The practice of performing under a pseudonym (or, nom de mic, in French) is all but taken for granted in hip-hop. Sure, there's plenty of rappers who go the "real name no gimmicks" route (the most famous example is Kanye West.) But for the most part, no one expects the average rapper to go by their government name. This is especially lucky for Maybach Music Group, because Rick Ross' real name is William Roberts and Meek Mill's real name is Robert Williams. Instead, rap names are similar to gang names and graffiti tags and website commenter handles: pretty much everybody taking part goes by an alias.
Which, when you think about it, is pretty uncommon in any other field except for wrestling. Sure, lots of actors have stage names, but at least they're meant to sound like a name your mother would give you, like Nicolas Cage. But it's not like you'd name your kid Gunplay (unless, of course, you were Nicolas Cage). And most doctors, lawyers, plumbers and electricians hang a shingle with their real name on it.
Nicknames come about in all sorts of ways: Some are earned, some are given, and some are picked out of Wu-Tang Name Generators (like Childish Gambino's was). There's more rappers than there are rap names: There's a thousand Lil's, Young's, Big's. In fact, The Notorious B.I.G. was originally supposed to go as Biggie Smalls until it turned out someone else already had that name (an occurrence so common even Common Sense had to change his name). With all that in mind, we looked into The Stories Behind 15 Rappers' Rap Names. Like Marlo Stanfield first said, and like Pusha T has taken as a title for his next album (or, kind of like that at least), "My name is my name."
Written by Nathan Susman (@brownnoiseblog)