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs, would not only become Puff Daddy but later, P Diddy, then simply Diddy amid a host of name changes. Snoop Dogg even switched up to Snoop Lion for a brief moment. But perhaps the most notable name change is when Biggie Smalls became The Notorious B.I.G.
Initially, when Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, switched his moniker in the middle of his career, people thought it was a power move. He was no longer simply Biggie Smalls but had taken on the imposing figure of The Notorious B.I.G. However, the truth is, he was forced into the move.
Wallace picked up the name Biggie Smalls following his adoration of actor and fellow Caribbean islander Calvin Lockhart. Big’s first rap demo would come equipped with the moniker Biggie smalls, the name of Lockhart’s character in the 1975 film Let’s Do It Again — a gang leader and the enigmatic protagonist of the film. It also paid tribute to his childhood nickname, Big.
However, as the murmurs of the new rapper Biggie Smalls began to increase in decibels, Calvin Lockhart grew unhappy with the new Biggie Smalls gaining some extra promotion on his name. Lockhart sued Biggie Smalls and left the rapper with no choice but to change his name.
The Notorious B.I.G. was born at that moment, and the rapper never looked back. However, to this day, people still widely refer to the rapper as both names, showing that sometimes word of mouth is more powerful than any legal case.