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Hip-Hop’s Best (and Worst) Names

Posted by Nathan S. on 01/20/10 | Filed under Top Stories, Features
Vanilla Ice
In this morning's Cymarshall Law post I said that while Cy's name was bad ass, I'm still not sure that it belongs with the best emcee names of all-time. Which got me thinking: Almost nothing matters more to a rapper's career than their moniker, and yet there's definitely a huge divide between hip-hop's best, and worst, names, a divide I decided to start cataloging. So while this is by no means a definitive list - I expect to update it regularly - here's a few names to get us started.

Worst Names

Diddy – The worst part of it is he managed to change his name from the embarrassing Puff Daddy to the absolutely atrocious Diddy. Let’s put it this way: I was over at a friends house when her two-year-old son peed his pants, then ran through the house announcing to everyone who would listen “I went Diddy.” I rest my case. This is what happens when you’re surrounded by people who enthusiastically agree with everything you say.

Ice-T – I realize this is a very controversial call, and a hard one because Ice-T is rightfully one of the greatest MC’s of all time, but just take a step back. Let’s pretend for a moment that we’ve never heard of Ice-T the rapper, never heard of him period, hell you don’t even watch Law and Order. Ice-T? Really? If I’m listening to the radio and the DJ says “After the break, I’ll be playing the new joint from Ice-T,” I’m not gonna be in any rush to sit through those commercials. What makes the name even more strange is all the hardcore songs. Should a man infamous for a song called "Copkiller" be named after a deliciously refreshing summertime beverage? And yes I admit that if I would never, ever, say this to his face.

Vanilla Ice – Not much of a debate here. Though as soon as I wrote it I started to wonder if it’s not secretly the best name ever. At least it’s honest. The name screams “I’m a white guy masquerading as a rapper for money and women, also I have lightning bolts cut into the sides of my flat-top.” Which in retrospect was exactly what he was. No, no, I don’t care how honest it is, he probably thought it was dope. Which means it’s terrible. Sadly, Vanilla Ice was an upgrade from his actual name, Rob Van Winkle. You can’t make this shit up.

Top Three Best Names

Ghostface Killa – The anti-Diddy. I don’t even think it needs much explanation. All the Wu-Tang members have great names, even Gza somehow works, but Ghostface tops them all…with the possible exception of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but he’s the only one in the world who could have pulled that name off. Ghostface is beautiful and tough, mystical and street. Ghostface Killa might sneak up behind you in an alley and stab you with a ninja star, but before he does he’s gonna whisper something in your ear so dope that as you’re being stabbed you’re thinking “I wish I wasn’t being stabbed, but that was a great line.” The name's that good.

Busta Rhymes – Legend has it that De La Soul gave the aspiring Busta the name while he was still part of Leaders of the New School. De La never disappoints. A big part of the name game is how well the moniker matches the personality, and Busta’s hyper borderline-ADD flow fits perfectly. It’s the type of name that makes running down a hallway while being chased by an elephant a plausible event. I wish I was being chased by an elephant. I wish I could be one of the greatest live performers in hip-hop history. I wish my name was Busta Rhymes.

Snoop Dogg – No one has gotten more mileage out of their name than Tha Doggfather. I think he’s legally mandated to spell out some form of his name at least once a song. S-N-Double O-P indeed. The name projects the kind of laid back cool that can only come from a millionaire who spends a sizable amount of his fortune on weed. It’s also mischievous, but in a gang affiliated kind of way. You can’t be on top of the game for almost two decades without a great name, and the undisputed King of the West Coast (sit down Game, it’s not you) is one Mr. Snoop Dogg Esquire.

If you've got more nominations for hip-hop's best or worst names, email me at nathan(@)

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