It’s not uncommon for celebrities to change their names when they enter the world of showbiz. In fact, there are thousands of celebrities who have taken a stage name — either for fame or for myriad other reasons.
Interestingly, many celebrities willingly adopt new names because they don’t simply like what their parents called them at birth. Some find their names too common, unattractive, and dull, while others consider them too difficult to pronounce or not “catchy” enough.
While having a boring and unappealing handle sounds like reason enough to ditch it for the sake of fame, there are countless people in the world of showbiz who are forced to choose a new name. For instance, celebs must adopt stage names because guilds and associations that represent them have to ensure that no two members share the same name.
It would sound surprising to imagine such a thing today, but many celebs in the past had to adopt new “anglicized” names to avoid facing discrimination because their original names were “too ethnic.”
And as easy as it may sound to ditch an old name and adopt a new one, the practice certainly comes with a lot of risks – especially if you change your name after becoming famous. That’s because a name is not merely a name, but a brand and a recognition.
The trend has been particularly common among musicians, who take new names that better represent their persona as well as their genre. Rappers, for instance, always come up with catchy stage names that people can easily pronounce and remember across the globe.
And speaking of rappers adopting new names, here’s a list of the most famous ones who have changed their names.
Kayne West (whose full name is Kayne Omari West) recently made headlines because he decided to change his name. The multi-Grammy-winning rapper took to Twitter on Saturday morning, September 29, and announced his new handle.
“…the being formally known as Kanye West. I am YE,” he tweeted.
The rap sensation also released his new album, Yhandi, today, so now he has a new album and a new name.
the being formally known as Kanye West
I am YE
— ye (@kanyewest) September 29, 2018
In 2012, rapper Snoop Dogg surprised his fans with a lot of things. Born as Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr., the master reinventor decided to bid farewell to hip-hop music and step into the world of reggae. He announced that he connected with Bob Marley’s spirit and became “Bob Marley reincarnated,” and decided to name his new reggae album, Reincarnated. And if that was not enough, the former gangster rapper also adopted a new name: Snoop Lion.
Although he didn’t say why he changed the name from Dogg to Lion, a Telegraph report stated that the star made a reference to the Lion of Judah – a religious symbol common in Rastafarian and Ethiopian culture.
A year later, he re-branded himself as “Snoopzilla” for a collaborative project with Dam-Funk, per Rolling Stone magazine.
But before his fans couldn’t take it anymore, he thankfully restored his old, famous name, Snoop Dogg.
When it comes to changing names, no one can beat Puff Daddy. The hip-hop mogul, who was born Sean John Combs, has changed his stage name several times throughout his career. Well known as Puff Daddy, he first changed his stage name to Puff, then to Puffy, then Diddy, and then to P. Diddy.
But that wasn’t the end.
In 2017, he decided to change his name again, this time to “Love aka Brother Love,” and said that he “will not be answering to Puffy, Diddy, Puff Daddy or any of his other monikers,” the Independent reported.
I decided to change my name again!
— Diddy (@Diddy) November 4, 2017
To his fans’ relief, he announced two days later that he was only joking, and reinstated his old moniker, “Diddy,” according to Pitchfork.
Famous American rapper and dancer, MC Hammer was born as Stanley Kirk Burrell. The artist, who is best known for his hit record, U Can’t Touch This, dropped the initials M.C., which stood for “Master of Ceremonies,” from his name in the early 1990s, and came to be known as simply “Hammer,” per Entertainment Weekly.
Famous rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur Jay-Z was born as Shawn Corey Carter. The 48-year-old Grammy-winning artist is one of the most acclaimed rappers in the world.
In 2013, he dropped the hyphen from his name, but last year, he changed his name again by bringing the hyphen back and using all caps for his new name, JAY-Z, as the Entertainment Weekly reported.
Artist Biggie Smalls, who was well known for being the face of East Coast gangsta rap, was born as Christopher George Latore Wallace. The star took a stage name “Biggie Smalls” with reference to a character in the movie, Let’s Do It Again.
Actor Calvin Lockhart, who played Biggie Smalls in the movie, sued Wallace for taking the name. Biggie was subsequently forced to change his name to “The Notorious B.I.G.”
The rapper was shot and killed in 1997 because of his pre-fame gang affiliations, per an article by the Huffington Post.