Ever since the birth of hip-hop, MCs have used aliases when taking the mic and spitting rhymes. Many early rappers went by the nicknames they got on the street, with the rest deciding to change their name because it wasn’t catchy enough. Let’s face it, a rapper named John Smith isn’t really going to set the house on fire. So as hip-hop evolved over the decades, MCs began finding more interesting and catchy names they could use to market themselves, with rapper’s real names soon becoming something of the past.
That’s not to say all rappers use a fake name, with the likes of Kanye West, Jack Harlow, Drake, Talib Kweli, and Kendrick Lamar all going by their government names. But these are few and far between, with most in the rap game choosing a moniker that represents who they are while also (hopefully) being popular with fans. Remember when every rapper was going by the prefix Lil a few years back?
Nowadays just about everybody has a stage in the rap game, so we have selected some of the most notable and popular rappers and listed their real names below.
An A-Z List of Rapper’s Real Names
Real name: Danielle Balbuena
Coming to the attention of music fans after working with Kanye West on his Ye album, it was quickly discovered that 070 Shake is the alias of Danielle Balbuena. The singer takes her name from the postcode of her home state, New Jersey.
Real name: Tauheed Epps.
The trap master previously went by the name Tity Boi before changing his name to 2 Chainz in 2011. He was born Tauheed Epps on September 12, 1977.
Real name: Curtis James Jackson III
Everybody knows the origins of 50 Cent. The drug dealer and aspiring rapper was shot nine times just days before the release of his debut album. With no deal, 50 released the mixtape Guess Who’s Back? which happened to find its way to Eminem, who promptly signed him, and the rest, as they say, is history. As far as 50’s birth name goes, it’s Curtis James Jackson III.
Real name: Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph
Another rapper who got shot and survived, Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph’s shooting took place on his 21st birthday, hence his rap name 21 Savage.
Real name: Rakim Mayers
The fashion killer and baby daddy of Rihanna’s first child, New Yorker A$AP Rocky’s real name is Rakim Mayers.
Real name: Danielle Bregoli
Now known more for her OnlyFans account than her stagnant rap career, Danielle Bregoli is still considered a rapper by some who goes by the alias Bhad Bhabie. The “Cash Me Outside” girl has come a long way from being an entitled teen on Dr. Phil.
Real name: James Baker
Breaking out after collaborating with Drake on “Look Alive,” it was soon revealed that BlocBoy JB’s real name is James Baker. You can see why he changed things up.
Real name: Trevor George Smith Jr.
There’s quite a difference between Busta Rhymes and Trevor George Smith Jr. The “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II” rapper got his rap name thanks to the nickname his grandmother gave him, “Busta.”
Real name: Belcalis Almánzar
From stripper to rap superstar and social media entertainer, Cardi B is one of the most bankable hip-hop stars in the world. Born Belcalis Almánzar, the former adult entertainer was given the nickname Barcardi (her sister is Hennesy), which she changed to Cardi B when she started her music career.
Chance the Rapper
Real name: Chancelor Johnathan Bennett
Indie rapper turned megastar Chance the Rapper’s name is just an abbreviation of his real name, Chancelor Johnathan Bennett.
Real name: Elizabeth Eden Harris
It’s obvious why Elizabeth Eden Harris chose a totally different rap name like cupcakKe. Not that there is anything wrong with Elizabeth Eden Harris, but it’s a pretty boring name and certainly doesn’t match the sexually explicit lyrics the Chicago spitter favors.
Real name: Sidney Royel Selby III.
Desiigner came out of nowhere in 2015 with the hit single “Panda,” taking the rap world by storm. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone quite as smoothly since for Sidney Royel Selby III, with Desiigner struggling to match the success of his debut single.
Real name: Marshall Mathers III
Arguably the greatest white rapper alive, Eminem revealed his real name with the title of his sophomore album, The Marshall Mathers LP. He’s sold over 220 million records worldwide and has won an Academy Award and 15 Grammy Awards.
Real name: Willie Junior Maxwell II
Fetty Wap is another rapper who came hot out the gates but has struggled to match the success of his initials hits “679,” “My Way,” and “Trap Queen.”
Real name: Karim Kharbouch
Morrocan-born American-raised rapper French Montana has been in the game for over two decades. Given the name Karim Kharbouch by his parents, he gets his rap alias from the movie Scarface (based on lead character Tony Montana) and his ability to speak fluent French.
Real name: Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn
A pioneer of auto-tune rap, Future is the alias of Atlanta rapper Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn.
Real name: Gerald Earl Gillum
It’s plain to see why Oakland rapper G-Eazy went for something different other than his real name. Gerald Earl Gillum sounds like a serial killer, with G-Eazy a much more marketable name.
Real name: Joseph Saddler
A remember of the Furious Five and one of the greatest hip-hop DJs of all time, Grandmaster Flash was born Joseph Saddler. He got his name in the winter of 1975 when local gangster Joe Kidd walked up to Saddler after a show and exclaimed, “Damn Flash, you handle those turntables like a Grandmaster.” The rest is history.
Real name: Gerard Damien Long
Odd Future member Hodgy (formerly Hodgy Beats) came into the world as Gerard Damien Long.
Real name: O’Shea Jackson Sr.
Unlike most rappers whose real names are far from exciting, Ice Cube actually has a cool-sounding name: O’Shea Jackson Sr. While he continues to use Ice Cube for his music career, the former member of N.W.A. goes by Jackson Sr. when working in the film business.
