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12th March 2013

Rapper’s Delight

Damilola Ade-Odiachi examines the changes to hip-hop style over the years

There can be no better example of style improvement than that which has occurred among the male hip hop stars in the world. It may be said that the bulk of us in the United Kingdom were spared from the truly astounding and unspeakable styles that were popular in the past. It was fashion fail after fashion fail: from the MC Hammer pant to the bling, the bedazzled belts to the grills, the baggy trousers to the over-sized tees, and don’t get me started on the du-rags and skullcaps. I, however, glued to MTV USA for the greater part of my teenage years, was not turned off. I recall wearing a pair of South Pole jeans so large that I could have squeezed my entire pubescent body into one of their legs (see: Soulja Boy, below).


It would be remarkably simple to assume that it is only because the hip hop greats we know now have escaped the experimental trappings of youth that we have observed such a remarkable change in style, but this would not be true. Relatively young hip hop artistes like Drake have shown markedly better taste and good sense when it comes to what they wear.


The most noticeable improvement to the style of most hip hop stars is that their clothes are now more fitted and more flattering as excess fabric never hides; it only ever amplifies. Other noticeable style upgrades include the significant reductions in the size of bling, the retiring of aforementioned du-rags and skullcaps and the phasing out of sunglasses indoors.

picture: (left) Nathaniel Goldberg for GQ (right)

Jay-Z has probably made the most progress in his personal style. It wasn’t too long ago that he tied a t-shirt around his head like it was some sort of hat. Thankfully those days are far behind him. At Obama’s presidential inauguration earlier this year, he stunned in a brilliantly cut and fitted Tom Ford suit. He followed this with a feature in Justin Timberlake’s Suit and Tie video where all suits, shirts, ties and shoes were designed by Tom Ford.

There can be no doubt that as these stars have become more successful their wardrobes have become more stylish. Kanye West is a regular on the front row these days, and there is no doubt that these style make-overs go hand in hand with the commercialization of hip hop and its acceptance into the mainstream music scene. Outspoken they may still be, but these rappers are now the norm, and powerfully represent the influential relationship between two of the worlds most lucrative industries: fashion and music.

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