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From Cardi B to The Weeknd: The Surprising Real Names Behind Our Favorite Stars in Hip Hop

Felicia Brown Celebs /
Unexpected Names
vivien killilea contributor via getty images

They say fame comes with a price. And for many of our favorite celebrities, that might just ring true. From Drake to Lizzo, see which stars opted to change their names before stepping out into the spotlight...

Cardi B is Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar

When this Dominican princess blew up back in 2017 with her hit song Bodak Yellow, she was quickly hailed as the new "Queen of Rap." But she's "just a regular shmegular girl from the Bronx," as she put it. 

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Prince Williams / Contributor via Getty Images

But how did she get to where she is now? Cardi B, originally known as Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar, got her famous name from her sister Hennessy. "Everyone used to call me Bacardi, and I started calling myself Bacardi." She then started shortening it, and the rest is history.

Offset is Kiari Kendrell Cephus

Speaking of Cardi B - what about her famous husband, Offset? The baby-daddy and Atlanta rapper has been dropping hits of his own with the hip-hop trio Migos. But believe it or not, the rapper's life hasn’t always been as glamorous as the media let on.

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Jerritt Clark / Contributor via Getty Images

Offset, a.k.a Kiari Kendrell Cephus as his family calls him, was once just "a young child, dancing around… When I started getting older, dancing… wasn't making me no money," as he explained. He soon turned from dancing to music and found that it was a much more lucrative career path.

Nicki Minaj is Onika Tanya Maraj

Nicki Minaj’s name has appeared on billboards all over the world, but she wasn’t always happy about it. Born Onika Tanya Maraj, she once struggled to make a name for herself (literally) in the competitive music industry. And she didn’t want to use her real surname while doing it.

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Frazer Harrison via Getty Images

"One of the first production deals I signed, the guy wanted my name to be Minaj, and I fought him tooth and nail... I've always hated it," she told the Guardian. "I feel it's like one big theatre piece. It's a show." But she's been stealing the show ever since, and we can't get enough of her.

Post Malone is Austin Richard Post

Post Malone has made a lot of memorable career moves, from hilarious ads with Bud Light to an ever-growing collection of tattoos. But his real name is more common than you might have expected. For one, his first name isn't "Post." It's actually Austin Richard!

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Matt Winkelmeyer via Getty Images for dcp

Austin Richard Post formed his famous stage name in an interesting place. A "random rap name generator." We're not joking: "I was like 14, and I had started getting into producing and rapping and singing over my own stuff. And I needed a name," he told Jimmy Fallon. If that isn't fitting, we don't know what is.

Travis Scott is Jacques Bermon Webster II

When he’s not cozying up with his daughter Stormi, Travis Scott is keeping himself busy dropping fire tracks to his millions of fans. And while he’s often living large as one of the most relevant and successful rappers in the game right now, his stage-name story is surprisingly wholesome.

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Rich Fury Getty Images

And no, there were no rap-name generators involved. He was born Jacques Bermon Webster II, and as a child, he idolized his uncle Travis. "He was like my favorite relative. I looked up at him… Always made good decisions," he explained. It just made sense for him to adopt the name.

Rihanna is Robyn Rihanna Fenty

If this list has indicated anything so far, it’s that only certified legends can ditch their birth names and go on to make an even more iconic name for themselves. So it should be no surprise that one of the baddest faces in music has done just that.

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Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images for Bergdorf Goodman

Well, Rihanna may not have ditched her name entirely. She was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty - she kept the middle name but dropped the rest. And if that wasn’t enough, she single-handedly recycled her surname into something equally famous: Her fashion empire, Fenty.

Snoop Dogg is Calvin Cordozar Broadus

Perhaps it's no surprise here, but "Snoop Dogg" isn't actually Snoop's real name. Snoop is known for being a laid-back guy who doesn't take himself too seriously, so his stage name is obviously fitting. But he doesn't talk about his real name too often.

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Joe Scarnici via Getty Images for Lexus

Only his most dedicated fans really know his surprisingly serious-sounding birth name: Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. The Drop It Likes It's Hot star was given the nickname 'Snoopy' as a child, and over the years, young Calvin adapted the name and took it with him to the recording studio.

Iggy Azalea is Amethyst Amelia Kelly

She might be a controversial figure, but Iggy Azalea has made it clear that she's not going anywhere anytime soon. Whether it's her laundry list of hit songs or her scandalous beef with fellow stars, Iggy has really made a name for herself in Hollywood. But what's her real name?

