In honor of the 2018 Grammy Awards on Jan. 28, Wonderwall.com is breaking down the meaning behind the stage names of some of this year's top nominees. Keep reading to get the scoop on how some of music's biggest stars chose their pseudonyms, starting with Belcalis Almanzar, who you know as Cardi B. The "Bodak Yellow" rapper explained her stage name during an appearance on "The Wendy Williams Show" in late 2017: "My sister's name is Hennessy, so everybody used to be like 'Bacardi' to me," she said. "Then I shortened it to Cardi B. The 'B' stands for whatever, depending on the day… beautiful or bully." Added the rising star, who earned Grammy nominations for best rap song and best rap performance for her breakthrough hit, "No one calls me Belcalis except for my family, my mother and my daddy."
Shawn Corey Carter's stage name, JAY-Z, is based on his childhood nickname, Jazzy, and is also an homage to his mentor, rapper-producer Jaz-O. He once told Oprah that he earned the name Jazzy because he carried himself "like an older guy, like an older spirit." He changed it to JAY-Z when Jazzy started to feel "too glittery," he said. The rap superstar and 21-time Grammy winner earned eight nominations this year: best music video, best rap album, best rap song, best rap/sung performance, best rap performance, song of the year, album of the year and record of the year.
Peter Gene Hernandez's father is partially responsible for his stage name, Bruno Mars. "Bruno is after Bruno Sammartino, who was this big, fat wrestler. I guess I was this chunky little baby, so my dad used to call me that as a nickname," the singer explained during a May 2010 interview with the website RapUP. "The Mars came up just because I felt like I didn't have no pizzazz, and a lot of girls say I'm out of this world, so I was like 'I guess I'm from Mars,'" he added. The five-time Grammy winner earned six nominations this year: best R&B album, best R&B song, best R&B performance, song of the year, album of the year and record of the year.
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Lady Gaga, who was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, scored two Grammy nominations (best pop vocal album and best pop solo performance) this year. In 2010, the singer told Flybe magazine that when she launched her music career, her ex, music producer Rob Fusari, started calling her Gaga because she reminded him of the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga." She then added the Lady to her stage name "because Gaga is sort of crazy and Lady has such connotations." Said the Mother Monster, "When we were getting ready to really start performing, I decided that I'd been playing under my real name for so long I wanted a new way to reinvent myself. … I went to a private school but now I was living in this trash glitter environment. So, for me, it was the perfect description of who I had become."
During a 2011 interview with Jimmy Fallon, actor-rapper Donald Glover explained how he adopted the stage name Childish Gambino. Turns out, a Wu-Tang Clan name-generating website is responsible: "We were all hanging out, chilling and drinking and then we were like, 'Oh, Wu-Tang name generator, let's put our name in.' And we're putting them all in, and they're all funny and stuff, and then mine came up and I was like, 'You guys, it's not funny anymore. This is something big.' I just really liked it." The multitalented star earned five Grammy nominations this year: best urban contemporary album, best R&B song, best traditional R&B performance, album of the year and record of the year.
"Pink" is a nickname that has been "following me around my whole life," Alecia Beth Moore once told CNN. "It was a mean thing at first; some kids at camp pulled my pants down and I blushed so much, and they were like, 'Ha ha! Look at her! She's pink!'" the singer explained. "And then the movie 'Reservoir Dogs' came out — and Mr. Pink was the one with the smart mouth, so it just happened all over again." The three-time Grammy winner earned one nomination this year: best pop solo performance for her single "What About Us."
Abel Makkonen Tesfaye explained how he became The Weeknd during a 2013 Reddit AMA. He adopted the name not long after he dropped out of high school and left home to pursue his career: "We grabbed our mattresses from our parents threw it in our friends s—- van and left one weekend and never came back home," he explained. "[The Weekend] was gonna be the title of HOB ['House of Balloons,' his debut mixtape]. I hated my name at the time though so I tried it as a stage name. It sounded cool. I took out the 'e' because there was already a Canadian band named The Weekend (copyright issues)." The rest is history! The two-time Grammy winner earned one nomination this year: best urban contemporary album for "Starboy."
Lorde's real name is Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor. "It's a bit boring: Ella Yelich-O'Connor," the two-time Grammy winner told Rolling Stone in 2017. "Can you imagine them shouting it at a festival? It just made sense to me to elevate it." According to VH1, the singer-songwriter looked through books for aristocratic titles she could call herself. "I love the sound of the word and how it looks, but I also like how it's a little arrogant," she told them of her final selection. This year, Lorde earned one Grammy nomination: album of the year for "Melodrama."
Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. released his first two albums under the name Common Sense. But then an Orange County-based reggae-rock band of the same name sued him, effectively forcing him to shorten his stage name to just Common. The rapper-actor and three-time Grammy winner earned one nomination this year: best song written for visual media for "Stand Up For Something" from the biopic "Marshall."
Calvin Harris was born Adam Richard Wiles but changed his name for a pretty cringe-worthy reason: "My first single was more of a soul track, and I thought Calvin Harris sounded a bit more racially ambiguous," the Scottish DJ-producer reportedly said during a 2009 interview with ShortList. "I thought people might not know if I was black or not. After that, I was stuck with it." He earned one Grammy nomination this year: non-classical producer of the year.
Elizabeth Woolridge Grant released music under a few different names — Lizzy Grant, May Jailer and Sparkle Jump Rope Queen among them — before she settled on Lana Del Rey while spending time in Miami with her sister. "I knew that I wanted a name that sounded sort of exotic and reminded me of, like, the seaside and the Floridian coast, and Lana Del Rey sounded beautiful to me," she once said during an interview with MTV Buzzworthy. "I just wanted a name for the music that I could start shaping the music towards — something beautiful." She earned one Grammy nomination this year: best pop vocal album for "Lust For Life."
