A great writer named William Shakespeare once wrote, “What’s in a name? That of which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” A great girl band named Destiny’s Child once sang, “Say My Name, Say My Name.” Many singers and rappers have unique and interesting stage names. Some simply go by their given names, such as Beyoncé, Madonna or Michael Jackson. Others modify their names, like Eminem whose real name is Marshal Mathers. At first, he used his initials and went by the stage name M & M, which eventually morphed into Eminem. Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, was given the nickname “Jazzy” as a child by some in his neighborhood. He modified the name to Jay-Z as a tribute to his mentor, Jaz-O.
Some get their name in a very simple way. However, some other artists got their names in very different ways. For some, they had to go on strange and far out journeys to discover their names. Others didn’t go on any kind of journey but still have an interesting backstory to how they got their names. Some are references to their favorite movies or books, some are childhood nicknames and some were a complete accident. Here is a look at 11 interesting backstories of how musicians got their stage names.
11) Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino is the stage name of actor, comedian, singer, writer and rapper Donald Glover. Donald Glover was a writer on the NBC series, 30 Rock and is a member of the sketch comedy group, Derrick Comedy. He is best known for his role as Troy Barnes on the NBC sitcom Community. He also has a very successful music career as Childish Gambino. He has released several mixtapes and albums, such as Camp, Because The Internet and STN MTN/Kauai. Donald Glover is a big fan of the iconic and legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan. Glover got his stage name when he entered his name into a Wu Tang Clan name generator. His friends took their names as a joke but Glover took his serious and it was the birth of Childish Gambino.
10) Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus was born Destiny Hope Cyrus. She is an actress and singer. She had her big breakthrough as the starring role in the Disney Channel series, Hannah Montana. She has released several singles, such as “Party In The U.S.A”, “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball”. She started her career with a bubblegum teen idol image but has transitioned to a highly sexual and provocative image that has caused some controversy. Her father is country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, who is best known for the hit country single, “Achy Breaky Heart”. Her parents named her Destiny Hope because they believed she’d accomplish great achievements in her life. As a child she was given the nickname “Smiley” because she smiled a lot. Later, it would get shortened to Miley. In 2008, she legally changed her name to Miley Ray Cyrus.
9) Waka Flocka
Waka Flocka is the stage name of Atlanta rapper Juaquin James Malphurs. Waka is best known for his singles, “O Let’s Do It”, “No Hands” and “Road of Applause”. He also appeared on season 3 of VH1’s reality show, Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta. It was announced in 2014 that Waka and wife Tammy Rivera, would star in their own reality show, Meet The Flockas. Like many, Waka was a fan of Jim Henson’s The Muppets. At a young age, his cousin gave him the name Waka, which was in reference to the Muppets character Fozzie Bear and his famous catchphrase, “waka, waka, waka”. Later, former friend and rival Gucci Maine, would add the Flocka Flame. Waka announced his intention to run for President of the U.S in 2016, but is ineligible because of his age. That’s too bad because it would be fun to say, President Waka Flocka.
8) Iggy Azalea
Iggy Azalea is the stage name of rapper Amethyst Amelia Kelly. She was born and raised in Australia. She came to the U.S. as a teenager to pursue her dream. She has quickly made an impact in the industry. She holds the record for female rapper with the longest leading number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. She has released one studio album, The New Classic. She has released the hit singles, “Fancy”, “Work” and “Black Widow”. She took the first part of her name from her childhood dog, Iggy. She got the second part of her name from the street that she grew up on, Azalea, which created the name Iggy Azalea.
7) Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg, Snoop Lion, DJ Snoopadelic and Snoop Doggy Dogg are the stage names of iconic rapper Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. Legendary producer and rapper Dr. Dre discovered Snoop in 1992. He was prominently featured on Dr. Dre’s legendary 1992 album The Chronic. Snoop would go on to have a phenomenal career and released several successful albums, such as Doggytyle, The Doggfather and Rhythm & Gangster. As a child, his parents nicknamed him “Snoopy” because they felt he shared a resemblance to the Peanuts character Snoopy, the dog of Charlie Brown. However, he was still referred to as Calvin at home. Later, when he began his career he went by the name Snoop Doggy Dogg before settling on Snoop Dogg. In 2012, during a trip to Jamaica he converted to the Rastafarian movement and became known as Snoop Lion. He is often referred to simply as Snoop.
