Numerology has been present in Hip Hop for most of its history. The most significant example is Wu-Tang Clan‘s Hip Hop producer and DJ Mathematics, who landed them with their quintessential album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 chambers). RZA broke it down distinctly in his book “Wu-Tang Manual” when he wrote, “You have the 36 chambers, and there [are] nine members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Each member of Wu-Tang has four chambers of the heart. And what’s nine times four? 36. There are 36 fatal points on the body, and that times 10 degrees of separation between each point equals 360 degrees. Therefore, the Wu-Tang Clan is a perfect circle, a cipher.”
There is a plethora of rappers who have put numeral significance into their professional names. While there are varying purposes behind each of the digits, all these artists chose names that pop and urge people to inquire about their meanings. We’ve listed all of the rappers with numbers in their names, and broken down why they chose them.
1. 21 Savage
The first link to street affiliation arrives at the top of our list. At the age of 13, 21 Savage joined a local gang called the 2100. However, this is not the only way in which the number “21” is significant in the rapper’s life.
In a 2017 “Rap Radar” interview, he spoke about having many friends who didn’t make it to or past the age of 21. Interestingly, on his own 21st birthday, 21 Savage was shot six times. Though he survived, one of his closest friends, Johnny B, died in the shooting. There’s a darkness strewn through much of 21 Savage’s music and his numbered name represents all of it, too.
2. 2 Chainz
The number “2” in a rapper’s name is as straightforward as they come. Tity Boi wanted to be known for always wearing more than one chain. In 2012, he revealed to SiriusXM’s Shade 45 radio that the stripping of the Tity Boi title was in some way linked to becoming more “family friendly.” However, that has only been represented in his name and not at all in his content.
On “Birthday Song,” 2 Chainz famously proclaimed, “She got a big booty so I call her Big Booty,” which does show a shift in focus to a less rated-R body part, but not to a more PG type of lyricism. The Atlanta rapper has stayed flashy with his jewelry ever since the name change and even landed himself a YouTube show where he tries the “Most Expensivest S**t.”
This number name is a simple switch of the letters “Tu” to the number “2.” However, Tupac Amaru Shakur’s government name has much more significance. His mother named him after ancient Incan chief Túpac Amaru whose name means “shining serpent,” though in Tupac: Resurrection, Tupac says he thinks it means “intelligent warrior.” It’s safe to say the rapper lived out this label as an artist and human, so it makes sense he didn’t change his name for his music.
Tupac held his name and mother, Afeni Shakur, in the highest regard. Shakur was a member of the Black Panther Party who instilled pride and political consciousness in her son, which is strewn through the entirety of his catalog.
4. André 3000
3 stacks didn’t go by André 3000 until the early 2000s. He added the 3000 to his given name, André, because he was always looking toward the future. The first use of the name was for OutKast’s fourth album, Stankonia, which had a significant sonic shift from the group’s previous traditional Hip Hop production to a more wide-reaching and eclectic sound seen in hits like “Ms. Jackson” and “B.O.B.”
There has always been a quality of futurism within Andre’s expression. He never seems to do what anyone expects him to do and resents the idea that he should. This ideology even resulted in André 3000 releasing an instrumental jazz flute album in 2023.
5. 50 Cent
Half a dollar is this rapper’s name. Interestingly enough, a fellow hustler inspired the name. On 50 Cent’s block in Jamaica, Queens, a local drug dealer named Kelvin Martin had the nickname. Curtis James Jackson III admired his prowess, so he adopted the moniker for himself.
The hustler mindset was a huge part of how 50 Cent got to where he is now in his career. His music and business moves are all laced with the survivalist mindset that left him with two options in his upbringing: Get rich or die tryin’.
Earl Stevens always had the “40” — which comes from his taste for 40 ounces of malt liquor or beer — in his artist name from the early aughts. Previously known as “Forty Fonzarelli” and “40-Watter,” he finally decided to just add his first initial to the front. The Bay Area staple has as much bubbliness in his delivery as the drink he’s named after.
E-40 has a catalog of hits to get any party jumping. That said, his most quintessential song is definitely “Tell Me When To Go.” If you can’t pop a few 40s and just catch the vibe when that song comes on at the function, you should just leave.
7. Three 6 Mafia
Triple 6 Mafia at one point or another was comprised of DJ Paul, Juicy J, Project Pat, Lord Infamous, Gangsta Boo, Koopsta Knicca, La Chat, Lil Wyte, Crunchy Black, Playa Fly, Frayser Boy, Indo G and Mr. Del. Though at the beginning when they were just DJ Paul and Lord Infamous, they were called The Serial Killaz. Then, when Juicy J joined the group, they became The Backyard Posse. But when Lord Infamous called them “triple six mafia” in an early verse, the name stuck and never left. The name is derived from “666,” the most widely recognized symbol for the devil, but it was always way more about the number’s demeanor than religious connotation.
Three 6 Mafia never strayed from the horrorcore consistently present in their music. They are to rap what the Saw series is to movies, with a seemingly never-ending catalog of hits.
8. Tech N9ne
Rapper Black Walt blessed Tech N9ne with the rapper name inspired by the TEC-9 handgun. The reason for this affiliation to the weapon is because Tech N9ne has one of the most automatic weapon-like flows of all time. He raps faster than 99 percent of MCs, and it always feels like he’s attacking the beat.
