Listomania: The Five Best and Five Worst Alter Egos in Music

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Tonight, groundbreaking experimental rapper Kool Keith will be gracing The Loft with his presence.

And we're hella stoked.

Not only is the rapper one of our favorites, but his skill set is undeniable and his advancements in the "horrorcore" and "porncore" genres are fairly irrefutable. Plus. he's just plain fascinating -- a real wild-card.

Hey, what else would anyone expect from a man with so many alter egos?

While time-traveling as Dr. Octagon, then masquerading as Octagon's eventual murderer, the serial killer Dr. Dooom, and then performing as the fan favorite Black Elvis, Keith's somehow managed to put out innovative records under each of his personas.

So, in honor of tonight's visit from the king of the split personalities, we thought we'd take a moment to list both our top five and bottom five alter-egos. Check out the lists after the jump.

The Five Best Alter Egos in Music

5. T.I./T.I.P.
Feuds are nothing new in the rap world (Biggie vs Tupac, Fitty vs Kanye, etc.) but, in 2007, T.I. became the first rapper to feud with himself. On his concept album T.I. vs T.I.P., the rapper opted to tack on the extra consonant to his moniker in order to rap as both the smooth businessman T.I. and the grittier, street-friendly T.I.P. Each has their own portions on the album, but it's the four tracks where the two personas go at it that makes it a worthwhile listen.

4. Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana
This alter ego concept worked so well on the television show that Cyrus' Disney handlers decided to give it a spin in real life. Cyrus has released albums as both personas and has even opened for herself on tour. It's definitely not the coolest persona on the list, but as both are so equally well known, it is arguably (as difficult as it is to admit) the most successful.

3. Eminem/Slim Shady
Eminem is undoubtedly one of the most successful rappers of all time, with much of the credit going to his wildly popular/offensive Slim Shady personality. While Em uses his real name to rap about serious, more personal issues, he'll readily whip out Shady any time a celebrity needs dissing. It also makes for a handy excuse -- i.e. "Oh, it wasn't me who was bashing those gays, it was totally Slim Shady."

2. Gene Simmons/Demon
Simmons' fire-breathing, blood-spitting Demon character is not only one of the best live performance concepts ever conceived -- earning his band the nickname 'The Hottest Show on Earth' in the process -- but one of the best marketing strategies as well. For anyone crying foul on this one, just go back and take a gander at how disinterested Gene looked during the 'Unmasked' years.

1. David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust
When Bowie reemerged in 1972 as the ostentatiously androgynous spaceman Ziggy Stardust, he not only dramatically impacted the course of his career, but he left a permanent impression on the visual and artistic aspects of music and performance to boot. The concept album and concert film released during this period are considered some of the most adored of all time.

The Five Worst Alter Egos in Music

5. Kevin Barnes/Georgie Fruit
Whether one buys into notion that a character called Georgie Fruit supposedly had a hand in writing the last few of Montreal albums is not of consequence. What really kills this alter ego is how the backstory keeps changing. For instance, in 2006 Fruit was said to be a "gay, black she-male" and then, more recently, Barnes was quoted as calling him/her a "late 40s, a black man who has been through multiple sex changes. He's been a man and a woman, and then back to a man. He's been to prison a couple of times. In the '70s he was in a band called Arousal, a funk-rock band sort of like the Ohio Players." Right.

4. Beyonce/Sasha Fierce
Although Lady Jay-Z did name drop her alter-ego in the title of her last album, and the two halves of the double disc did have drastically different tones, the whole Sasha Fierce premise was an incredibly thin one that never really managed to manifest itself beyond a tool the singer used to get over her stage fright. Fortunately, Fierce won't be making any followup appearances after Beyonce announced she took a page out of Kool Keith's book and killed her. I guess "I Am... Jay-Z's wife" will have to do for now.

3. Justin Bieber/Shawty Mane
As if the mop-headed tween's career couldn't get any more ridiculous/annoying, he's recently appeared in video clips all over the internet where he dishes out freestyle raps as a character he calls "Shawty Mane." Even scarier? Bieber has threatened hinted that this latest round of clips just might not be the last time we hear from the "MC." As laughable as the prospect is, though, who could blame the guy for trying to diversify a little? After all, he's definitely going to need something to fall back on post-puberty...

2. David Johansen/Buster Poindexter
As a member of influential '70s protopunk outfit the New York Dolls, Johansen helped lay the foundation for one of the greatest movements in rock history. After the Dolls dissolved and a solo bid was only met with marginal success, Johansen reemerged as the annoyingly slick-haired lounge singer Buster Poindexter. If his over the top mannerisms and pretentious ego of this thinly-veiled guise weren't enough drive you crazy, then surely the opening refrains of "Olay Olay Olay Olay" on his biggest hit, "Hot Hot Hot," would do the trick.

1. Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines
Hands down, Chris Gaines is biggest fail in musical alter ego history. Garth's fatal flaw perhaps lies in the fact that, after a decade on top of the country world, releasing over a half-a-dozen No. 1 albums, and amassing tens of millions of records sold, he simply waited too long to roll out the Gaines persona. Brooks was so ingrained into public perception at this point that folks didn't fail to buy into the gimmick -- instead, they genuinely thought he might have gone crazy. So failed was the bit that The Lamb, the movie that the Gaines character was devised for in the first place, was scrapped in pre-production. 

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.