2Pac or Tupac Amaru Shakur was born Lesane Parish Crooks in 1971. Tupac is considered by many to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. He is well known for his bitter feud with East Coast rapper Notorious B.I.G. Tupac released several critically and commercially acclaimed albums, such as 2Pacalyspse Now, Me Against The World and All Eyez on Me. Tupac was shot on September 7, 1996, and died six days later. His mother, Afeni Shakur was an active member of the Black Panther Party. She gave birth to Tupac one month after she was acquitted of more than 150 charges of conspiracy against the U.S Government and New York landmarks. He was Lesane Crooks for nearly a year before his mother changed his name. He’s named after Tupac Amaru II, who led an uprising in Peru against the Spanish Rule in the 18th Century. Tupac would later go by both Tupac and 2Pac as his stage names.
Pink is the stage name of musician Alecia Beth Moore. Pink is known for her unique sense of style and her powerful voice. She has released several critically and commercially acclaimed albums, such as Can’t Take Me Home, I’m Not Dead and Funhouse. She has won three Grammy Awards and six MTV Video Music Awards. As a child, whenever she felt embarrassed her face would turn a bright pink color. This would lead to some nicknaming her pink. The name became permanent after she saw the 1992 neo-noir thriller, Reservoir Dogs, which was the debut of director and writer Quentin Tarantino. She took the name Pink from the character Mr. Pink, played by Steve Buscemi.
Moby is the stage name of Richard Melville Hall who is a singer-song writer. He specializes in electronic music but is known to branch out into other genres. He has released several albums, including Play, 18 and Wait For Me. Music critics consider him to be “one of the most important dance music figures of the 90’s”. It might seem too easy but Moby got his stage name from the novel Moby Dick. His parents gave him the nickname “Moby” as a child because apparently his great-great-great grand uncle was the author of Moby Dick, Herman Melville. Eventually, he would use Moby as his stage name. Moby and his parents claim that they are distant relatives of Herman Melville.
3) Rick Ross
Rick Ross is the stage name of rapper William Leonard Roberts II. Rick Ross has released several albums, such as Port of Miami, Trilla and Teflon Don. Prior to his career, he worked as a correctional officer. When he first began his career, he went by the name, Teflon Da Don. Later, he changed his name which he took from a drug king pin in the 80s, Freeway Rick Ross. Freeway Rick Ross was one of the most notorious cocaine dealers in the 1980s, and was brought down by a sting operation. He went to prison in 1996 and was released in 2009. The rapper Rick Ross is not related in any way to Freeway Rick Ross. Once Freeway was released from prison, he sued the rapper Rick Ross and Warner Bros. In 2013, based on the first amendment the court ruled in favor of rapper Rick Ross and will allow him to continue to use the name Rick Ross.
2) Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is the stage name of singer Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. She is one of the best selling musicians of all time. She is noted for her incredible voice and unique and eccentric fashion sense. She is best known for her hit singles, “Poker Face”, “Bad Romance” and “Alejandro”. She won six Grammy Awards and 13 MTV Video Music Awards. She stated in an interview with Flyby magazine that producer and former boyfriend Rob Fusari, would call her Gaga, which was in reference to the Queen song, “Radio GaGa”. She said she added the “Lady” because: “I went to Private School but was now living in this trash glitter environment. So for me, it was the perfect description of who I had become.” Rob Fusari offers a different version of how she…er…he came up with the name. He claims that he discovered her, created the “Lady Gaga” name and co-wrote some of her songs. He said her voice reminded him of Freddie Mercury’s voice, the former lead singer of Queen, so he started calling her “Radio GaGa”. He claims that he sent Lady Gaga a text message that auto-corrected “Radio” to “Lady” and that was how she got the name.
1) Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier in 1948. However, before it became his stage and legal name, it was actually the name of a band that Furnier was a member of. The Alice Cooper Band had their big breakthrough in the early 70s with the songs, “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out”. In the mid-70s, the band broke up and in 1975 Furnier began performing as a solo artist under the name Alice Cooper. He legally changed his name to Alice Cooper to avoid legal issues with members of the original band. Alice Cooper would go on to become one of the most popular and influential of the heavy metal genre. He is known for his wild, elaborate and theatrical live concerts. As the story goes, the band got the name during a seance with a Ouija board that spelled out the name Alice Cooper. It’s claimed that Alice Cooper was a 17th century witch that made contact with them during the session. Later, some of the band members denied this story but the legend continues to grow. Some band members noted that the name was chosen because it sounded wholesome and innocent, which was the complete opposite of their music and image.