On a fateful morning in February, Nigerian songster Daniel Benson, alternatively known as Buju caused a stir online when he announced his name change on his multiple social media platforms. The Lenu singer posted, “It’s not longer “Buju” by the way, call me “Benson” written as BNXN”. This news was greeted by mixed reactions from his fans and the general nigerian music audience, leaving many to postulate several reasons for the change in moniker.
Rumbles from Buju’s camp suggest that this decision was borne out of the fact that his stage name bore similarity to Jamaican reggae and dancehall recording artist Buju Banton. His camp suggests that the identicality of stage names could potentially limit Buju’s discoverability to the international listening audience who are susceptible to mistake one for the other.
To be fair to Buju and his camp, these fears are not unfounded, in the course of my research on Buju’s name change, Google’s top suggestion was “Buju Banton changes his name”.
International visibility and brand expansion are not the only reasons why artistes decide to change their names and rebrand themselves. In 1993, seven-time Grammy winning Artiste, Prince, in protest against his record label at the time, Warner Brothers, announced that he would no longer go by the name Prince, but by a “Love Symbol” which was a combination of the gender symbols for the male and female gender. In a flip of the coin, back in Nigeria, through court orders G-worldwide Entertainment stopped Kizz Daniel from continuing with the “Kiss Daniel” moniker for the fact that they owned the copyright to the name. Copyright reasons seem to be the most frequent cause for name change, with the most notable example being “Jackson 5” transitioning to “The Jacksons” after leaving Motown Records who owned the trademark for the name.
Some artistes decide to change names for personal reasons, recently Billionaire rapper and producer, Kanye West successfully filed to change his legal name to “Ye”, while his fellow hip-hop billionaire, Sean Combs has as routinely switched from Puffy and Puff Daddy to P. Diddy and then just Diddy, then back to P. Diddy, and finally Brother Love as announced on Instagram in 2017. Same can be said for hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg, also a repeat offender. The Grammy nominated rapper and Superbowl headliner has gone by the names, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Snoop Dogg and Snoop Lion.
For other artistes, the motivation for their name change comes from a place of personal or audience growth; No longer seeing himself as a kid, Saucekid transitioned into Sinzu and in the same stead as a way to reflect his status as an OG in the industry, Innocent Idibia transitioned from Tu-face to Tubaba.
An artiste caught in the quagmire of name change is Wizkid. The global superstar has flirted with various monikers including Wizzy, Starboy, Machala and Big Wiz in a seemingly covert effort to replace the name that originally brought him fame and recognition. However, in 2016 the hopes Wizkid had to become internationally known as “Starboy” was brought to a screeching halt by the massive single and album Starboy released by The Weeknd at the end of the year.
While the Wizkid brand and name is unmistakable in Nigeria, it has just begun to gather global awareness and it can be fairly argued that a name change may prove unfavorable to the artiste in the global market.
For Buju, this is the best and worst time for him to switch stage names; on the one hand he has just began to place his foot firmly in the Nigerian mainstream scene and this brand change has the potential to take him a few steps backwards in terms of brand visibility and recognition. One can even argue that the new name BNXN seems western, unrelatable and foreign to the Nigerian audience. On the other hand, Buju’s sights are firmly fixed on the international market, and if Wizkid’s “Starboy” episode with The Weeknd is anything to learn from, Buju must have weighed the disadvantage of having your brand identity co-opted by a bigger global artiste, and for him the earlier the name change, the better.
Personally, I would have preferred for Buju to take the Cristiano Ronaldo approach. At the onset of Cristiano’s career, his Brazilian namesake and football icon, Delima Ronaldo was already a historic three-time world best footballer, but fast forward to two decades later, through sheer brilliance and consistency, Cristiano Ronaldo is unarguably the more recognized and accomplished Ronaldo.
Maybe Buju is a Messi fan.