The alter ego. Like flipping a light switch, an artist can step into an entirely new personality and allow themselves the freedom to reinterpret their art. Whether it’s just a different side of them or a completely new character, an alter ego serves as an escape of sorts.
Over the years, hip hop artists have looked to the alter ego as a means of entertainment, catharsis, and reinvention. These days, it seems like every emcee in the game has a split personality. From Weezy’s Lil Tunechi to B.o.B’s Bobby Ray, the nicknames continue to stack up.
Still, there’s a lot to be said for well-executed transformations that artists go through. A fleshed-out character can go a long away after all (see Slim Shady, he just won’t die).
With speculation swirling over Tech’s EBAH revelation, we decided to take a look at some of our favorite alter egos in hip hop. Try to keep up because we aren’t checking IDs on this one.
The villain to his RZA, Bobby Digital was everything the Wu-Tang leader wasn’t. Disrespectful to women, always on the hunt for the party, and ready for just about anything, Bobby Digital opened up a new route for RZA and also allowed him to expand on his already innovative sound. Still a favorite of Wu-heads everywhere, Bobby Digital is everything a comic enthusiast wants in his hip hop music.
Honorable mention: The RZA’s long list of nick names, along with the entire Wu-Tang Clan’s 1,000 or so alter egos. We just don’t have the time.
Is Kool Keith genius or insane? We still haven’t figured that one out, but we do know that Dr. Octagon is one of the coolest characters to ever grace wax. He’s from Jupiter and he’s here to touch your women and murder your people with his inept surgery skills. With a complex storyline to match the music, Kool Keith brought Dr. Octagon to life and terrorized listeners until his death at the hands of Dr. Dooom – another Kool Keith alias.
In 2007, T.I. squared off against who else? Himself. Playing both sides of the card, T.I. stepped into the role of the business-oriented CEO and the street-raised thug for an album that saw the conflicted emcee come face to face with his inner struggles. Maybe not the biggest stretch of the imagination, but he did get a platinum record out of it and it gave fans a glimpse at T.I.’s more creative side.
Love her or hate her, Nicki Minaj knows how to get a reaction and in 2010 when she tore through Kanye West’s “Monster”, that reaction was “wow.” The leading lady of YMCMB has redefined what it is to be different and thanks to her Roman alter ego, we all get to see how different she can get.
Roman Zolanski (yes, he even gets a last name) is Nicki’s inner-demon also known as her twin brother who may just be a homicidal maniac. Often compared to Em’s Slim Shady, Roman made his television debut at the 54th Grammy Awards.
Honorable mention: Roman’s mother, Martha, who makes an appearance on “Roman Holiday”.
The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory is arguably 2Pac’s darkest album. Officially donning the Makaveli stage name, 2Pac recorded his final studio album in 1996. The result was a collection of twelve tracks featuring 2Pac as Makaveli, a meaner and grittier version of himself.
Riddled with gunshots and disses at some of the biggest names at the time – Notorious B.I.G. and Nas among others – the album put a spotlight on what could be defined as rage and paranoia inside 2Pac. It was that ultra-violent and sometimes prophetic vibe that shaped the Makaveli alias, giving fans an album that recounts the final days of Tupac Shakur.
Mafia rap. Nas may not have invented it, but he definitely brought it to the spotlight along with several other emcees on the East Coast.
Armed with his new alias, Escobar, Nas switched his style up after the release of Illmatic and took listeners on a more violent path inspired by money, fame, and fiction. Originally conceived by his guest appearance on Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, the Escobar persona made appearances throughout Nas’ career and continues to be a favorite among fans.
Honorable mention: The Chef aka Lex Diamonds aka Raekwon for sparking Escobar. Go get that purple tape.
Tech N9ne has always given himself to listeners and on 2006’s Everready: The Religion, he gave up three sides of his life: The King, The Clown, and The G.
The three characters represented Tech N9ne at different points in his life as well as the conflicts he often faced – The King with a god complex, The Clown with a destructive thirst for women and drugs, and finally, The G, the one who understands what is most important in life. It was with these three personalities that Tech N9ne faced his fears and displayed the sincerity that makes him an open book to fans.
Honorable mention: EBAH. Mostly because we don’t know what’s about to happen.
Hide the kids because Slim Shady hasn’t gone anywhere. Em’s notoriously violent and comical alter ego first invaded speakers on a national scale on the Slim Shady LP and forever rang these words in our heads, “Hi, my name is…”
Since then, Slim has stormed label offices and even kidnapped Dr. Dre at one point. From spawning a generation of kids in white tees and bleach-blond hair to pissing off just about every mother in America, Slim Shady might just be the most dangerous white boy to ever suit up as Robin.
Honorable mention: The rest of D-12 because without the dirty dozen there would be no Slim.
– Victor Sandoval, Assistant Blog Editor Strange Music
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