There’s two sides to every person. For these rappers, it just so happens to be their rap name and their, well, not so tough first name. Everyone was all ears when rap music grew in popularity in the late 1980s to the early 1990s. New York helped pave the way for rap artists to flourish and spit a unique flow the world had not heard before. However, it would be in the early 1990’s when rap would take a different, more aggressive approach.
Gangsta rap grew commercially after West-coast based rappers such as Ice-T and rap groups like N.WA. used rap as a platform to expose the not-so-pretty reality occurring in neglected neighborhoods. This ‘gangsta-rap music’ was usually followed by violent lyrics, profanity, and disdain towards the police. Sooner than later, the vulgar lyrics and raunchy imagery were so extreme, that it was criticized by a former United States President.
This imagery, along with the help of inner rap-beef, soon blanketed the whole rap game and gave rappers from the East Coast to the West Coast a hardcore and not-so-friendly appearance. But as observed, the same ‘gun-toting and pistol-whipping’ rappers are really not as tough as they seem; given their first names. For these 10 rappers, there is no room for wondering why they took on a different name before pursuing their rap career.
First name Earl, last name Simmons. DMX, short for Dark Man X, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He began recording demos in 1991 but did not get much airplay. It would not be until 1999 until this underdog would have his first major hit, “Get At Me Dog” off his album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot. Although his first name is far from intimidating, Simmons’ street card is nothing short of lawless behavior. Simmons’ charges against him range from resisting arrest, to drug possession, to reckless driving. He has served several sentences in not just jail, but in prison as well. But all while engaging in criminal escapades, DMX sold 30 million records worldwide and gave us the classic movie, Belly. Nowadays, DMX has seen the light bestowed upon him and has turned his life around. He is now heavily involved in the Christian Church with hopes of being a pastor.
9. 50 Cent
Curtis Jackson (aka Ferrari F-50) ranks in at number 9 on the list. It is not every day you come across a nine-time gunshot survivor named Curtis. Even though his first name is far from ‘gangsta’, being fed from a silver spoon is the last thing 50 Cent knows about. His mother was murdered when he was only eight years old. Born in South Jamaica, Queens, Jackson was quickly introduced to the drug-game at age 12. When he was 19, he was arrested for selling drugs to an undercover police officer. After being shot nine times, 50 Cent took this time to find his purpose in life and built his physique. He began recording songs for mixtapes and got his first breakthrough after being featured on the 8-Mile soundtrack. Even though he was shot nine times, has had feuds with multiple celebrities, and has been sued by an ex-girlfriend for $50 million, 50 Cent has risen through it all without a stain on his shirt. Jackson has turned himself into a multi-millionaire. He has two film-production companies, earned $100 million from a deal with Vitamin Water, and is CEO of SMS Audio; just to name a few of his accolades.
Which Alvin came first, the chipmunk or West Coast rapper Xzibit? Coming in at number 8 is Mr. ‘yo, dawg’ meme-sensation himself, Alvin Nathaniel Joiner. Jonier was born in Detroit but relocated to California when he was a teenager. He signed under Loud Records and released his first album, At the Speed of Life. His music got around the West Coast and soon gained the attention of Dr. Dre. He began collaborating with artists such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem. While his music was taking its stride, he gained even more publicity by hosting MTV’s hit show Pimp My Ride. Now, Xzibit has let the cornrows go and taken a musical hiatus. However, he is still working on cars and selling taffy edibles.
7. Ice Cube
O’Shea Jackson, Sr. joined N.W.A in 1988 alongside rappers: Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E. Jackson did not let his ‘not-so-tough’ name stray him away from rapping songs pertaining to violence and protesting police brutality. Jackson eventually broke away from N.W.A and released his first solo album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted which was positively received among fans. But don’t let the former bad-boy image fool you, Ice Cube tidied up his act and ventured off into the film industry. Jackson has starred in classics such as Barbershop, Friday, Boyz n the Hood, and 21 Jump Street. Aside from making movies and music, Ice Cube has a wife and four beautiful children. His latest film project, Straight Outta Compton is set to be released this coming August.