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Alexander Tamargo via Getty Images for Univision

The Fancy singer's birth name is a real gem: Amethyst Amelia Kelly. But she actually got her famous stage name from her dog! "I got a name-plate necklace made in his honor," Azalea explained. "Everybody started to think that my name was Iggy, so it kind of became my nickname, and I took it on board and started rapping with it."

DaBaby is Jonathan Lyndale Kirk

DaBaby may have a rather odd-sounding stage name, but he sticks by it. And he does so fiercely. In fact, "I hate when fans try to call me by the government name and misspell... Bro... you don't know me, bro," the rapper explained. Understandable, Jonathan.

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Aaron J. Thornton/WireImage via Getty Images

Nonetheless, he still pays tribute to his upbringing and hasn’t discarded his birth name entirely. In fact, his second studio album is even titled ‘Kirk.’ His current title evolved from his first-ever stage name, back when he recorded under the moniker ‘Baby Jesus.’

Tyga is Micheal Ray Stevenson

Tyga has a fairly simple and striking name, so it's likely no shock that it wasn't the name he was born with. But because this rapper is famed for his scandalous trysts with well-known women, it may be a shock to you that his stage name is one of the most spiritual on this list.

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Rachel Murray via Getty Images for Spotify

Tyga is actually an acronym that stands for 'Thank you God always.' These are the words the famous rapper claims to live by (though the tabloids might disagree with him). The young man known as Micheal Ray Stevenson knew he wanted to take this aphorism straight to Hollywood.

T-Pain is Faheem Rashad Najm

T-Pain may be living lowkey compared to his heyday in the early 2000s, but the Tallahassee native certainly hasn’t been forgotten. In fact, the Buy U A Drank singer actually faded from the limelight because he was never interested in drama or industry chatter.

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Kevin Mazur via Getty Images for Firefly

For Faheem Rashad Najm (his real name), it has always been about the music. And he has spent decades using his unique pitch-correcting techniques to stand out from the rest. But it’s safe to say that things haven’t always been easy, which may have contributed to his stage name: ‘Tallahassee Pain.’

Lizzo is Melissa Jefferson

This legendary singer and modern-day icon has taken the musical world by storm in the last few years - all while teetering on sky-high stilettos and sauntering across the stage in leotards. And through it all, she's done it under an adopted name: Lizzo.

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Emma McIntyre via Getty Images for dcp

Lizzo is expected to stay in the spotlight for years to come. And we wonder if 14-year old Melissa Jefferson - or "Lissa", as her friends called her - would recognize herself. But adult Lizzo couldn't be happier. "We're growing together… I'm just glad that I'm attached to something so organic and alive," she gushed.

21 Savage is Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph

21 Savage has shot to stardom over the last few years, and fans of his music like to think they know everything about him. They know he's got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, M's in the bank, for example. They even know he originally hails from Great Britain. But do they know his real name?

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Roy Rochlin via Getty Images

21 Savage's real name is Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, one of the more exotic names on the list. But where did Shayaa get the nickname 21 Savage? "21, that's my gang, that's my crew," he told HNHH. "Savage came out of nowhere. I was just looking for an Instagram name."

Meek Mill is Robert Rihmeek Williams

This native Philadelphian is perhaps just as well-known for his music as he is for his controversial beef with famous artists like Drake and the diss tracks that ensued. But just like fellow rabble-rouser Iggy Azalea, Meek Mills isn’t going anywhere. So it’s about time we all learned his (real) name.

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Shareif Ziyadat/WireImage via Getty Images

While it’s easy to see how he got ‘Meek’ from Robert Rihmeek Williams, it’s admittedly a more formal name than we expected. But how did he go from Robert Rihmeek Williams to Meek, to Meek Mills? Well, apparently, he was known as “Meek Millions” as a youngster, and the shortened name stuck.

DJ Khaled is Khaled Mohamed Khaled

When we hear the name DJ Khaled, we typically have a number of thoughts going through our head. If it’s not him yelling “another one!” or talking about the keys to success, it’s no doubt one of his many chart-topping hits. But where was DJ Khaled before the fame and flashing lights?

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Bennett Raglin via Getty Images for BET

The Snapchat King was living down south as a young Palestinian-American named Khaled Mohamed Khaled before he began his career as a DJ. He first worked under the name “DJ Attack” before deciding to mix up his stage name with his birth name and finding fame as DJ Khaled.

Logic is Sir Robert Bryson Hall II

What we're about to tell you might surprise you, but yes: Maryland-born rapper Logic was actually born under the name Sir Robert Bryson Hall II. With a name that grand, it's hard to believe he isn't descended from the royal Windsors. But why the stage name Logic?

