We look into a few prolific artists that stay out of the spotlight through the use of aliases.
The all-important alias seems like a requirement to make it in Hip-Hop. Most rappers and producers have one, and very few find success with it. Would Eminem be as successful if he was known by his real name Marshall Bruce Mathers III? Would Jay-Z be as popular if he released his music as Shawn Cory Carter? Let's not even get started on Rakim Mayers (known to you as A$AP Rocky)...
It's almost impossible to say for sure, but it does seem to be a necessity if you want to get into the game. What many may not know is that there are a few out there who choose to test the listener by creating multiple aliases. The idea behind multiple monikers is to give street-cred to your music being underground, and engages the listener to search for more. It isn't presented on a silver platter, and the more nicknames you have, the more experimental you can get without losing followers of the particular style you've become known for.
Here are a few examples of artists who have taken this idea to another level:
Daniel Dumille is the infamous MF Doom, a rapper with his own style and flow. He is also known as DOOM, King Geedorah, Metal Fingers, Viktor Vaughn, Zev Love X, and one half of Madvillain. If multiple aliases weren't enough to hide his Identity, then the Dr. Doom masks he wears to every show should definitely guarantee he won't be recognised. In fact, no one knows what he looks like and he often gets paid for shows where he doesn't even perform. He sends an imposter wearing a mask to rip out his verses, while he hides in shadows, probably on some crazy drugs. His flow is so unique that everybody has tried to get a piece of him, from Thom Yorke, Danger Mouse, Gorillaz and, most recently, he releasd a single with Flying Lotus AKA Captain Murphy.
Otis Jackson Jr. is the infamous Madlib, a beat-maker and rapper with probably the most prolific discography in Hip-Hop history. He is also known as the other half of Madvillain, Ahmad Miller, Beat Konducta, DJ Lord Such, DJ Rels, Duma Peterson, Eddie Prince Fusion Band, The Jahari Massamba Unit, The Jazzistics, Joe McDuphrey, Junior Taylor, Kamala Walker and The Soul Tribe, Kay Henderson, The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble, The Loopdigga, The Malik Flavors, Monk Hughes, Morgan Adams III, Quasimoto, Russel Jenkins, Sound Directions, Suntouch, Tyrone Foster, Yesterday's Universe All Stars, Yesterdays New Quintet and Young Jazz Rebel. Since 1995 he has produced approximately 60 albums on his own, and has partially produced another 46 albums. He lives to make music, and if he didn't have so many different monikers, listeners would have given up on keep track. However for crate-digging DJs, Madlib has provided an endless search in a variety of sounds.
Technically Charles Arthur Russell shouldn't be on this list as he didn't really delve into Hip-Hop, but even before Hip-Hop reached the mainstream, this amazing cellist had developed a variety sounds and names. Russell is also known as Dinosaur, Dinosaur L, Indian Ocean, Killer Whale, Felix, Lola Banks and Loose Joints. From Classical to Soft Rock and Disco, this man was more concerned with playing with musical forms than gaining widespread musical acceptance. He was openly gay and HIV-positive though he died of lung cancer in 1992. He left behind over a 1000 records that were never released, and it wasn't until a decade later that listeners started connecting dots, and finding that a musical genius was working hard in shadows. A documentary of his life and work was made named Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell. It is a great watch and is responsible for his re-emergence on the musical scene, as many consider his music heavily inspiring the likes of Caribou.