The Kansas City–bred rapper has a crew of Midwest misfits that accompany him on all his projects. He always produces music that’s distinctly left of the center, and proudly delivers to a niche audience that has sustained him for many years.
9. Royce da 5’9”
The numbers in this Detroit MC’s name are from exactly what you think — his height. However, the “Royce” part of Ryan Daniel Montgomery’s rap name comes from a chain he used to own that resembled the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars symbol. Though Royce da 5’9” stands at the average height for men, he’s far from an average rapper. He stands toe-to-toe with Eminem on consistent records.
Royce da 5’9” was also a part of the short-lived yet legendary rap group called Slaughterhouse. He always felt like the leader of the pack since his rhymes packed the most punch. One could say he was uniquely responsible for taking the group to new heights.
How KRS-One got his name is somewhat mythical. Lawrence Parker was homeless as a teenager and happened upon a shelter in Manhattan where he made friends with a group of Hare Krishnas. They naturally started calling him “Krsna” and he liked the nickname enough to use it until he changed it to Kris. Then he shortened it to KRS and then expanded it to KRS-One, as in “KRS The First,” which aligns with his swagger as a rapper and graffiti artist.
It makes perfect sense that this originator on the mic would want to have the first number in his name to solidify his influence. Generations of MCs have taken inspiration from the groundwork he set in the craft of rap.
11. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
One of the first-ever rap groups arrives here on our list. The MCs who made up the Furious Five are Melle Mel, The Kidd Creole, Eddie Morris, Keef Cowboy and Rahiem. While Mel’s name has resonated the most, each of the members was essential to their earth-shattering call-and-response sound over Grandmaster Flash’s notorious scratches.
Their song “The Message” is still one of the most established songs from the early days of the Hip Hop genre. The combined assertion from all of the group’s members will carry on as part of the early intention of rap’s proclamation.
There are six members of Eminem’s Detroit supergroup D12. However, that number was duplicated because they claimed that each of the rappers in the group had split personalities. With the infamous “D” for Detroit, the notorious group became D12.
The trajectory of the group may have been disjointed, but every time they dropped music, they left the zaniest impression on rap. The rappers’ cartoonish behavior in their flows allowed them to live up to the split personalities that inspired the name.
13. 2 Live Crew
While you may have guessed that 2 Live Crew’s name was simply derived from changing the word “too” to “2,” their name does have numeral significance. This explanation is, however, pretty simple as the original group had only two members: Mr. Mixx and Fresh Kid Ice. Of course, when they added their official frontman, Uncle Luke, the group really took off.
Even though 2 Live Crew was named after its number of members, no group in Hip Hop history has represented the phrase “too live” more. The group’s energy in their Miami bass music catalog can still turn any raunchy party up when played at max volume.
14. Jurassic 5
This conscious group still flies too much under the radar for their emphatic contributions to the genre. The forming of their name happened when member Chali 2na played an original demo for his mother and she said they sounded like the “Fantastic Five.” Of course, this references Grandwizard Theodore & the Fantastic Five, the legendary ’80s rap group.
In a quick-witted response based purely on what felt right, Chali 2na responded by saying that he thought they sounded more like the Jurassic 5. The name stuck and carried them through their careers of bombastic tracks on wax with a dinosaur-like boom.
15. 3rd Bass
This rap group’s name is a play on words that developed organically. The group was composed of three members: Pete Nice, MC Serch and DJ Daddy Rich, which is where the 3 in the name came from. The switch from the baseball “base” to “bass” is obvious, as they wanted to make speakers knock. Where the baseball reference came from is unknown. However, when the group disbanded, Pete Nice became a renowned baseball memorabilia collector, which means that the interest was always there.
While the group’s reign wasn’t very long-lasting, their hits like “Gasface” and “Pop Goes The Weasel” have certainly stood the test of time. While their legacy gets a bit buried beneath the Beasties as far as ’80s white rap groups, they have certainly still made a real impact on the genre.
If you only remember the group D4L for their hit single “Laffy Taffy,” you wouldn’t be the only one. They launched that song in the ringtone dance move rap era, which was the perfect time to catapult the single to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. The “4” in their name is derived from the abbreviation of “down for life.” The phrase was shortened to D4L by the group’s investor and founder, the late great Shawty Lo.
While Shawty Lo was the backbone of the group, the frontman was the charismatic Fabo. His raspy and funky delivery set the group up for success and was perfect for the era.
This young New Orleans–bred rapper has a name that is fully representative of where he grew up. Rob 49 was raised in a very specific set of housing projects between the fourth and ninth wards. Thus, he added the “49” to the end of his first name.
Rob49’s sound is very nostalgic and local. It’s impossible not to be reminded of the early days of juvenile when taking in his delivery. It makes complete sense why his numbered name would be aligned with his city.
18. Mack 10
This West Coast legend has a song called “Mack 10s the Name,” which gives insight into his rapper moniker. A MAC-10 is a machine gun, and in the song he raps, “365 look out, I took out n**gas foe they loot / When I drive-by I shoot.”
This quintessential gangsta rapper is as blunt as they come. He wears his image loud and clear and does not shy away from his affiliations and lifestyle. Thus, naming himself after some numeric weaponry makes perfect sense.