What’s in a name? To many artists, that’s a loaded question. Most will say it’s not the name that matters and it’s the product is paramount. Others consider the name to be the most important. They reason people are attracted to the product because of the name associated. In some cases, the changing of a name places a public figure in the spotlight in an instant. Ron Artest, anyone? Metta World Peace? Really, dude?!
In the music world, the moniker of the artist holds equal billing to the music they deliver to fans. Mary J. Blige introduced a new name when she decided to start rapping. As a singer, she’s Mary J. Blige. As a rapper, she wishes to be called Brook Lynn. The Urban Daily writers were discussing the people in music who have tried or gone through with changing their stage names and the effect their decision has had on their career. Sound off in the comment section with any other artists who’ve changed their stage name.
Billed as Holly Brook was featured on Fort Minor’s single, “Where’d You Go” in 2006. After she made a brief cameo on TRL, Holly Brook faded back into obscurity. That is until Dr. Dre, Eminem, and Diddy asked her to contribute vocals to their hits in 2010. Rechristened Skylar Grey, the Wisconsin singer-songwriter received a Grammy nomination for her work on Eminem’s Recovery and performed with the white rapper and his mentor at the 53rd Grammy awards. Talk about a come up.
One of Bad Boy Records’ many casualties was the R&B singer-songwriter, Cheri Dennis. After appearing on several tracks on Ma$e’s sophomore album in 1999, Dennis signed a deal with Bad Boy. Though fans believed it was the winners of the show, Cheri is actually the person singing the Making The Band 3 opener, “Ooh La La.” Her Ryan Leslie produced single, “I Love You,” failed to put any measurable dent in the charts and she retreated from the spotlight. She has reemerged as Cheri Coke, sporting blue hair and a totally different image. In a recent interview with XI Magazine, she let fans know what she’s been up to since dropping out of the spotlight, “I’ve been working hard, recording and just getting myself conditioned to get back into the whole music thing. I stepped away for a second. I severed ties with the label that I was once at. You all might know me as Cheri Dennis that was signed to Bad Boy, Atlantic. I got my release last February and since then I’ve been kinda restructuring my whole outlook on my career.” So it’s back to the drawing board for the songbird.
The former Roc-A-Fella soldier has been plagued with album delays his entire career. Signed through Beanie Sigel’s State Property, Peedi Crakk had standout guest appearances on Hov’s The Bluprint 2, Freeway’s debut, and The Roots’ Game Theory. As his star began to rise, the Puerto Rican MC chose to change his name to Peedi Peedi to make himself more accessible. The name change had no effect on his rap career. He has yet to release an album and he’s been in the business since 2001. Now he’s signed to the internet based label, Amalgam Digital. When an album will surface still remains the million dollar question.
Making his debut on the landmark disc, Stankonia, Killer Mike was poised to be the next to blow out of the Dungeon Family camp. Unfortunately, the streets have shown more love than mainstream media. The single, “A.D.I.D.A.S.” hit number 60 on the charts and that is his highest charting to date. Killer Mike left Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon All-Stars fold in 2007. He likened his departure to leaving the Clippers to go play for the Lakers. In his case the Lakers is T.I.’s Grand Hustle Records. Along with the label change, he went from Killer Mike to Mike Bigga. Neither the name or label change has had any effect on his sales because Mike Bigga’s last album went triple aluminum. No shots, just facts.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Is it really a surprise ODB landed on this list? The man had more aliases than someone running from the mafia. Though we loved the sheer ridiculousness of his nicknames, Ason Unique was the name he was going to release his last album under. Tragically, before the album was released ODB had passed away due to an accidental drug overdose. There was a lethal amount of cocaine and the prescription drug Tramadol, a synthetic opiate, in his system. Despite his death, The Dame Dash Music Group still has yet to release A Son Unique. In 2009, there was talk the collection would see the light of day on the anniversary of his passing. However, those plans never came to fruition.
When Snoop was getting funky on the mic like an old batch of collard greens, he was known as Snoop Doggy Dogg. Snoop exited Death Row Records in 1998 and left part of his name too. Snoop claimed dropping the “Doggy” meant he was maturing and leaving all the negativity he dealt with at Death Row. After changing his name and image, Snoop Dogg sold 520,000 copies of Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told in its first week. His first effort for No Limit Records stayed within the top ten for the next five weeks. Snoop Dogg’s No Limit debut went double platinum by the end of 1998, but that’s nothing new for the Dogg Father.
Kwame was the kid MC discovered by Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor in 1989. Kwame made a name for himself with his second album with hits like, “Oneovdabigboiz” and “Ownlee Eue.” By 1992, Kwame tried to change his image and leave the polka-dots and playful rhymes behind. Neither critics or fans were feeling his sexually charged raps and he soon left the entertainment industry. In 2002, K1 Mil emerged as a music producer. Fans were shocked to learn K1 Mil was Kwame. since switching professions, he’s laid beats for Fantasia, Dru Hill, and LL Cool J. Guess his life wasn’t played out like those polka dots.
Brandy is your favorite singer’s favorite singer. Despite having hits on hits on hits, Brandy wanted to explore another side of her creativity. In 2009, she began rapping under the name Brand Nu. As corny as the name was, her rhymes were worse. With raps like, “I’m back like I forgot somethin’,” everybody told her to have a seat. Luckily, Brandy has shelved her rap alternative for now to work on her R&B oriented RCA Records debut. The idea of new Brandy tunes is a welcome reprieve from lines like, “I told you once/ I told you twice/ You got my shoulder cold like a block of ice.” She can keep those for when she’s sitting up in her room–by herself!
We already know Diddy runs the city. We also know he’s the king of dumb name changes out of sheer boredom. How a man goes from Puffy to Puff Daddy to P. Diddy to Diddy to Swag is beyond me. I’m beginning to believe every time he has a product to promote, he will make an announcement about amending his moniker. Then again, who really takes Sean Combs’ name changes seriously nowadays? Nobody? That’s what I thought. His brand has become bigger than a name. When you see Diddy, you immediately want to buy whatever he’s selling because his story is what dreams are made of. Going from the streets to multimillion dollar homes across the globe is what the American dream is all about. As for calling him Swag, in the words of Cedric The Entertainer, I’m a grown a** man. That’s not going down.
When you make music as brilliant as Prince does, you’re allowed to do what you want. After providing the music to steamy bedroom sessions and provoking thoughts with deep lyrics. As The Purple One rode the wave of his success, he began to feel as if his record company, Warner Brothers Records, was stifling his creativity and began acting out. He etched the word “slave” into face. Prince, then, announced he would be going by The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. Actually, he was going by that symbol that nobody can pronounce. Once Prince became The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, he dropped albums in rapid succession to fulfill his contract with Warner Brothers. Once the contract expired, he returned to his given name.