Coming in at #6 on the list is Herbert, and no I am not referring to the old creepy from Family Guy. Herbert Anthony Stevens IV, formally known as Ab-Soul, was born in Los Angeles. From a young age, Ab-Soul was intrigued by music. He began free-styling on BlackPlanet, where he was rapping via typing–cool right? He buckled down and got serious about his music after he graduated high school. He signed a contract with a small record label and since then has released three studio albums. Most recently, Ab-Soul dropped a new single “47 Bars” produced by The Alchemist.
5. Tony Yayo
When you are famous and your first name is Marvin, it is easy to raise suspicion of being the culprit behind Drake’s 2011 single, “Marvin’s Room”. Though far from being soft, coming in at number 5 on the list is G-Unit’s very own, Tony Yayo (born Marvin Bernard). 50-Cent and Tony Yayo not only share awkward first names, but they both share the same hometown of South Jamaica, Queens. Throughout his musical career, Yayo has released four albums with G-Unit and one solo album, Thoughts of A Predicate Felon. Talks of a fifth studio album with G-Unit is in the works,–we will just have to sit back and wait.
4. Iggy Azalea
As if the backlash from critics was not embarrassing enough, Iggy Azalea was born as Amethyst Amelia Kelly. The Australian rapper was born in Sydney, Australia and moved to the United States when she was 16. She began to hustle musically and released her first mixtape, Ignorant Art in 2011. Grand Hustle rapper T.I. saw Iggy’s vision and welcomed her to Grand Hustle Records. Although she did not stay long, she was able to release her first critically-acclaimed album, The New Classic. The fourth single “Fancy”, received the most airplay and helped Iggy’s career as much as it hurt it. Iggy soon received criticism left and right from fellow celebrities who believe she was not ‘real’ hip-hop. So far, Iggy has let her haters blow off steam while she lives the sweet engagement life with fiance, Nick Young.
3. Master P
Percy Robert Miller comes in as number three on the list. Before he was making us say ‘uhh’, the No Limit Soldier was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Having grown up in the Calliope Projects and with a first name like Percy, Miller did not let this be a set back from him attending the University of Houston on an athletic scholarship. He opened up his first record shop, and the birth of No Limit Records began. He formed the group 504 Boyz and gave us hits we shamefully bounced to such as “Wobble Wobble” and “I Can Tell”. Since then, Miller has released multiple albums, films, books and made several television appearances. You can catch Miller in his upcoming reality series, Master P’s Family Empire.
With a name like Aubrey, it is probably hard to convince people you are on your “Worst Behavior”. However, coming in at number two on the list is rapper Drake. Aubrey Drake Graham was born in Canada, and got his first gig by playing the role of Jimmy Brooks on the Canadian teen drama television show, Degrassi: The Next Generation. Drake broke away from the show and pursued a rap career. In 2006, he dropped his first mixtape, Room For Improvement but it did not receive much commercial success. His third mixtape, So Far Gone put his name out there and is argued to be his first commercially successful mixtape. Unlike some of the other rappers on this list, Aubrey has maintained an overall clean track record.
Before his buffoonish Instagram videos, Plies was born as Algernod Lanier Washington. Algernond, Nod for short, was born in Fort Myers, Florida. Even though the rapper’s first name certainly does not deserve a ‘bonussss’, he has quite a reputable past. Plies set outstanding football records throughout high school and college, and even won ‘best dressed’. In 2007, he released his first album, The Real Testament. He later went on to collaborate with artists such as DJ Khaled, Jamie Foxx and Ludacris. With a name like Algernod, you’d be surprised to find out that the rapper was charged back in 2006 with illegal possession of a concealed weapon. Currently, when he is not getting slammed off stage, Plies is working on new music and can be found on Instagram recording outlandish videos.