Behind most rappers is an intriguing stage name: some of hip-hop’s heavyweights have looked within themselves for the inspiration behind their monikers. Rappers like Waka Flocka Flame and Snoop Dogg drew inspiration from their favorite TV characters. T.I. and Gucci Mane embraced their family members’ nicknames passed down to them, while others like 50 Cent, Rick Ross and French Montana took to their fascination for street legends to another level.
Once you find the meaning of one rapper’s name, you can’t resist learning more. Let us feed your curiosity. Read the stories behind 20 of the most interesting rapper stage names.
Who doesn’t have a favorite childhood cartoon or animated character? For Waka Flocka Flame, the televised stuffed boo that charmed him was Fozzie from the Muppet Babies. Waka’s cousin named him after Fozzie’s catchphrase, “Waka, waka, waka.” “I’ve got a Fozzie chain, ’cause when i was younger, me and my cousin used to watch it and he started calling me ‘Waka,'” he said in a 2010 interview. Gucci Mane, who Waka is currently on bad terms with, later added the “Flame” to his stage name.
In Jay-Z‘s days as a youngin’ he was known as “Jazzy.” He later changed his rap moniker to Jay-Z to salute his mentor rapper and producer, Jaz-O, and the subway lines of his hometown of Brooklyn.
Rappers tend to stick to short rap monikers if their names aren’t short. Such was the case for Eminem, initially. Eminem originally went by his initials, M&M (for Marshall Matthers), but later changed it to Eminem. It was probably a good idea for we doubt the Mars candy company would let the Detroit rapper live if he would have stuck with the former.
Snoop Dogg, born Cordozar Calvin Broadus, was nicknamed Snoopy by his mom when he was a kid. He later added on to the Charlie Brown inspiration by adding “Doggy Dogg” when beginning his rap career through Death Row Records.
When 50 Cent, born Curtis Jackson, decided to put his days of drug-dealing behind him and pursue rap, he adopted a rap moniker from someone who he felt he had much in common with: Brooklyn stick-up kid Kelven “50 Cent” Darnell Martin. In his “The Infamous Times – Volume I: The Original 50 Cent” DVD, the rapper shares that he shares the same mentality as the original 50 which is to survive by any means. Both have also been shot several times and survived.
Rick Ross, born William Leonard Roberts II, picked up his stage name from drug dealer, Freeway Rick Ross. To this day, Ross gets heat for his nickname considering he was a correctional officer for 18 months in 1995.
Wiz Khalifa‘s family knew that he was born to succeed: inspired by his uncle’s name, which means “knowledge” in Arabic, the rapper, born Cameron Jibril Thomaz, named himself Wisdom. His uncle then added Khalifa, which means “successor” in Arabic. He later shortened his name to Wiz when he was 15 years old. It didn’t hurt that his friends would call him young Wiz since he was “good at everything.”
French Montana mixed the history and culture of his homeland (Morocco) with his fascination with Tony Montana to create his rap moniker. “France had tried to take over Morocco, not in my time obviously, but there are still influences there from the French culture. So when I came over here [U.S.], the name French just kind of stuck with me,” he told AllHipHop.com in 2009. “Then the Montana thing I just picked it up. There?s the whole cocaine connotation from the name of my DVD series with Tony Montana, plus I kind of bare a resemblance in the skin tone.”
T.I., born Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., borrowed his stage name from a nickname he shared with his grandfather.
Although Gucci Mane has been known to wear full-on Gucci gear, that’s not why the rapper goes by Gucci Mane: Gucci’s grandmother gave his dad the name. “She didn’t know nothing about them clothes, ” Gucci told HipHopDX. Gucci, born Radric Davis, ran with the family name for his stage name.
2 Chainz may wear two chains, which quickly became a trend in the rap scene shortly thereafter, but that’s not only why he changed his rap moniker from Tity Boi (he is a mama’s boy, which he is not ashamed of!) to 2 Chainz. His new stage name represents a second chance. “If y’all don’t see me with jewelry, I’m still 2 Chainz,” he told Fuse.
A$AP Rocky and the rest of the mob have the stylized acronym A$AP in front of their full stage names. For them, ASAP stands for Always Strive And Prosper. Rocky is a nickname his mother gave him growing up; it plays off his government name, Rakim Mayers. Rocky’s real name has a hip-hop story of its own: he was named after the legendary rapper Rakim.
M.I.A‘s stage name, which stands for Missing In Action, derives from the unfortunate disappearance of her cousin of the same age. It also stands for London’s west suburbs, Action, where she was living at the time he went missing in Sri Lanka. “I wanted to make a film about where he was since he was M.I.A. (Missing in Action) in Sri Lanka. We were the same age, went to the same schools growing up. I was also living in Acton at the time. So I was living in Acton looking for my cousin missing in action,” she said.
Yelawolf looked to his Cherokee origin for his rap name. “‘Yela’ represents the sun, which is light, life, and fire,” the rapper, born Michael Wayne Atha told Spinner in 2010. “‘Wolf’ represents my ability to survive and be a pack leader.”
Macklemore, born Ben Haggerty, shares something with Beyonce: the rapper once had an alter ego of his own. Macklemore took the name of a superhero he drew up for a junior-high homework assignment, Professor Mackelmore, and used it when dressing up in “crazy costumes.” “I did some thrift shopping. I would buy these outrageous, crazy costumes; like plaid golf pants and crazy furs. Every time that I would wear these outfits I would call myself Professor Macklemore and then I’d go out on the town and kick it,” he told Dirty Laces. He later dropped “professor” and went by Macklemore as his stage name.
We have Lupe Fiasco‘s bud to partially thank for the rapper’s stage name: he ran with his friend Lupe’s name. The rapper used to be called Lu, shortened from his born name, Wasalu. The latter part of his stage name came from the Firm album. “They had the song, ‘Firm Fiasco.’ I just liked the way it looked on paper. And so it’s like, Lupe… Fiasco,” he told Soundslam.
Like Snoop and many others mentioned, The Game used a nickname given to him by a family member when knee-high for his rap moniker. His grandma named him for his athletic ability to play all sports, saying he was “game” for anything.
Dungeon Family’ G-Rock named Future for what he saw in him: the future. Duh. “He used to always tell me, ‘You’re the future. You’re the future. You’re young man. You got energy. You’re ambitious. You’re the future of the Dungeon Family,” he told MTV News. “After a while it caught on and it made sense.”
Big K.R.I.T. called forth his success through his rap moniker. “It stands for King Remembered the Time. It’s a humble way for saying I’m the king of my lane and the king of the music I make… and how I live my every day life,” he told MTV2.
Pusha T has never shied away of his drug dealing days through his rhymes. His rap moniker goes hand-in-hand with those times. “Pusha T (Push-a-Ton)/ Pusha a ton of that shit that makes ya nose run,” he raps on the Clipse’s “Comedy Central.”