JAY-Z‘s 13th studio album 4:44 is available to stream as of today (June 30), and with it come some bombshells: yes, he did cheat on wife Beyoncé, as her 2016 “visual album” Lemonade suggested, and yes, that’s why sister Solange set about him in that elevator.
The biggest revelation of all? He now goes by the moniker JAY-Z, not Jay Z, or Jay-Z as he was originally known, or even Jay Zed, as the Brits might call him. (Not really.)
His name — and specifically how it’s spelled and punctuated — is clearly very important to Hov (or Shawn Carter, as his mom knows him), and he’s not the only one. Below is a list of other musicians who’ve changed their name during their career, and while it worked for some, others had less luck trying to get us to make the big switcheroo (never gonna happen, Snoop).
1. Prince / The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
The most famous musical name change of all must be that of Prince Rogers Nelson, who, in 1993, announced he would no longer be known by the mononym Prince but as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” or simply (if that isn’t stretching the definition of the word “simple” too much) with the “love symbol,” a combination of the gender symbols for man and woman.
“It is an unpronounceable symbol whose meaning has not been identified. It’s all about thinking in new ways, tuning in 2 a new free-quency,” he wrote in a statement at the time. The name change was also part of a wider protest against his record company, and he reverted back to Prince as soon as his contract expired in 2000.
2. Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam
British folk singer Steven Georgiou was known by his stage name Cat Stevens in the 1970s during an early career that spawned hits like “Wild World” and “Peace Train.” In 1977, however, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam the following year. His name is still Yusuf Islam, but he prefers Yusuf as his stage name now.
3. Puff Daddy / P. Diddy
The government knows him as Sean Combs, but you probably know him as the king of changing up his hip hop name. After gaining international recognition in 1997 with his debut single “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” under the name of Puff Daddy, Sean went on to adopt the stage name Puffy, then P. Diddy, and finally Diddy in 2005.
4. Snoop Dogg / Snoop Lion
When this rapper’s debut album Doggystyle came out in 1993, he was known as Snoop Doggy Dogg. That was soon shortened to just Snoop Dogg, until 2012, when he became involved in the Rastafari movement and began referring to himself as Snoop Lion. The best part? Most people just call him Snoop.
5. Terence Trent D’Arby / Sananda Maitreya
Remember 1980s pin-up Terence Trent D’Arby? With hits like “Sign Your Name Across My Heart” and “If You Let Me Stay,” pop immortality was just around the corner: until he changed his name, that is. In 2001 he became Sananda Maitreya after he had heard angels addressing him with the name in a dream. “Terence Trent D’Arby was dead,” he explained recently. “He watched his suffering as he died a noble death. After intense pain I meditated for a new spirit, a new will, a new identity.”
6. J. Lo / Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez signaled she had changed her stage name to J.Lo, a nickname given to her by fans, when she released her second album J.Lo in 2001. Things got complicated after that, such as her clothing and accessories line “J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez,” until the release of This Is Me… Then in 2002 under her original name.
After that, of course, she became one half of “Bennifer” (thanks to a high-profile relationship with Ben Affleck) and then changed her name legally to Jennifer Muñiz when she married Marc Anthony, whose full name is Marco Antonio Muñiz. And when they split in 2013, she reverted back to good ol’ Jennifer Lopez. Got it? Good.
7. Mos Def / Yasiin Bey
Though he’s always been a part of the Muslim faith, Mos Def didn’t start going by Yasiin Bey until 2011, a full 20 years into his rap career. Born Dante Smith, the musician and actor told MTV at the time, “Mos Def is a name that I built and cultivated over the years. It’s a name that the streets taught me, a figure of speech that was given to me by the culture and by my environment, and I feel I’ve done quite a bit with that name. [But] it’s time to expand and move on.”
8. Davy Jones / David Bowie
Before he changed his name in the mid-sixties, the late, great David Bowie performed and released a few singles under his given name of Davy Jones. The success of Davy Jones from The Monkees eventually led him to change his stage name, choosing “Bowie” after the nineteenth-century American frontiersman, James Bowie. What followed was a whole host of alter egos, from Major Tom and Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke.
9. Lily Allen / Lily Rose Cooper
Six years after the release of her debut single, “Smile,” Lily Allen changed her name to Lily Rose Cooper to reflect her new married status. When her marriage to builder and decorator Sam Cooper broke up in 2015, she went back to Lily Allen, and we all pretended to do so also, though we’d never really called her by her new name in the first place.
10. John Cougar Mellencamp
Rocker John Cougar Mellencamp shortened his name to John Cougar when he first started out in the 1970s, as a German surname was considered too difficult to market. By 1983, however, and with hits like “Jack and Diane” and “Hurts So Good” under his belt, he added “Mellencamp” back to his stage name, then removed the “Cougar” in 1991, and became plain old John Mellencamp. We think (hope) he’s done now.
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