Names are a funny thing. For the majority of us, someone else chooses the name that we will stick to for the rest of our lives. Many artists, however, take a stage name, or mix things up with their moniker, to stand apart from the crowd. Sometimes those names change with the season, or there's a personal reason for making a permanent change, even when an artist is at the height of their career. These 20 artists who changed their names in the middle of their career prove there's never a bad time to be true to yourself.
In 2020, some artists began changing their names following the nationwide outcry to end systemic racism and unchecked police brutality against Black people following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by cops. Lady Antebellum and The Dixie Chicks were among the music groups to participate in changing their names (both of which are associated with the deep south and slavery).
But artists have been changing their names for decades for reasons both big and small. Some went from their birth name to something more fun, and others changed theirs for the mere fact what was on their birth certificate was just a little *too close* to another celeb's name.
Scroll down to take a look at different celebs who changed their names and why. Some, you may have heard of, but others will surely surprise you.
Speaking of BTS, one of its members, Suga, took on a new stage name for his solo endeavors. In 2016, Suga dropped his first mixtape, Agust D, under the alias, well... Agust D.
He came up with the name by attaching the first letters of his hometown, Daegu Town (DT), to Suga, and then flipping the whole thing backward (DT Suga = Agust D).
While Suga still goes by his original stage name outside his solo endeavors, when he dropped his second solo mixtape in 2020, D-2, he told Billboard his solo persona is, in fact, a bit different than Suga (and they're both different from Min Yoongi). "You could say there is and there isn’t [a difference]," he explained about his three names. "'Me' and 'Me' and 'Me.' They are different and the same."
Last BTS name change, I swear. In November 2017, the band leader announced he was formally dropping his original stage name Rap Monster to go solely by RM. "I’ve become keenly aware of the fact that it’s become different from [what I want] to put at the front of the music I’ve made for the past five years, and the music I want to share in the future,” wrote RM in a fancafe post announcing the change. RM had already been using the new moniker on and off prior to his official announcement, so it didn't come as too much of a surprise to his fans. But, as far as Jungkook is concerned, RM will always be RapMon Hyung to him.
Drake gained popularity as an actor starring on the Canadian television series Degrassi from 2001 to 2008, at which time, he went by his birth name Aubrey Graham.
As his time on Degrassi was winding, Drake was running full force ahead getting his rap career off the ground. While he had released three mixtapes between 2006 and 2009, he burst onto the scene with his debut album, Thank Me Later, in June 2010, now going by his middle name, Drake.
The Grammy-winning musician was born Peter Hernandez, and went by that name for much of his early career as he tried to make a name for himself on the music scene. In an interview with GQ magazine, Mars revealed that, sadly, his last name caused record labels to box him into music genres he wasn't passionate about. "'Your last name’s Hernandez, maybe you should do this Latin music, this Spanish music… Enrique’s so hot right now,'” Mars recounted about the responses he'd get from label execs.
He avoided the issue altogether by adopting the name Bruno Mars, a name from another planet.
Perry was born Katheryn Hudson, and opted to change her name since it was far too similar to the already-famous actress Kate Hudson. Perry took her mother's maiden name to differentiate herself.
Following Floyd’s death May 25 by the Minneapolis police, the country music trio announced in a June 11 Instagram post that they were dropping "Antebellum" from their name to address calls for more white people and influencers to address their privilege and embrace being anti-racist. They felt the change was necessary because of the association of the word "antebellum" with slavery.
Like Lady A, in an effort to do their part "to meet this moment" in history following the deaths of Floyd and Taylor, The Dixie Chicks announced their decision to change their name on June 25, dropping "Dixie" from the name after 31 years. The word "Dixie" has become a popular name to refer to the southern states of the United States.
Gaga got her start in New York City's underground music scene where she was known by her birth name, Stefani Germanotta. She was later nicknamed "Gaga" by her ex Rob Fusari, a nod to Queen's song "Radio Ga Ga"
Minaj was born Onika Tanya Maraj, but early in her career she made a small change to her last name, taking it from Maraj to Minaj, a nod to the French word ménage.
Eminem originally started rapping as M&M, a play on his birth name, Marshall Mathers. He later began going by Eminem, though early on in his career he often answered to his alter ego, Slim Shady.
The actor, singer, comedian (he really does it all) was born Eric Marlon Bishop, and he went by that name before changing it in the '90s. Foxx, finding it hard to secure a place in open mic nights in the male-dominated comedy landscape, changed his name to the more "androgynous" name Jamie, hoping it would increase his chances of being called to the stage first. His last name, Foxx, was inspired by comedian and actor Redd Foxx.
Foxx obviously went on to become an Oscar- and Grammy-winning artist, but the jury's out on whether his name change contributed to that success.
Snoop Dogg has gone by many names throughout his nearly 30-year career. While he rose to fame using his OG name, he takes on other monikers at will, like Snoop Doggy Dog, Uncle Snoop, Coach Snoop, or any other variation he's feeling. After converting to Rastafarianism in 2012, he changed his name to "Snoop Lion." Since he's gone through so many name changes, most people just refer to him as Snoop in 2020.
During his WWE fame throughout the '90s, Dwayne Johnson was known simply by his stage name, "The Rock." As his career expanded into movies, he was pressured to drop his nickname.
"I was told at that time, 'Listen, you can't talk about wrestling. You can't go by 'The Rock'. You can't be as big,'" Johnson told Jamie Foxx in his Off Script series of interviews.
But Johnson quickly realized he "was tired of trying to be something I wasn't."
"[My relationship with fans is] the most important relationship I have," he said. "So finally I reached a point where I said, 'Alright, two things have to happen: I'm gonna surround myself with a different group of people, different management, and then I'm gonna make sure that I just gotta be me. If you wanna call me 'Rock', you call me 'Rock.'"