Real name: Shawn Carter
Most people are aware that Shawn Carter is the real name of rapper Jay-Z. While he has used his real name during his rap career, including naming his fourth album, Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter, the husband of Beyonce still goes by Jay-Z most of the time.
Real name: Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi
Much more than a rapper, Kid Cudi is also an actor, producer, writer, and fashion designer. The Cleveland native was born Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi but took Kid Cudi as his stage name, taking inspiration from his real name.
Real name: Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.
When it comes to rappers using the prefix Lil, there are more names than you can probably remember, but one that will always be relevant is Lil Wayne. Given the name Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., Lil Wayne has achieved it all in a career that includes ten number-one albums and a string of catchy singles.
Real names: Kiari Cephus (Offset), Qavious Marshall (Quavo), Kirsnick Ball (Takeoff)
The tragic death of Takeoff has put an end to Migos. Although the group was on the outs with Offset, they were together for almost 15 years and produced some great music together.
Real Name: Nasir Jones
It’s easy to see where Nasir Jones got his rap name from. Responsible for the greatest hip-hop album of all time – Illmatic – Nas’ career has spanned over three decades and includes several classic albums and a long list of hit singles that helped shaped 90s rap. He is one of the greatest lyricists to ever do it.
Real name: Onika Maraj
Trinidad and Tobago rapper Nicki Minaj has many aliases but only one birth name, which is Onika Maraj. Called Nicki throughout her youth, her first manager thought adding Minaj would make for a great stage name, so Nicki Minaj was created.
The Notorious B.I.G.
Real name: Christopher Wallace
One of the great MCs of the 90s who passed way too soon, The Notorious B.I.G., also known as Big Poppa and Biggie Smalls, was born Christopher Wallace in New York City. A lyrical genius, he was killed in 1997 during the East Coast v West Coast rap beef that also claimed the life of Tupac Shakur.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Real name: Russell Tyrone Jones
Although no longer with us, Ol’ Dirty Bastard was one of the most famous members of the Wu-Tang Clan. The New Yorker, known as Russell Tyrone Jones to his mom, got his name from the 1980 Chinese martial arts film Ol’ Dirty and the Bastard. He passed away from an accidental drug overdose on November 13, 2004.
Real name: Austin Post
Making his name from rapping, Post Malone doesn’t like to think of himself as just a rapper. While this has caused some controversy, it hasn’t stopped the man born Austin Post from gaining a huge fanbase and releasing some of the biggest tracks of the 2020s. Interestingly, he got his name from a rap generator.
Real name: Dana Elaine Owens
There isn’t much Dana Elaine Owens hasn’t done during her career. The rapper-turned-actress has won a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, and Golden Globe Award and is the first hip-hop artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Real names: Khalif Brown (Swae Lee) and Aaquil Brown (Slim Jxmmi)
Rae Sremmurd is the name of the hip-hop duo Swae Lee (Khalif Brown) and Slim Jxmmi (Aaquil Brown). The real-life half-brothers had a huge hit with “Black Beatles” in 2016 and are gearing up for the release of their fourth album.
Real name: Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr.
One of the OG rappers still out there getting it done, Snoop Dogg has been a dominant force in hip-hop for over three decades. Born to Vernell Varnado and Beverly Tate, you’ll notice Snoop’s government name has no relation to his parents. That’s because his father left when he was three months old, so he was given the name of his step-father, Calvin Cordozar Broadus Sr.
As for the stage name Snoop Dogg, the West Coast rapper was nicknamed “Snoopy” as a child due to his love for the cartoon and decided to run with that as a performer.
Real name: Jacques Bermon Webster II
With a name like Travis Scott, you’d think that was the “Sicko Mode” rapper’s actual name. It turns out it’s just a stage name, with Scott born Jacques Bermon Webster II.
Real name: Lamont Jody Hawkins
U-God is the stage name of Lamont Jody Hawkins, a member of the hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan.
Real name: Vincent Jamal Staples
Similar to Travis Scott, Vince Staples has a name that sounds pretty real. The difference between the two is Staples does in fact take his rap name from his real name. His passport reads Vincent Jamal Staples.
Waka Flocka Flame
Real name: Juaquin James Malphurs
You can’t get two more different names than Waka Flocka Flame and Juaquin James Malphurs. The “No Hands” rapper got his rap name from two of his nicknames. His cousin called him “Waka” after the Muppets character Fozzie Bear’s catchphrase “Wocka Wocka,” while Gucci Mane gave him the “Flocka Flame” moniker when he was 19.
Real name: Alvin Nathaniel Joiner
Remember Xzibit? He was a thing back in the early 00s, teaming up with Dr. Dre for a host of hits and hosting the MTV show Pimp My Ride. His real name is Alvin Nathaniel Joiner.
Real name: Jeffery Lamar Williams
Atlanta rapper Young Thug is getting a lot more use out of his government name at the moment. Jeffery Lamar Williams is being held by police after being arrested as part of a wide-ranging Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case.
Real name: Jonatan Leandoer Håstad
The sad boy rap pioneer known as Yung Lean is the moniker of the Swedish rapper Jonatan Leandoer Håstad.
Real name: Ojay Morgan
Jamaican-American rapper Zebra Katz was born Ojay Morgan, which to be fair, is a pretty good name. Currently based in Berlin, the gay rapper has collaborated with the likes of Busta Rhymes and Gorillaz.
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