Changing your stage name is a risky business, especially after having spent years building a brand from a marketing perspective. Timed with the mid-Feb release of his powerful new single To The Gates, live favourite Afro hip hop artist Unchained XL announced his decision to drop that established moniker in favour of a shiny new one, Mazbou Q.
In a statement on social media explaining the change, Hugh Ozumba points out that the new name was encoded from his birth name, but enigmatically leaves an explanation to its meaning open for his fans to figure out. Suitably intrigued, NZM asked him to elaborate on the thinking behind his decision to step out of being Unchained XL, and some of the more practical implications.
“I knew it was going to be an uphill battle, and at least at the start, there would be a number of people who wouldn’t be convinced by it immediately. It was actually my inner circle who probably gave me the most resistance. I knew however it wasn’t out of spite, but the fact that they too had invested in the name and brand ‘Unchained XL’ and were concerned about what the future would hold for us. But once I explained to them the heart and soul behind the change, they quickly came around and became excited for me.
“I was aware of the obstacles that came with rebranding but also aware of the fact that it would never get easier with time. The more I released music, videos, images, and performed under the name brand Unchained XL the more difficult it would be. I figured that the best time to do it was as soon as possible, given that I hadn’t really released anything that had truly ‘broken through’ so to speak, and so there wasn’t exactly a huge audience to bring around anyway!
“Perhaps the toughest hurdle was the prospect of starting from the beginning on Spotify. I was presented with the opportunity to carry my previous discography over to Mazbou Q but I decided not to, as the music that I’m about to roll out is significant enough of a development to constitute a ‘fresh start’. (There was also the practical issue of many of my songs having vocal callbacks to Unchained XL.)
“In my post I say, “I’ll leave you to figure out how,” because I don’t want to go on record explaining how the name is related to my birth name. I would prefer that info to disseminate organically from people who I have told if it must, but I’m quite happy to leave that cloaked in a bit of mystery!”
Made with the support of NZ On Air.