Before he went by the moniker Logic, Sir Robert Bryson Hall II had quite a few different stage names. During an interview with VladTV, he explained how he settled on Logic: "My mentor back when I was 18 years old told me to open up the dictionary and find a word that truly defines me," he said. "It was like 1 in the morning, and I was in the attic where I slept, and I came across 'psychological.' I was the mad rapper, and I thought that was great because I love the mind and the complexity of the mind. Then I linked up with Lenny [producer Big Lenbo] at a Ghostface [Killah] show after I opened up for Ghostface when I was still 18, and he started calling me Psycho. And that was weird for everyone. Then he started calling me Logic, and that was it." The rapper-producer earned two Grammy nominations this year: song of the year and best music video for his single "1-800-273-8255."
Kendrick Lamar was born Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and originally rapped under the name K. Dot. During a 2011 interview with HardKnockTV, the seven-time Grammy winner explained that changing his name was part of the process of developing himself as a rapper: "When people heard [the name] K. Dot, they were like, 'The kid is dope, he can rap — but who is he?' That went on for years — just another kid in the streets that can rap good, right? So I was like, 'Y'know what? I want people to know who I am as a person and what I represent.' So I woke up one morning and said, the best way to start is to give them me… my name change, my real name… the s— transcended to where I'm putting [my real name] on records and people are accepting it because they can relate." (We'd say he dropped the Duckworth for obvious reasons.) Kendrick earned seven Grammy nominations this year: record of the year, album of the year, best rap performance, best rap/sung performance, best rap song, best rap album and best music video.
Alessia Cara's real last name is Caracciolo. "No one would be able to pronounce it," she once told SiriusXM Music of her decision to shorten her last name. "No one says it right," she added. "It's spelled with, like, 18,000 letters. So I just shortened it." Fair enough! The singer-songwriter earned four Grammy nominations this year: best new artist, best pop/duo group performance for "Stay" with Zedd and best music video and song of the year for "1-800-273-8255."
Solána Imani Rowe's stage name, SZA, is an homage to Wu-Tang Clan's RZA and is based on the Supreme Alphabet, which has its roots in the Nation of Islam, she explained to Complex in 2013. The S stands for Self or Savior. ("I switched it to either Sovereign or Savior however you feel," she said.) The Z stand for Zig-Zag-Zig, which represents the connection between knowledge, wisdom and understanding. And the A stands for Allah. SZA earned five Grammy nominations this year: best new artist, best R&B performance, best R&B song, best urban contemporary song and best rap/sung performance.
Daddy Yankee was born Ramón Luis Ayala Rodríguez in Puerto Rico, where "Yankee" has a slightly different meaning than in the rest of the United States (or in other parts of the world, where it's used as a nickname for Americans in general). According to the Washington Post, Yankee means big or tall in Puerto Rican slang, so Daddy Yankee translates to "Big Boss." The rapper-producer earned three Grammy nominations this year for his work on "Despacito," which he co-wrote and on which he raps: best pop/duo group performance, song of the year and record of the year.
Lil Uzi Vert, who was born Symere Woods, explained his stage name to Vibe in 2016: "I was rapping one day and some guy was like, 'Man, you rap fast, man, like a machine gun — like a little Uzi or something. At that moment, I was just like, 'Lil Uzi, yeah, that's fire." The Vert stands for "vertical," which represents the rapper shooting straight to the top. He earned two Grammy nominations this year: best new artist and best rap performance for Migos' "Bad and Boujee," on which he rapped.
Mike Will Made-It — who earned two Grammy nominations this year for his work on Kendrick Lamar's "HUMBLE." — was born Michael Len Williams II. The rapper-producer started his career as Mike Will but changed his name after Gucci Mane rapped, "Mike Will made it, Gucci Mane slayed it," on his "Guapaholics" mixtape. "After that, everybody in the streets was just running up to me like, 'Yo, Mike Will Made-It!'" he recalled during an interview with Red Bull Music Academy in 2016. "Before then, it was just 'Mike Will.' And then after that, it was like, 'Mike Will Made-It, Mike Will Made-It, Mike Will Made-It.' I was just like, 'S—, Imma run with Mike Will Made-It then!'"
No, DJ-producer Simon Green, who goes by the stage name Bonobo, isn't obsessed with monkeys. "I just thought it was a cool name," he told San Francisco's SF Station in 2013. "I kind of regret it because people ask this question like three times a day. People want to tell me about Bonobos and ask questions and such. They think I'm like this monkey expert." Bonobo scored two Grammy nominations this year: best dance recording and best dance/electronic album.
Though he's also occasionally gone by the name Immenslope over the years, most people know DJ-rapper-producer Ernest Dion Wilson as No I.D. Another DJ-rapper-producer, The Twilite Tone, who's gone by the name YNot in the past, is responsible for the pseudonym. "YNot is just Tony backwards," he told Hip-Hop Wired in 2012. "How we came up with that is that one day early, early, early on, we were working on the first album with Common. I said to No I.D. — who is Dion [but] went by Immenslope — I looked at his name and flipped it backwards, and I was like, 'Dude [you] should be No I.D.,' and he was like, 'Well, you should be YNot!' From that day on, we were No I.D. and YNot." No. I.D. is up for five Grammys in 2018, including non-classical producer of the year. His other four nominations (best rap song, song of the year, album of the year and record of the year) are for his work with JAY-Z.