Choosing a name is never easy. One part of you wants to have it have a deeper emotional meaning, while another might want to opt for something "new and modern." But absent of an official name change on a birth certificate — or the rebranding of a company — most are usually stuck with what is initially chosen.
Luckily, Hip-Hop is a little more forgiving when it comes to a name. In fact seven legendary groups actually had different names before they hit it big.
Original Name: 2 Shades Deep and Misifts
After teaming up in high school, Antwan Patton and André Benjamin needed a name. They settled on 2 Shades Deep with Patton as Black Dog and Benjamin as Black Wolf.
“In high school there was another group composed of members of [R&B group] Jagged Edge and a couple other people, called Four Shades Deep," Big Boi said. "We didn’t want to infringe on the name they stole from us. We looked in the dictionary and we tried to get a word to describe what we wanted to be. First it was the Misfits and it was like ‘Oh man, somebody got that.’ We went down a little bit more and got to the O’s and saw 'outcast' and we thought, ‘That’s what we wanna be.’ We took the annunciation spelling and ran with it since then."
Black Dog turned into Big Boi because he was playing football in high school and was “really into apple pies and ice cream.”
2. A Tribe Called Quest
Original name: Quest
Without the intervention of Baby Bam from Jungle Brothers, Q-Tip might still be J Nice and A Tribe Called Quest might just be Quest. As he tells it, Bam heard Q-Tip introduce himself on a demo track as being "from a group called Quest" and told him to say he was from "a tribe called Quest." With the letter Q on his mind, he connected that back to where Q-Tip was from: Queens.
"We used to use the word 'tip' to mean when someone was sweating you," he explained. "'Get off my tip.'"
3. Da Beatminerz
Original name: Black Moon
While Da Beatminerz is a production outfit, the pattern remains. In fact, their original name could have altered the trajectory for another legendary Hip-Hop group as well.
"Mr Walt was a fan of Moonlighting," DJ Evil Dee explained. "And if he was here he would punch me in the face for saying that. But the name of their detective agency was Blue Moon Detective Agency. So, Walt just changed the Blue Moon to Black Moon. So Beatminerz’ original name was Black Moon. Then what happened was my brother had an MC. The MC name was DEA, and DEA went beat shopping with me and my brother. Me and my brother used to go beat shopping in east New York, in this basement filled with records, they just threw the records down there. It was wet, it was nasty, you see dead carcasses floating. Dead mice and dead rats floating, but we were being there digging for records, and we would come up looking crazy, looking like we was coal mining. So DEA was like, 'Yo, I’m gonna make y’all, y’all are the Beatminerz.' He had a song called 'Beatminerz Walk Like That So Much.” He changed Black Moon’s name to Beatminerz, and that’s when Buckshot said, 'Yo, we taking that name.'"
4. Mobb Deep
Original name: Poetical Prophets
The group who would become world renowned as Mobb Deep first appeared in The Source's Unsigned Hype column when Prodigy and Havoc were only 16-years-old. The piece — highlighting who at the time were called "Poetical Prophets — made it a point to state that they were both only 5'3".
"Baby Grand Puba/Little Rick the Ruler/And in my pocked it a crazy fat bag of Budha."
As Havoc tells it — in reference to their original name, "Back then, conscious rap was still hanging around. So we were gravitating to what was happening at the time."
The pair released their first demo together in 1992 under the name Poetical Prophets, which they followed up a year later as Mobb Deep — taking inspiration from a phrase used in Queensbridge which meant "a lot of people."
The name change was prompted by Diddy who wanted to sign them to Uptown, but they ultimately opted for 4th and B'Way who offered more money.
5. Naughty by Nature
Original name: The New Style
During an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Queen Latifah was asked if the rumors that she gave Naughty By Nature their name was true. Sheh confirmed that she did play a role in naming the New Jersey trio, saying“We basically were on 18th Street in East Orange, New Jersey chilling in Treach’s house or KG’s. We were all sitting around in the room, and they were doing something mischievous I’m sure. Once again we were all young and wild. was like, ‘Y’all just naughty by nature.’ They used to be called The New Style… [I said,] ‘You know what you should be called Naughty By Nature.’ They liked the name. Shakim liked the name, so they became Naughty By Nature. You’re welcome.”
6. The Lox
Original name: The Bomb Squad & The Warlox
It seems Puffy was very particular about the names of his groups. While Mobb Deep ultimately signed elsewhere, he made sure that The Lox rebranded themselves while on Bad Boy.
They scored their first appearance on wax in 1994 after Jadakiss and Sheek Louych appeared on the song “Set It Off” from Main Source’s sophomore album F**k What You Think
“At the time, Puff Daddy was one of the biggest niggas doing music,” Jadakiss says. “He said The Warlox weren’t marketable. So he made us cut the ‘War’ off and just keep ‘The Lox.’ Then he told us to figure out what that is. Drop the ‘War’ off. It’s just ‘The Lox’ and y’all figure out something off of that.”