Special Report

The Real Names of the Most Famous Rap and Hip-Hop Artists

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

While a handful of famous rap and hip hop artists have opted to use their real names on stage — Talib Kweli and Kendrick Lamar, to name two — it is far more common for them to use a stage name. From the early days of hip-hop culture, street artists have used made-up monikers, at first to evade identification when graffiti tagging, but also to create a tailored persona while performing. Although many modern artists in the genre may lack deep roots in urban street culture, the use of stage names is here to stay. (Here are 25 of the strangest band names and where they came from.)

Some performers were born with names that don’t exactly evoke the image rappers are known for — like Drake, christened Aubrey Drake Graham, or Ice-T, originally Tracy Lauren Marrow. 

In some cases, rap monikers are derived from the artists’ birth names. Detroit rapper Marshall Mathers originally went by M&M, which stood for his initials, before changing his stage name to Eminem. Others are references to childhood nicknames: Snoop Dogg’s mom used to call him Snoopy, after the popular Peanuts character. (Speaking of nicknames, here are 35 unforgettable nicknames in sports.)

Click here to learn the birth names of 40 rap and hip-hop artists

Travis Scott, whose stage name appears generic enough to be his real name, was actually born Jacques Bermon Webster II. He took “Travis” to honor a favorite uncle and “Scott” in homage to an early inspiration — rapper and producer Kid Cudi, himself born Scott Mescudi. 

To determine the birth names of some 40 top rap and hip-hop artists, 24/7 Tempo consulted lists published on several music and general interest sites, including HighSnobiety, CapitalFM, Ultimate Classic Rock, Classic Bands, and Cosmopolitan, verifying information wherever possible on the artists’ own sites. (Information on each artist’s biggest song and both its peak position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and its number of weeks on the chart came from Billboard.)

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

1. 50 Cent
> Birth name: Curtis James Jackson III
> Biggest hit: In Da Club (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 30)

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Source: Steven Ferdman / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

2. A$AP Rocky
> Birth name: Rakim Mayers
> Biggest hit: No Limit (peak: 4; weeks on the Hot 100: 29)

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

3. Bad Bunny
> Birth name: Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio
> Biggest hit: I Like It (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 51)

Source: Kevin Winter / Staff / Getty Images North America

4. Cardi B
> Birth name: Belcalis Almanzar
> Biggest hit: Bodak Yellow (Money Moves) (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 12)

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Source: Tommaso Boddi / Getty Images

5. Chance the Rapper
> Birth name: Chancelor Johnathan Bennett
> Biggest hit: No Problem (peak: 43; weeks on the Hot 100: 26)

Source: Chelsea Lauren / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

6. Dr. Dre
> Birth name: Andre Romelle Young
> Biggest hit: No Diggity (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 31)

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Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

7. Drake
> Birth name: Aubrey Drake Graham
> Biggest hit: God’s Plan (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 36)

Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

8. Eminem
> Birth name: Marshall Bruce Mathers III
> Biggest hit: The Monster (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 29)

Source: Rodin Eckenroth / Stringer / Getty Images North America

9. Fetty Wap
> Birth name: Willie Maxwell II
> Biggest hit: Trap Queen (peak: 2; weeks on the Hot 100: 52)

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Source: Bryan Bedder / Staff / Getty Images North America

10. Foxy Brown
> Birth name: Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand
> Biggest hit: I’ll Be (peak: 7; weeks on the Hot 100: 20)

Source: David Becker / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

11. French Montana
> Birth name: Karim Kharbouch
> Biggest hit: Unforgettable (peak: 3; weeks on the Hot 100: 42)

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Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

12. Ghostface Killah
> Birth name: Dennis Coles
> Biggest hit: Back Like That (peak: 61; weeks on the Hot 100: 10)

Source: Brian Ach / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

13. Grandmaster Flash
> Birth name: Joseph Saddler
> Biggest hit: The Message (peak: 62; weeks on the Hot 100: 7)

Source: Paras Griffin / Getty Images

14. Gucci Mane
> Birth name: Radric Delantic Davis
> Biggest hit: I Get The Bag (peak: 11; weeks on the Hot 100: 27)

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Source: Al Bello / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

