From Beyonce to Nicki Minaj, every artist has an alter ego these days. As fans of hip-hop and R&B, we’re attracted to rappers and singers who not only make timeless music but also for how they present themselves to us. Stage personas are everything. Artists spice things up a bit and step outside of the box and push their artistry to another level. Enter the alter ego.
Do you remember back in 2008, when Beyonce introduced the world to Sasha Fierce? The BeyHive went mad (in a good way) over her new identity and the singer even made an entire album dedicated to her, I Am… Sasha Fierce. Two years later, she “killed” her. Mary J. Blige even created a new persona, Brook Lynn, whom she revealed on her album, Breakthrough. Brook Lynn was less reserved than Mary and illuminated the urban flare hip-hop requires.
But it’s not only singers who give themselves new attitudes. Eminem came out the gate with Slim Shady with his first song “My Name Is.” Years later, Slim Shady met Nicki Minaj’s Roman Zolanski and the two alter egos collaborated on the high-energy track “Roman’s Revenge.”
Ultimately, alter egos are used as an outlet for artists to express themselves in ways they can’t with their usual persona. They’re even more daring, edgy and their attitude is on fleek. For example, Roman was a male and Sasha Fierce was sexy on a trillion. There are even more artists with interesting sides to their personalities. We got creative and put together a game to see just how well you know your favorite rappers. Take our challenge to see how many you get correctly while flipping through our gallery of 10 Rappers With Unusual Alter Egos.
Bronx MC Kool Keith debuted his alter ego, Dr. Octagon, a time-traveling OB/GYN, all the way back in 1995. There was a “code blue in sector 19,” and Dr. Octagon was ushered in on his first single “Earth People.” The following year, he released Dr. Octagonecologyst, an album completely dedicated to the persona.
Yelawolf may not be the first white rapper from Alabama, but he certainly is the only Catfish Billy. That is what truly makes him unique. The rapper took a page from his mentor Eminem’s book, borrowing the theme of the Real Slim Shady with the debut of his alias on the track “Catfish Billy.” The song, featured on Trunk Muzik Returns, is all about the “belly of the bible belt.”
Since he was born into the music industry — his parents were musicians and his uncle is a jazz artist — Madlib was bound to pursue the art of sound. After years in the music business as a DJ, producer and rapper, he had an epiphany to release his own solo effort. He dropped Unseen, in 2001, under the alias Quasimoto. The alter ego was an animated character and differed from Madlib because of his high-pitched helium-sounding voice. He took a break from this other personality but Quas resurfaced in 2005 on his critically acclaimed album, The Adventures of Lord Quas, and again in 2013 on Yessir Whatever. Quasimoto gained so much popularity that the city of Los Angeles recognized him for excellence in masonry. Yeah, we don’t know what that means either.
In an attempt to shy away from his OutKast image, Big Boi released his first solo album in 2010, introducing a new persona on Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. Although he didn’t adopt a new voice or abandon his versatile flow, Sir Lucious Left Foot was more like an enhanced, more pimpalicious (if you will) Big Boi. In addition to separating himself from the Grammy Award winning duo, the album also stood as a middle finger to his former record label, Jive. The label refused to back his solo effort. He later signed a three-album solo deal with Def Jam.
The Pittsburgh native has a name for every aspect of his life. He even created an identity for when he goes hard in the studio. “Larry Fisherman represents the part of me that’s a completely nasty studio rat,” Mac Miller said of the moniker he uses when producing music. “In reality, I’m a pretty gross human being. I don’t shower until like 9:30 p.m., right before I go onstage. When I’m in the studio, I’ll just go weeks straight. So that’s the studio rat aspect of me.”
Before there was Redman, he was Reggie Noble, the name his mom gave him. Plenty of rap fans know him for his work on EPMD’s 1990 album, Business as Usual, with verses on “Hardcore” and “Brothers on My Jock,” but Redman showed and proved he was a solid solo artist. The New Jersey native adopted the alter ego Reggie Noble to showcase that he “don’t give a f—.” “[Reggie Noble] wanna do Auto-Tune. He wants to do a pop record. He just wants to do music because he loves music,” the rapper revealed.
With more than 20 years in the game, Snoop Dogg has had a host of nicknames. He’s gone by D-O-double-gizzle, Snoop Lion and the Dogg Father. But most recently, he took on an entirely new identity by transforming into a white guy named Todd. He first debuted the new character in August, when he began posting photos and videos to his social channels featuring himself in “whiteface,” ’70’s-inspired glasses and a blond wig. Snoop just keeps on reinventing himself.
When Mary J. Blige wanted to rap, she created the alter ego Brook Lynn and when R&B singer Tyrese wanted to debut his hardcore persona, he invented Black Ty. We first got a taste of Ty in 2006, with the release of the aptly titled Alter Ego album. Fams were feeling Ty just as much as the softer and more romantic Tyrese as the album debuted at No. 23 on the Billboard 200 chart.
By now it’s clear that alter egos can be a form of reinvention. While some artists want to be stinky fishermen or animated characters, British rhymer MF Doom wanted to further highlight his inner super villain when he created Viktor Vaughn. After making his metal mask a signature look and creating various characters in his dark world of DOOM, he introduced Viktor in 2003 on Vaudeville Villain, his third studio album.