Rapper (and Spring Breakers star) Gucci Mane briefly changed his name to “Guwop” yesterday, before reneging thanks to an immediate Twitter backlash from fans. It’s not the first time a rapper’s changed monikers mid-career, or even the most dubious choice of nickname — though “Guwop” is certainly up there. Plenty of MCs don’t seem particularly attached to their chosen stage names; in fact, some of them even switch it up multiple times. We’ve compiled a list of rap’s most high-profile name changes and the reasoning behind them, from the perfectly reasonable to the totally bizarre.
Mos Def to Yasiin Bey
After a decade and a half of going by the pseudonym Mos Def, Dante Smith publicly declared his switch to Yasiin Bey, both on stage and in his personal life, in 2011. Bey told GQ that he’s actually gone by Yasiin among family and friends since 1999, out of “fear that Mos Def was being treated as a product, not a person.” Speaking to MTV, Bey explained further, “I feel I’ve done quite a bit with that name and it’s time to expand and move on. Also, I didn’t want to have to deal with having any moniker or separation between the self that I see and know myself as.” Sounds good to us.
Biggie Smalls to the Notorious B.I.G.
When Christopher Wallace first started rapping, he went by the moniker Biggie Smalls, after the gangster character played by actor Calvin Lockhart in the 1975 film Let’s Do It Again (fun fact: the movie co-starred Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby). There was just one problem: Lockhart didn’t take kindly to the free publicity and sued Wallace, forcing him to go by the handle Notorious B.I.G. for the majority of his decade-long career. Not that the lawsuit made much of a difference; Wallace is popularly known as “Biggie” to this day.
Tity Boi to 2 Chainz
The rationale for 2 Chainz’s name change may not be the most noble, but it’s certainly understandable: it’s hard to picture any rapper named “Tity Boi” getting much radio play, let alone achieving commercial success. 2 Chainz announced the change in January of 2012, the same year he hit it big with appearances on G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer and debut studio album Based on a T.R.U. Story. In an interview with Sirius XM’s Shade 45 , 2 Chainz called his new moniker “family friendly,” a nice way of saying, “doesn’t alienate half his potential fan base.”
Killer Mike to Mike Bigga to… Killer Mike
Gucci Mane isn’t the only rapper to go back on his name change: he just did it considerably more quickly than Killer Mike. The Atlanta MC told AllHipHop.com in September 2009 that he would henceforth be known as Mike Bigga, stating, “You can’t get corporate sponsorship with that [Killer Mike]… I’m going with the name Mike Bigga because I really feel like I’m bigger than what I have been in the past.” Which is all well and good, except both albums he’s released since then, PL3DGE and R.A.P. Music, have been credited to Killer Mike. It’s unclear exactly when or why Mike Bigga was abandoned, but it’s apparent the new name didn’t stick.
Puff Daddy to P. Diddy to Diddy
No artist is as seemingly comfortable changing up his identity as Diddy, who’s adopted no fewer than three rap names over the course of his lengthy career, in addition to his birth name, Sean Combs. He made his first transition in 2001 after taking a break in the wake of a gun possession charge, announcing, “I want something fresh,” then decided to drop the P. in 2005 to “simplify things.” Although the reasoning behind both name changes seems fair, Diddy makes our list for the sheer number of public name changes he’s willing to undergo.
Snoop Dogg to Snoop Lion
In July of 2012, the notoriously cannabis-happy Snoop Dogg announced the release of a reggae album, Reincarnated, under the new name Snoop Lion. According to Snoop, the switch was made official through a christening administered by a Jamaican Rastafari priest. Still, the Rastafarian community hasn’t embraced him back: the faith’s Millennium Council has sued “Lion” for failing to provide promised “financial and moral support,” and has asked him to stop branding himself as Snoop Lion. It’s unclear whether Snoop plans to comply.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard to Big Baby Jesus to Dirt McGirt
Late Wu-Tang Clan founding member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, famous for picking up a welfare check in a limousine, didn’t appear to have much of a reason at all for branding himself Big Baby Jesus; he simply announced it to Vibe in 1998, and it was so. In 2003, he became Dirt McGirt, a name he explained to Vice as deriving “from Dirt McGirt Island. It’s a place that’s right off the block from the next island off of Batman Island. I can’t let you know exactly where it is –– it’s a secret, you know? Wonder Woman told me not to say nothing.” Still, he managed to give the most poetic explanation for his frequent name changes of anyone on this list: “It’s like Picasso making a new picture. It feels good.”