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Nowadays, it’s notoriously uncool to arrive in the rap game bearing your own name. Unless you’ve been blessed with a brilliant one at birth – Kanye West sounds like he was born to be a star – most artists have to find a way to seem reputable, and changing their moniker seems like the greatest way to do it.

For as long as the genre has been about, rap stars have taken on new names to elevate their status in the game. The N.W.A boys – Eazy-E, Dr Dre, Ice Cube – all left their original ones behind when they made it big. But nowadays, with the rise of SoundCloud and social media elevating more and more hip-hop artists into the mainstream, making sense of everybody’s backstory, and the name they used to go by is becoming more and more difficult by the minute.

Well, fear no more! Here’s a handy, A-Z guide of your favorite rappers’ real names – the ones they were known by before their first mixtapes dropped.

070 Shake

Yeezy collaborator and musical polymath 070 Shake was born Danielle Balbuena in her home city of New Jersey, hence her ‘070’ moniker.

2 Chainz

The legendary 2 Chainz was known as Tity Boi before he made it big, but his birth name is Tauheed Epps.

21 Savage

Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph was shot six times on his 21st birthday, and so turned to rap to make his life better. He’s now known as 21 Savage.

A$AP Rocky

The Harlem-hailing fashion killa we know as A$AP Rocky was raised in the New York neighborhood being called by his real name, Rakim Mayers.

Azealia Banks

Azealia Banks has just cut out her middle name, ’Amanda’, for her current moniker, but used to go by the name Miss Banks back in the day.

Bhad Barbie

When she’s not Bhad Bhabie (or the ‘Cash Me Outside’ girl on Dr. Phil), rap’s most controversial young woman goes by the name of Danielle Bregoli.

BlocBoy JB

Memphis’ biggest breakout rapper is BlocBoy JB, but before he got the call to collaborate with Drizzy, he was known as James Baker.

Cardi B

Strangely, there was, indeed, once a time when Cardi B didn’t rule the world. Back then, pre-reality TV and dominating rap career, she went by the name Belcalis Almanzar.

Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper’s very literal stage name is just a condensed version of his birth one: Chancelor Johnathan Bennett.

cupcakKe

Chicago’s queen of dirty mouthed, sex-positive rap cupcakKe has the name Elizabeth Eden Harris printed on her passport.

Desiigner

Viral hitmaker Desiigner’s full name is so exuberant it could be a rap moniker in itself: Sidney Royel Selby III.

Fetty Wap

Paterson, New Jersey native Willie Maxwell II got hooked on music by playing drums in his local church. Now, he’s known as Fetty Wap.

French Montana

Named after the famous Scarface frontman, French Montana learned French fluently when he was still known as Karim Kharbouch.

Future

Before Atlanta’s very own Future made it big and made killer LPs alongside Drizzy, he was known as Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn.

G-Eazy

His name might make him sound like someone who’s lived a badass rap lifestyle, but behind his moniker, G-Eazy is known as Gerald Earl Gillum from Oakland, CA.

Gucci Mane

With over 70 mixtapes under his belt, it’s no surprise that Radric Delantic Davis’s name has been rendered irrelevant when heard alongside his ubiquitous rap nickname: Gucci Mane.

J. Cole

Born in Germany but raised in the states, Jermaine Lamarr Cole became J. Cole when he decided to launch his rap career back in 2007.

Jay Rock

Raised in humble town Cali back in the late eighties, nowadays we know Johnny Reed McKinzie, Jr. as Jay Rock.

Joey Bada$$

The founder of the Pro-Era rap collective bursting out of New York right now, Joey Bada$$ first started making music under the moniker JayOhVee – a little closer to his real name: Jo-vaughn Virginie Scott.

Juice WRLD

A new leader in the emo-rap era, Juice WRLD was once known as Jarad Higgins. The 19-year-old Illinois native was influenced rap-wise by G-Eazy, and got into rock through Billy Idol.

Juicy J

Rapper and actor Juicy J flits his time between the silver screen and letting loose behind the mic; his OG name is his only consistency. Back in the day, this dude went by the name Jordan Michael Houston.

Kid Cudi

Cleveland-born rapper Kid Cudi didn’t go by his rap moniker back when he met Kanye for the first time while hustling at BAPE. He went by the name of Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi

Kodak Black

The controversial kid behind “No Flockin” Dieuson Octave has been nicknamed ‘Black’ since he was six years old. But now, as a music maker, we know him better as Kodak Black.