15. Ice Cube
> Birth name: O’Shea Jackson
> Biggest hit: It Was A Good Day (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 20)

Source: Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

16. Ice-T
> Birth name: Tracy Lauren Marrow
> Biggest hit: New Jack Hustler (Nino’s Theme) (From “New Jack City”) (peak: 67; weeks on the Hot 100: 8)

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Source: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

17. Jay-Z
> Birth name: Shawn Corey Carter
> Biggest hit: Empire State Of Mind (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 30)

Source: Bennett Raglin / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

18. Kid Cudi
> Birth name: Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi
> Biggest hit: Day ‘N’ Nite (peak: 3; weeks on the Hot 100: 27)

Source: Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images

19. Kodak Black
> Birth name: Dieuson Octave
> Biggest hit: ZEZE (peak: 2; weeks on the Hot 100: 25)

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Source: Maury Phillips / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

20. Lil’ Kim
> Birth name: Kimberly Denise Jones
> Biggest hit: Lady Marmalade (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 20)

Source: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

21. Lil Peep
> Birth name: Gustav Elijah Åhr
> Biggest hit: Falling Down (peak: 13; weeks on the Hot 100: 11)

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Source: Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images

22. Lil Wayne
> Birth name: Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.
> Biggest hit: Lollipop (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 28)

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

23. LL Cool J
> Birth name: James Todd Smith
> Biggest hit: Loungin (peak: 3; weeks on the Hot 100: 29)

Source: Paras Griffin / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

24. Ludacris
> Birth name: Christopher Brian Bridges
> Biggest hit: Stand Up (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 28)

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Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

25. Meek Mill
> Birth name: Robert Rihmeek Williams
> Biggest hit: Going Bad (peak: 6; weeks on the Hot 100: 37)

Source: Carmen Mandato / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

26. Megan Thee Stallion
> Birth name: Megan Pete
> Biggest hit: Savage (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 28)

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Source: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

27. Nicki Minaj
> Birth name: Onika Tanya Maraj
> Biggest hit: Anaconda (peak: 2; weeks on the Hot 100: 22)

Source: Noam Galai / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

28. Post Malone
> Birth name: Austin Richard Post
> Biggest hit: Circles (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 61)

Source: Dave Kotinsky / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

29. Nas
> Birth name: Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones
> Biggest hit: I Can (peak: 12; weeks on the Hot 100: 20)

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Source: Dave Kotinsky / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

30. Queen Latifah
> Birth name: Dana Elaine Owens
> Biggest hit: U.N.I.T.Y. (peak: 23; weeks on the Hot 100: 20)

Source: Jerritt Clark / Getty Images

31. Saweetie
> Birth name: Diamonté Quiava Valentin Harper
> Biggest hit: Best Friend (peak: 14; weeks on the Hot 100: 30)

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Source: Emma McIntyre / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

32. Snoop Dogg
> Birth name: Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr.
> Biggest hit: Drop It Like It’s Hot (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 30)

33. The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls)
> Birth name: Christopher George Latore Wallace
> Biggest hit: Mo Money Mo Problems (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 30)

Source: Rich Fury / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

34. Travis Scott
> Birth name: Jacques Berman Webster II
> Biggest hit: Sicko Mode (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 52)

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Source: Rich Polk / Getty Images

35. Ty Dolla $ign
> Birth name: Tyrone William Griffin Jr.
> Biggest hit: Psycho (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 39)

Source: Dave Kotinsky / Getty Images

36. Tyga
> Birth name: Michael Ray Stevenson
> Biggest hit: Rack City (peak: 7; weeks on the Hot 100: 25)

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Source: Noam Galai / Getty Images

37. Tyler, the Creator
> Birth name: Tyler Gregory Okonma
> Biggest hit: EARFQUAKE (peak: 13; weeks on the Hot 100: 15)

Source: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

38. Young Thug
> Birth name: Jeffery Lamar Williams
> Biggest hit: Havana (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 46)

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

39. Wiz Khalifa
> Birth name: Cameron Jibril Thomaz
> Biggest hit: See You Again (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 52)

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Source: Rich Fury / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

40. Ye
> Birth name: Kanye Omari West
> Biggest hit: Gold Digger (peak: 1; weeks on the Hot 100: 39)

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