If you take a cursory glance at rappers names, you’ll find those using nicknames given to them by their parents, like Lil Peep, or those using their birth names, like Kanye West. A new pattern that will quickly emerge is the common use of prefixes.
From Lil, Baby to Yung and Kid, rappers are quickly identified by where they place themselves and the name they choose to take to the world. We take a look at the most commonly used suffixes, prefixes, and monikers behind the artists that took on their legacy.
The babies: Lil Baby, Sahbabii, DaBaby, Bhad Bhabie, Sada Baby, Bali Baby, Yung Baby Tate, Baby Bash, Baby Soulja, BBG Baby Joe, Big Baby Dram, Bbymutha, Baby Goth
If there is any rhyme or reason for why the prefix “Baby” has been popularized in hip-hop, it’s difficult to come by, but just as “Lil” was welcomed with open arms, there is plenty of room for the babies. According to Uproxx’s hip-hop editor, Aaron Williams, Brian “Baby” Williams, better known as Birdman, who is also the co-founder of Cash Money Records is the original baby.
The Lils: Lil Baby, Lil B, Lil Pump, Lil Wayne, Lil Nas X, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Durk, Lil Yachty, Lil Skies, Lil Peep, Lil’ Kim, Lil Jon, Lil Duval, Lil Reese, Little Simz, Bow Wow (nee Lil Bow Wow), Lil Romeo.
According to DJ Booth, Houston native, Lil Troy, who found fame with “Wanna Be Baller,” was the first rapper to tag the prefix to his name in 1988. The “Lil” prefix became popular with increased use from players in rap and perhaps reached its peak with the stardom of Lil’ Kim.
Many artists who don the “Lil” also find themselves dropping it entirely as they age or go through major life changes. Bow Wow famously dropped the “Lil” from his name in 2002.
“I changed my name because I’m getting older now and it’s too many Lil’s,” Bow Wow told MTV in April 2002. “All these Lil’ rappers, I’m just kind of getting real [sic] irritated by it. I said, ‘You know what? Drop the Lil’. Forget it. I’m Bow Wow.’ Besides, I’m growing up, I’m not little anymore. [I just decided] two weeks ago. I really got irritable. It’s all these Lil’ cats, forget it. I’m Bow Wow now. Everything is just ‘Bow Wow,’ no ‘Lil’ Bow Wow.’ “
Boosie also dropped the “Lil” from his name upon his release from prison, rebranding as Boosie Badazz.
The bigs: Big Freedia, Big Sean, The Notorious B.I.G., Big Boi, Big Shaq, Big Daddy Kane, Big KRIT, Big L
Notorious B.I.G. is one of rap’s most celebrated stars, but his original stage name was Biggie Smalls. It was an homage to Sidney Poitier’s movie, Let’s Do it Again (1975) and Calvin Lockhart’s character by the same name. Since then, lots of rappers have gotten big.
The yungs: Young Thug, Young Dolph, Yung Bleu, Young Nudy, Young Jeezy, Young M.A, Yung Lean, Young Buck, Youngboy, YungBlud
Calling yourself “Young” is one way to eternal youth, but some rappers have found the prefix a tad restrictive. Young Thug famously changed his name to “No My Name Is Jeffery” to “SEX”, the latter of which he insists his fans call him, despite no one really doing so.
While it seems like rappers tend to drop their more youthful prefixes in place for a more mature image, lots of artists including Young Buck and Young Dro have kept their monikers well into their 30s.
The kids: Kid Cudi, Rich The Kid, Kid Ink, BJ The Chicago Kid, Kid Buu, Sy Ari Da Kid, Syd tha Kyd, Kid Sister.
The etymology of “kid” is a lot less clear than other rappers prefixes. It likely comes from the same place as “young” and “lil” but could also be derived from “kidding around”. Whatever the truth is, these kids are some of the best rappers in the business.
Rap monikers have a long history, and luckily someone took enough time to make a huge infographic of every prefix, suffix, and moniker ever created.
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