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Instagram via @logic

Well, it wasn't the star's first choice when he entered the world of rap. Originally he went by the name 'Psychological' because he "wanted to make music that challenges the mind." But it whittled down naturally to the short and catchy name he has today.

2 Chainz is Tauheed Epps

2 Chainz may not have found fame until his mid-30s, but he's more than made the most of his later life success. So much so that his signature shades and iconic chains are almost as famous as his face. 2 Chainz's image is so iconic that it's difficult to imagine him being anyone else.

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Bennett Raglin via Getty Images for BET

But it's true - he was born Tauheed Epps, but that wasn't the only name he had before. Early in his career, he was even known as 'Tity Boi.' (Yes, you read that correctly.) But how did the name 2 Chainz come about? "I always talk about jewelry, and I always been saying 2 Chainz in a lot of my songs," he explained.

The Weeknd is Abel Tesfaye

We would never know it, but The Weeknd's life has had more ups and downs than meets the eye. The singer had gone from being a homeless teen and high-school dropout to a hip-hop superstar after the release of his album Beauty Behind the Madness in 2015. But his fame is only growing.

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Kevin Mazur/MTV VMAs 2020 via Getty Images for MTV

But Abel Tesfaye also had trouble finding the right stage name. "I left home when I was about 17... one weekend and never came back... I hated my name at the time though, so I tried it as a stage name. It sounded cool. I took out the "e" because there was already a Canadian band named The Weekend," Abel revealed.

A$AP Rocky is Rakim Mayers

This global rap star is well-known all around the world - but not always for the right reasons, as the Swedish government will no doubt tell you. But despite his controversial run-ins with international law, the talented artist lives by one wholesome principle.

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Jacopo Raule via Getty Images

Rakin Mayers came up with an interesting stage name for himself, inspired by, well, what inspired him. He adopted the name A$AP, meaning: Always Strive And Prosper. We can’t help but wonder if this was the line he told himself while juggling multiple scandals in the public eye.

Macklemore is Benjamin Hammond Haggerty

With a name like Macklemore, you're bound to lead an interesting life. But believe it or not, Benjamin Hammon Hagerty hasn't always been the thrift-shopping rapper that we know him as today. How did the quirky star get his catchy stage name exactly?

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Roger Kisby via Getty Images

"When I came out to Pratt Art School for the summer, I was going to thrift shops and dressing up in random crazy outfits. Whenever I do that—and I'd go out in the town and get drunk... when I would go do that, I was "Professor Macklemore," eventually, people just started calling me that," the rapper admitted.

Chance The Rapper is Chancelor Jonathan Bennett

Let’s face it, you don’t have to be a rap fan to know that Chance The Rapper’s birth name isn’t actually ‘Chance The Rapper.’ As a matter of fact, the talented wordsmith was born Chancellor Jonathan Bennett. So how exactly did he get to where he is today?

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Nicholas Hunt/FilmMagic via Getty Images

His ambitions began as early as elementary school - and he let everyone know it. While his classmates wanted to be presidents and pop stars, Chancellor already knew where he was headed: He was going to be a rapper. As time went on, he simply shortened his first name and added the rest.

Nelly is Cornell Iral Haynes Jr.

The iconic rapper Nelly is a symbolic part of early 2000s pop culture (much like Razr flip phones and flip-flips). This southern R&B and hip hop star appeared out of nowhere and soared to the top of the charts. But in doing so, the singer also changed his birth name.

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Dilip Vishwanat via Getty Images for VEVO

Nelly was born Cornell Iral Haynes Jr. and got his new stage name as a teenager when he formed the hip hop group St. Lunatics with his high school friends. Little did he know that one day his new identity would become known all around the world. Much like our next star...

Ne-Yo is Shaffer Chimere Smith

This triple threat has been gracing our screens for years now, and it’s hard not to be proud of him. Not only has he won two Grammys for his songwriting talents and made fedoras fashionable again (an impressive feat), but he also segued successfully into using an entirely different name.

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Rachel Murray via Getty Images for Spotify

He was born Shaffer Chimere Smith. But how did he make the jump from Shaffer to Ne-Yo? Well, he didn’t do it alone. He originally called himself GoGo. His producer changed it to ‘Ne-Yo’, after comparing his views on music to The Matrix’s character Neo’s views of the world.

T.I. is Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr.

In the hip-hop world, you’ve got to be careful with the nicknames you choose. And in T.I’s case, he got the wrong end of the stick when he earned the same nickname as industry legend Q-Tip. But how did this happen? And how did Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. stumble upon his famous stage name?

