Famous Rapper Names: How They Came to Be

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If there’s one thing rappers never take for granted, it’s their rapper names. You would think that, because these pseudonyms should represent their unique voices and describe their personalities, it would take a lot of time to actually come up with suitable nicknames, but the truth is much different. Most of the time, rappers just reference someone or something they hold dear, whether it’s an old mentor, a beloved TV character, or a childhood nickname. So, here are some of the most famous rappers and how they got their names.

Jay Z

We’ll start things off with Jay Z (he used to have a hyphen in there, but dropped it somewhere along the way), a rapper mostly known for having almost 100 problems and Beyonce not being one. According to some, Shawn Corey Carter, as is his full name, used to be known as Jazzy, but he broke it down to initials and there you go. However, the name itself was a tribute to his mentor Jaz-O (some might call it stealing but OK). Despite that, the two aren’t in the best of relations since the mid-nineties when Jay started his record label and wanted Jaz to sign for him. What a way to ruin the friendship.

Waka Flocka Flame

One of the more recent rappers on the scene that gained attention for his hits Hard in da Paint and No Hands, is the somewhat controversial Waka Flocka (Flame). When it comes to his name, it came from two segments. The first part (Waka) was given to him by his cousin based upon the words that the Fozzy Bear frequently spoke in the Muppets. Does this mean that Waka looks like a muppet? We think it does. The second part of his name was coined by the rapper Gucci Mane, whose former agent was Waka’s mother. Interestingly, even though the two of them were quite good friends once, they’ve started a feud in 2013 and haven’t really spoken since. Do you start to notice a pattern here with rappers and their mentors?

Snoop Dogg

Back in the days when the rappers were divided into two distinct fronts, the East and the West, Snoop Dogg was a major representative of the West side along with the late Tupac Shakur and very much alive Dr. Dre. Considering how his first name, Cordozar, is almost unpronounceable, it doesn’t come as a surprise that he took on a different stage name. But why Snoop Dogg? Well, if you take a real good look at his face, you’ll start to realize that he really looks like Snoopy, the beloved cartoon character. Because of that, his mother came up with this nickname (he included the Dogg part himself, otherwise his parents wouldn’t really be nice people). Nowadays, he’s more into Reggae and Jamaican culture, calling himself Snoop Lion.

Dr. Dre

Speaking of Westside, do you know how Dr. Dre came up with his nickname? Sure, his name is Andre, so it’s not such a big surprise, but the story has more to it actually. Dr. Dre was born Andre Romelle Young, his middle name being a derivative from his father’s R&B band. Before going into rap, Andre started his career as a DJ and needed a suitable name, so he thought of his favorite basketball player Julius Erving and his nickname – Dr. J. Once he actually became a rapper, he felt that a more personal change is necessary and came up with Dr. Dre. Yes, it’s not really a fascinating story, but it’s worth knowing. Crave Online is your source of unnecessary knowledge.

ASAP Rocky

We move on to some of the more recent rappers that rose to the fame – ASAP Rocky. Born as Rakim Mayers, Rocky became popular in 2011, when he released his debut mixtape. His rapper name is often stylized as A$AP Rocky, probably because he likes money, but who knows why he hates the regular ‘S’. You might think that ASAP stands for ‘as soon as possible’ but you would be quite wrong. In fact, it means ‘always strive and prosper,’ which could mean that he is something of a fan of Star Trek. As for Rocky, well, it’s just a play on words on his real name, because Rakim isn’t all that gangsta, is it?


For the end of our list, we’ve decided to introduce you to a London-born female rapper by the name of M.I.A. Her full name was Mathangi Arulpragasam, so you can see why she would change it to something easier (possible) to pronounce. Anyone who has ever seen American films will immediately tell you that MIA means ‘missing in action’ and they would be right. M.I.A. actually used that name as a tribute to her cousin who was missing in Sri Lanka. The name was multi-layered as it also stood for Maya in Acton, the area in West London where she lived at the time. Quite a good rapper name when you think about it.

Those were some of the rapper names we thought you should know. Anyone you’d like to add to the list?