12 Surprising Meanings Behind The Acronyms of Famous Musicians

Ever wondered what was the meaning behind the acronyms of popular musical acts? From hip-hop to EDM, rock and a litany of sub-genres, there’s a lot of meanings (and sometimes none at all) locked up in the shortened characters of famous band names.


New York rapper Earl Simmons, famously known by his emcee name DMX, is a longstanding force in hip-hop, but the initial meaning behind his three character name is often misinterpreted. According to an MTV biography, he started out as a DJ and human beatbox, and later moved into rapping for a greater share of the spotlight, taking his name from the DMX digital drum machine (though it has also been reinterpreted to mean “Dark Man X”).


Malcolm and Angus Young developed the idea for the Australian hard rock band’s name after their sister, Margaret Young, saw the initials “AC/DC” on a sewing machine. “AC/DC” is an abbreviation meaning “alternating current/direct current” electricity. According to about.com, the reference to electrical current was intended — like the name of the band’s first album, “High Voltage.” The brothers felt this name symbolized the band’s high energy music.


Los Angeles electro-rap duo LMFAO is comprised of Redfoo and Sky Blu (the son and grandson, respectively, of Motown impresario Berry Gordy). While fans’ speculations of the band’s five character name ranged from the original explicit Internet acronym to “Loving My Friends And Others,” the duo finally revealed what “LMFAO” meant after they filed their trademark application in March 2012. The result: “Laughing My Freaking Ass Off.” They wanted to copyright more explicit phrases, too, but failed. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the duo first applied for a trademark in 2008, but the application was rejected by a trademark examiner on the basis that the mark “consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive or scandalous matter.” In 2015, the band dragged Pigeon Hill Brewing Company into court over alleged copyright infringement surrounding the company’s LMFAO Stout, which the brewers used as “Let Me Fetch An Oatmeal” Stout. They settled out of court. Just so you know, the band doesn’t promote or endorse the brew.


Los Angeles-based electronic dance act DJDS have gone by a lot of wacky names in the last couple of years, LOL Boys being one of them. The duo, comprised of musicians Jerome LOL and Samo Sound Boy, who just released their 2016 album “Stand Up And Speak,” formerly went by the sporty moniker DJ Dodger Stadium. According to Spin, they came up with the name “after a summer working out of [Samo Sound Boy]’s old apartment, located on the edge of the Dodger Stadium parking lot.” And, thankfully, considering how clunky and jarring it sounded — changed it to DJDS.


Surprisingly, the makeup clad rockers known the world over as KISS (all caps, with a sweet font designed by the band’s guitarist Ace Frehley himself) is not an acronym at all. Rumors flourished that the band’s name stood for “Knights In Satan’s Service,” but it is continuously denied. Despite many accusations of the name standing for something involving Satan, band co-founder Paul Stanley insists the name came to be after they heard drummer Peter Criss had once been in a band called Lips. According to The Chive, they decided that KISS sounded “dangerous and sexy at the same time.”


Three guys from Massachusetts — Rich Cronin, Devin Lima, and Brian Gillis — came together with a goal of making MTV-friendly bubblegum pop-rap allegedly inspired by another acronym-clad boy band NKOTB (New Kids On The Block, for the uninitiated). Trio member Rich Cronin once explained LFO’s band name origins in an interview with The Florida Times-Union by admitting that when he first began rapping “a lot of black kids I was around would make a joke and call me the Lyte Funkie One. Then later I hooked up with Brian and we just pluralized it,” hence, LFO, or the Lyte Funkie Ones.


Los Angeles hip-hop collective Odd Future, fronted by rapper/producer Tyler, The Creator, go by a lot of names, including Golf Wang, Bacon Boys and Flog Gnaw, to name a few. However, Odd Future is a shortened form of their much longer abbreviated name OFWGKTA, which stands for “Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.”


Using just two characters in their name to front their hard-rocking Seattle grunge sound, the girls behind L7 took to the name that stood for an archaic reference for someone that was “uncool.” Can’t figure it out, yet? Make an “L” with the thumb and forefinger of your left hand, then make a “7” with the thumb and forefinger of the right. Now put them together. Got it? Thankfully, if you’re a fan of these chicks, you’re anything but square.


After considering names like “Twisted Kites,” “Cans of Piss,” and “Negro Wives,” the Athens, Georgia, alternative rockers settled on “R.E.M.” (which stands for the stage of sleep called rapid eye movement), which frontman Michael Stipe selected at random from a dictionary, according to R.E.M. biographer David Buckley’s “R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography.”


Sydney, Australia-based pub band INXS (pronounced: “in excess”) have a cool band name, no doubt about it. But band members admitted that they got inspiration for their iconic name through the love of the English band named XTC and Australian jam maker IXL. In an interview pulled from Anthony Bozza’s 2005 book “INXS Story to Story: The Official Autobiography,” band manager Gary Morris states, “I saw a commercial for a brand of jam called IXL. Their ad featured a guy who said, ‘I excel in all I do.’ In that moment, I put all those thoughts together. The name needed to be letters, but make a word. I put the IXL jam commercial together with XTC and the concept of a band that was inaccessible and I had it: INXS.”


While the popular assertion behind the origin of the Hamburg, Germany band KMFDM name is that it stands for “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode,” this is sadly, not true, music fans; it actually stands for Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid (which translated from German means “No Pity for the Majority”), although fans and critics alike simply use the initials.


This Los Angeles metal outfit inspired robust debate as to the meaning of the acronym W.A.S.P. Many convoluted theories abounded, including “We Are Satan’s Preachers,” “We All Smoke Pot” and one of the most infamous “We Are Sexual Perverts.” The origin is actually much more straightforward. According to rock journalist Joe Daly of TheWeeklings, one of the band members saw a wasp one evening and opined that “Wasp” would be a cool name for the group. Singer/guitarist Blackie Lawless later said that they added the periods between the letters, simply because nobody else was doing it and it might incite curious debate. And they obviously succeeded.

Related: 10 Fascinating Band Name Origins Including The Jackson 5


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