Lil Peep

One of the most respected and now missed kids of the SoundCloud, emo-rap generation, the late, great Lil Peep was born Gustav Åhr.

Lil Pump

Lil Pump is one of the few rappers who could keep him real name and still sound cool as hell. This Miami native was born Gazzy Garcia.

Lil Skies

Kimetrius Foose’s stage name – Lil Skies – is a play on Dark Skies, the moniker used by his dad when he too made rap music.

Lil Uzi Vert

Cloud rap’s coolest Lil Uzi Vert was born Symere Woods in Philadelphia back in ‘94.

Logic

With a name like his, Logic has always carried clout, ever since the day he was born. After all, his mum and dad named him Sir Robert Bryson Hall II.

Meek Mill

Recently freed lyricist and hip-hop icon Meek Mill’s famous moniker comes from his middle name: Robert Rihmeek Williams.

Mykki Blanco

An alt hip-hop genius, the gender-fluid and fierce Mykki Blanco was born Michael Quattlebaum Jr. in Orange County, California.

Nicki Minaj

Born Onika Tanya Maraj in Trinidad and Tobago, Nicki Minaj adopted her now world-famous pseudonym when she was growing up in Southside Jamaica, Queens.

Offset

IRL, Cardi B’s, Georgia-born Migos boyfriend Offset is called Kiari Kendrell Cephus.

Post Malone

The rapper credited with igniting the resurgence of the White Trash rap aesthetic Post Malone is also known as Austin Richard Post.

Quavo

Migos man Quavo, like his bandmates, has a Georgia state heritage and is known better to his family as Quavious Keyate Marshall. He also goes by the Huncho moniker too.

Rico Nasty

Critically acclaimed, Baltimore rap royalty Rico Nasty might live up to her raunchy pseudonym with her lyrics, but is known as Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly to those closest to her.

Skepta

He might be one of grime’s biggest forebearers in Great Britain, but his alliances with the leaders of rap too mean that you should probably know Skepta’s real name is Joseph Junior Adenuga.

Ski Mask the Slump God

Former best friend of the late XXXTentacion, Florida’s Ski Mask the Slump God is also known as Stokeley Clevon Goulbourne.

Slim Jxmmi

One half of the unstoppable family duo Rae Sremmund, Slim Jxmmi goes by the name of Aaquil Brown when he’s off stage.

Stefflon Don

Taking inspiration for her stage name from the city she grew up in, Stefflon Don – whose actually lived in Birmingham, Rotterdam, and the British capital – was called Stephanie Victoria Allen before she got into the rap game.

Swae Lee

The other half of Rae Sremmurd, Swae Lee is known better as Khalif Malikibnsham Brown.

Takeoff

The youngest member in the Migos trio Takeoff was born Kirshnik Khari Ball. Rumor has it, he’s working on a solo record with Lil Yachty.

Travis Scott

You might think Travis Scott was this world famous rapper’s real name, but the guy – who’s also currently Kylie Jenner’s boo – was actually named Jacques Berman Webster II as a kid.

Ty Dolla $ign

Born and raised in mid-’80s Los Angeles, Tyrone William Griffin, Jr – the son of a member of the funk band Lakeside – went on to become one of his own generation’s focal talents: Ty Dolla $ign.

Tyga

Cash Money signee Tyga’s moniker might stand for ‘Thank you God always’, but his real name is actually Micheal Ray Stevenson.

Wiz Khalifa

Weed-smoking rap legend Wiz Khalifa takes inspiration for his stage name from the words ‘wisdom’ and the Arabic word for successor, but his birth name is Cameron Jibril Thomaz.

YBN Cordae

Founder of the internet’s most talked about new rap collective ‘YBN’, Cordae Dunston is known as YBN Cordae when he’s performing with the group.

YG

Actor, rapper and A$AP Rocky collaborator YG hails from Compton, where he once went by the name Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson.

Young Thug

Young Thug might have a seriously outlandish rap delivery and aesthetic, but his real name is surprisingly unremarkable: Jeffery Lamar Williams.

Yung Lean

The greatest thing to come out of Sweden since ABBA and IKEA, cloud-rap king Yung Lean was known as Jonatan Leandoer Håstad before he took Stockholm’s sad boy sound mainstream.

Zebra Katz

Known for being a big voice on the queer rap scene and the voice behind the Grimes and Azealia Banks-approved “Ima Read,” New York City’s Zebra Katz also gets called Ojay Morgan.

For more like this, check out our ranking of the 20 Best Travis Scott songs.

Words by Douglas Greenwood
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