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson it is!
Lil' Bow Wow rose to fame at the young age of 12. Two years after he released his first album, Beware of Dog, in 2000, he dropped "Lil'" from his name to show he was growing up and set himself apart from other rappers.
"I changed my name because I'm getting older now and it's too many Lil's," he told MTV. "All these Lil' rappers, I'm just kind of getting real irritated by it. I said, 'You know what? Drop the Lil'. Forget it. I'm Bow Wow.' Besides, I'm growing up, I'm not little anymore. [I just decided] two weeks ago. I really got irritable. It's all these Lil' cats, forget it. I'm Bow Wow now. Everything is just 'Bow Wow,' no 'Lil' Bow Wow.'"
Sean Combs has a long history of changing his name. Early on in his career, he used his childhood nickname "Puffy," but by the early '90s, he'd end up going by Puff Daddy.
In 2001, Combs wanted a fresh start and declared that he'd now go by P.Diddy. Then, in August 2005, he dropped the "p" telling Today Show: "I felt the 'P' was coming between me and my fans. We had to simplify it. It was, you know, doing concerts and half the crowd saying 'P. Diddy,' half the crowd chanting 'Diddy.' Now everybody can just chant 'Diddy.'"
While his name is ever-changing, most fans just refer to Combs simply as Diddy.
Like Katy Perry, Elizabeth Banks changed her name from Elizabeth Maresal Mitchell in order to not be confused with actress Elizabeth Mitchell.
Cyrus superfans may know that Miley was actually born Destiny Hope Cyrus. She was nicknamed "Smiley" as a kid by her parents, which she later shortened to Miley, and the rest is history.
When the band first got their start, they simply went by Blink. However, in order to avoid conflict with an Irish electric band already going by that name, the men later added 182 (that's how many times Al Pacino said "f*ck" in Scarface, FYI).
Merced rose to fame on the Nickelodeon star show like 100 Things to Do Before High School. By the time Moner turned 18 in 2019, her rap sheet had become far more robust, having dipped her toes into music and taken on roles in blockbuster movies like Transformers. It's then that she decided she was ready to switch things up, changing her last name from her given name, Moner, to Merced — an homage to her late Peruvian grandmother Yolanda Merced Salazar Pittman.
Fans came to love Riley from her time as Mercedes Jones on Glee, but she also has an impressive recording career and released her first self-titled solo EP in 2020. With her new album, the singer felt it was time for a name change, and opted out of using her first name.
“I decided to go by Riley because Riley is kind of my Sasha fierce,” she told The Real. “It’s how I wanted to reintroduce myself. People know me as one thing, and this is my first entrance into being a solo artist.”
Before signing to a major label and making it big, Miller released music independently as a young teen under the stage name Easy Mac. He decided to change his name to Mac Miller in 2009, and the switch served the late rapper well. A year later, he landed his first record deal with Rostrum Records.
Kendrick Lamar went by the moniker K-Dot from 2003 to 2009, but as his career progressed, he felt it was time to switch things up. “The name change was just me basically developing myself,” he told Hard Knock TV of his updated stage name. “I want people to know who I am as a person and what I represent.”
Dior’s 2020 Billboard chart-topping smash “Mood” was his claim to fame, but long before the song took over airwaves, his day-one fans knew him as “Olmo”. Yep, the rapper, who was born Michael Ian Olmo, initially used his last name as his artist name, but felt it was time for a change once his career took off.
Panic! At The Disco’s name change was subtle, but it was a change nonetheless. The bandmates decided to axe the exclamation point from their name in January 2008, sending fans who had been there from the start in 2004 into a frenzy.
Guitarist Ryan Ross defended the controversial move in an interview with MTV that month. "At least for me, it got a little bit annoying to try to write that every time you're typing the name. It was never part of the name to us... People started writing it, and then it ended up in more and more things like that, so there it was. When we started doing new promo stuff for this album, we just told everyone not to use it anymore."
J. Cole’s earliest stage name when he started out in 2001, Therapist, was taken from a suggestion from a friend, but didn’t quite feel right. The rapper told MTV why it was so hard for him to find his forever stage name.
“We used to look through the dictionary for rap names," he recalled during his When I Was 17 MTV special. "I could never find nothing. One day these dudes [Bomb Shelter] were like, 'Yo, we got a name for you, it's Therapist."
Ultimately, Cole ended up sticking with a name that was a little closer to his birth name, Jermaine Lamarr Cole.
It was in 2011 that 2 Chainz decided to change his stage name “Tity Boi” to something more wholesome. The rapper told Sirius XM’s Shade 45 radio show that it was in the interest of becoming more “family friendly” as his career grew to new heights.
When Green Day got their start playing small local shows in the Bay area in the ‘80s, they went by the moniker “Sweet Children.” Clearly, the name didn’t stick. In order to avoid confusion with fellow California rock band “Sweet Baby,” the trio kicked their OG name to the curb, replacing it with Green Day in 1990.
The band hasn’t forgotten their roots, though. When they took to the stage before their induction to the Rock N’ Roll Hall of fame in 2015, they played a full set under their former band name.
Joseph Antonio Cartagena, aka Fat Joe, once had a much longer stage name. The rapper initially went by “Fat Joe Da Gangsta,” but shortened it after realizing the name may not bode well with more sensitive audiences.
[When] I came out I was Fat Joe da Gangsta—that was my original name," he told Complex. "My promo to my first album was me cutting a guy with a chainsaw, like in Scarface ... I just love gangsta music and hardcore. It just seems like everybody's sensitive these days, you know what I'm sayin'?"
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