5 Artists Who Have Killed Their Alter Egos

For some musicians, having an alter ego is a key to their success. When it comes to performance, mystery, artistry, or some other form of creativity, having a mask, whether literally or metaphorically, can be a benefit. Sometimes another side of you can come out when you don a costume, take another name, or create an alter ego and, with that, better work can come forth.

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These five musicians here below are examples of that. They are five very famous songwriters and performers who have helped shape the history of popular music. But along their creative journeys they have also chosen to kill their alter egos and take off the proverbial masks. Let’s dive into their stories now.

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Eminem (aka Slim Shady)

According to the hip-hop news outlet XXL Magazine, the Detroit-based rapper Eminem is in the process of making a new album and killing the rap persona that helped make him a star. When the lyricist, born Marshall Mathers, first came onto the scene in the late 1990s, produced by Dr. Dre, he was introduced as a maniac without conscience. But that was just his “Slim Shady” side. Now, reports XXL, Shady is not long for Em’s world. Writes the rap outlet on X, “Eminem continues the rollout for his new album The Death of Slim Shady (Coupe De Grâce) with a Slim Shady obituary published in the Detroit Free Press.” That obit concludes, “May he truly find the peace in an afterlife that he could not find on Earth.”

Garth Brooks (aka Chris Gaines)

Another late-1990s phenomenon, Chris Gaines was the alter ego of country star Garth Brooks. While on one hand Brooks was packing arenas for his giant shows, he was also crafting another persona for his musical outlet. Gaines was a rock music side of Brooks, created as a fictional movie character for the film The Lamb, which never quite got off the ground. But Gaines did appear in musical form when, in 1999, Brooks released the album Garth Brooks in…the Life of Chris Gaines, which produced two Billboard-charting singles and remains the only evidence Gaines ever existed.

Abel Tesfaye (aka The Weeknd)

The 34-year-old pop star long known as The Weeknd was born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. And now, he says, he’s leaving behind his stage name, which he’s had since 2009, and returning to his given one. Last year, The Weeknd changed all of his social accounts to reflect his birth name, saying he wanted to “kill” his stage moniker and “be reborn.” Tesfaye told W Magazine last year, “It’s getting to a place and a time where I’m getting ready to close The Weeknd chapter.” He added, “I’ll still make music, maybe as Abel, maybe as The Weeknd. But I still want to kill The Weeknd. And I will. Eventually. I’m definitely trying to shed that skin and be reborn.” What his first major project as Abel Tesfaye will look or sound like is anyone’s guess.

David Bowie (aka Ziggy Stardust)

David Bowie, the British-born rock artist known for bending genres and releasing hit singles like “Heroes” and “Let’s Dance,” is also known for his alien character from Mars, Ziggy Stardust. He took on the stage persona from 1972-73, releasing the popular album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972 and the follow-up Aladdin Sane the next year. With a lightning bolt across his face, Bowie as Stardust sang of outer space and astronauts. It was an incredibly popular character but Bowie quickly grew tired of it and the demands it put on him, retiring Ziggy after playing one final show in October 1973 at The Marquee in London. Once Ziggy was gone, Bowie’s next two albums were Pin Ups in 1973 and Diamond Dogs in 1974.

Tupac Shakur (aka Makaveli)

In 1996, shortly after the murder of the brash rapper Tupac Shakur, the album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory was released under his new moniker Makaveli. That name was a play on the name of the Italian philosopher Machiavelli, who was a ruthless wartime thinker. Today, the alter ego for Tupac is still associated with the late rapper, given his sharp-minded, though at times brutally aggressive lyrics. Today, the record is the only one associated with the Makaveli moniker, despite a handful of more albums that were released after his death.

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