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Robin L. Marshall via Getty Images for BET

T.I was given the nickname “Tip” at a young age by his mom, and he took this to the stage, tweaking it to “T.I.P”, or “Ten-Inch Playa.” But he was also signed to the same label as Q-Tip, which proved to be an issue. Eventually, he dropped the third letter out of respect which also proved to be a good career move!

Flo Rida is Tramar Lacel Dillard

If you're surprised that Flo Rida's real name isn't actually Flo Rida, you might be surprised to know that Flo Rida is also from Flo Rida! And that's a tongue-twister if we've ever heard one. But there's more to Tramar Lacel Dillard's stage name than that.

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Aaron Davidson via Getty Images

"At first, I was going by the name of Ruckus Pimp," he revealed. "I just thought that was like a little bit out there, so… I sat up there for about an hour, and finally, it hit me," Flo continued. "Take Florida, break it in half, and there you go: Flo Rida."

Akon is Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam

That’s right, Akon’s name is no doubt the longest one on this list. The Senegalese rapper doesn’t deny his roots and is proud of his tongue-twister of a name. And you may have noticed that he even took the eleventh name from his full name. But how did he get from a 12-word name to one?

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Prince Williams/ Contributor via Getty Images

After all, with 52 letters making up his name, he has almost the whole alphabet to choose from (not to mention a dictionary). Unfortunately, that’s a fascinating little tidbit that we don’t have an answer to right now. Let us know if you figure it out!

Future Hendrix is Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn

Next up on the list, we're going to take the 'mask off' Future Hendrix's stage name. Born Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn, rapper Future ditched the birth name for his fascinating alter-ego with a little help from a rock n roll legend. Any guess who we're talking about?

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Andrew Chin/Contributor via Getty Images

Though their music is very different, Future Hendrix took much of his inspiration from the iconic singer and guitarist Jimi Hendrix, of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. "I'm not just a hip-hop artist; I feel like I'm a rock star. Jimi Hendrix, he was a rock star," Future said when talking about his inspiration.

Drake is Aubrey Drake Graham

Going from "Jimmy Brooks" on Degrassi to one of the most famous rappers of the last decade, it's no wonder we're keeping such a close eye on Drake. Or should we say, Aubrey Drake Graham? But despite the fame and fortune, Drake still holds on to a bit of the young Aubrey.

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Vivien Killilea/Contributor via Getty Images

The Toronto native has a veritable laundry list of nicknames, from OVO to Drizzy to Champagne Papi! But underneath it all, he's still Aubrey Graham. Drake and Aubrey are one and the same, according to him. "Drake is me in my everyday life, Drake is who I am," he explained.

Wiz Khalifa is Cameron Jibril Thomaz

While you might recognize him as one of your favorite rappers who could rival fellow rapper Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa goes by a different name to his friends and family - like many others on this list. And we're willing to bet you don't know what that name is.

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Kurt Krieger/Corbis/Contributor via Getty Images

Wiz Khalifa was born Cameron Jibril Thomaz. We'll give you some time to take that one in. But how did he get the catchy name we know so well? As a kid, he was called a "wizard" for being "wise beyond his years." And "Khalifa" is Arabic for success or leader. "And my granddad is Muslim, so he gave me that name," Wiz explained.

Tekashi 6ix9ine is Daniel Hernandez

He may be a controversial guy, but the list wouldn't be complete without one of modern hip hop's most famous rappers. Daniel Hernandez, otherwise known as Tekashi 6ix9ine, has quite the reputation. But his stage name has more significance than you might expect.

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Shareif Ziyadat/Contributor via Getty Images

"The true meaning of 69 is just because you're right doesn't mean I'm wrong: YOU JUST HAVEN'T SEEN LIFE FROM MY PERSPECTIVE," he wrote in a caption on Instagram. This New York native has been through it all, so, indeed, we’ll never see things the way he does. We’ll let you decide if that’s a good or bad thing.

Megan Thee Stallion is Megan Jovon Ruth Pete

It seems like Megan Thee Stallion's entire career has been one long hot girl summer. She's officially a force to be reckoned with. But it wasn't just her talent that got the rapper, formerly known as Jovon Ruth Pete, so much attention (and a great stage name). It also came from an unusual source.

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Tommaso Boddi via Getty Images

The Savage star stands at a statuesque 5'10, and this helped to establish her image. "In the South, they call girls that are tall and fine stallions," she explained to Vulture. "Because I've always had a nice body, older guys have just been like, 'Ooh, you jailbait.' So it could've [also] been Megan Thee Jailbait."