Except for Kanye West and Will Smith, most rappers don’t perform under their real names. They use nicknames or handles instead, which reflect their personalities. Here are how some of the biggest MCs of all time came up their stage names.
Waka Flocka Flame.
As a kid, he used to watch the cartoon Muppet Babies with a cousin. They loved Fozzie Bear, the wannabe comedian who followed up jokes with a “waka waka!” The cousin nicknamed him Waka, which evolved into Waka Flocka, before fellow rapper Gucci Mane added on the “Flame.”
His real name is Marshall Mathers—the initials of which are “M” and “M.” Spelled out phonetically, that’s Eminem.
Once when he was walking around Los Angeles with a guitar case strapped to his back, a stranger quipped at him, “Who d’ya think you are, man, Coolio Iglesias?”
It’s another extension of a childhood nickname. When he was a boy, his mother thought he looked like Snoopy.
L.L. Cool J.
The man born James Smith says it stands for “Ladies love cool James.”
In junior high, the Seattle rapper created a superhero for an assignment which he named Professor Macklemore. The “Thrift Shop” rapper says when he would go out thrift shopping, he’d assembled crazy outfits and refer to himself by his alter ego, Professor Macklemore.
His real name is Audrey Drake Graham.
When he started making music in the early 1980s, the rapper was primarily a DJ, engineer, and mixer. He was so precise that people compared his skills to that of a doctor. He took the “Dr.” and added it to “Dre,” which he was already nicknamed because his real name is Andre.
The political rapper came up with the name as an acronym for “knowledge reigns supreme over nearly everybody.”
It’s a variation of a previous rap name. Previously known as Biggie Smalls (a character in the 1975 Sidney Poitier movie Let’s Do It Again), the rapper found out the name was already being used by another rapper. So he took the “big” part and added in a “notorious.”
That sounds like a real name, but it’s not. The Australian rapper (“Fancy”) used to rap under her given first name, Amethyst, but had trouble finding anything that rhymed with it. So, she named herself Iggy Azalea…after her dog.