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Making it in the rap game can be hard enough as it is. But making it in the fashion world as well? That can get ugly. Plenty of rap artists have—or attempted to—create their own clothing line. Some brands shift the culture, others just exist within it. Here are some of the most notable fashion brands created by hip-hop artists.
In 1999, Jay Z was prepping his fourth studio album, Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter he joined forces with Dame Dash, and together they founded Rocawear. The brand was huge in the hip-hop world in the early 2000s. Having Ciara, Chris Brown, and Three 6 Mafia help advertise definitely didn’t hurt.
Rocawear has since become more modern, focusing on the street styles we’ve seen since 2010 while still featuring that clean, classic logo.
In 1998, Sean Combs (A.K.A. Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Puffy, etc) launched a single collection of sportswear under his given name, Sean John. The collection was successful, leading Combs to create an entire brand around it.
Fresh off the release of his debut studio album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ in 2003, 50 Cent teamed up with Marc Ecko (founder of streetwear brand Ecko) to create the G-Unit clothing line. The brand was similar to the common style of rappers in the mid-2000s, featuring those extremely baggy jeans with some sort of image stitched into the back pockets.
Apparently, 50 planned to re-launch the brand with a spring collection in 2009, but it never came to fruition. He might have been too preoccupied with his other business ventures, like headphones, or promoting a brand of vodka all over social media.
With one of the most recognizable logos in music history, Wu-Tang’s clothing line, Wu-Wear, has become increasingly popular over the years. That iconic “W” continues to appear on shirts, hoodies, phone cases, and almost anything you can think of.
Though Wu-Tang member Method Man was once quoted hating on the brand, that didn’t stop him, RZA and Cappadonna from creating a gimmicky promotional song for the brand, titled Wu Wear: The Garment Renaissance
In 2005, Pharrell Williams and Japanese fashion icon Nigo paired up and created streetwear brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. Billionaire Boys Club launched in late 2005 as a partner company to Nigo’s already successful A Bathing Ape (BAPE).
It is no secret that Pharrell is a colourful character (his new grills might tell you that), both BBC and Ice Cream complement Pharrell’s uniqueness. Many of the BBC feature his astronaut logo with some splashes of bright colours. The fluorescent colours of the brand have since influenced the new wave of bright and eye-catching streetwear designed by other fun icons in hip-hop—including Tyler, the Creator.
Naming your clothing brand after a popular American sport may not be the best idea, but when has Odd Future frontman Tyler, the Creator ever done anything you’d expect? Not to be confused with the official Odd Future clothing line, Tyler’s GOLF line is all his own designs and creations. Tyler cites Pharrell as one of his biggest influences in both music and fashion, clearly evident when looking at this clothing line.
Tyler combines bolded lettering as well as his love for stand-out colours for his clothing. The brand is a perfect encapsulation of Tyler himself: The funky colours, the sometimes controversial designs and a little hint of immaturity. He’s even gone on to collab with Vans.
In 2012, everything was bright. Lil Wayne helped push this movement even more down this eccentric path with his own clothing brand, Trukfit.
The name comes from a term used to describe fake clothing, as Wayne wanted to give the term a new meaning. The brand’s name becomes ironic, as a lot of the text designs are outlines from other street brands, except with the Trukfit name stylized to match the logo. When it doesn’t feature borrowed designs, it latched onto other popular designs at the time like rounded camouflage and Aztec prints.
Hip-hop fashion has evolved in a remarkable way: From the baggyness of brands like Sean John and Rocawear to the era of bright colours and skate-inspired streetwear courtesy of those like Pharrell and Tyler. Now, it’s moved into an era of minimalism.
Kanye West, the fashion icon himself who started such fashion trends as backpacks, shutter shades, leather joggers, and all red sneakers, has moved into a new frontier of clothing design. His Yeezy line features heavy emphasis on toned down colours and basic designs with a small detail to add that typical Kanye flair. The bare designs and muted colouring has pushed hip-hop streetwear into a new phase.
So what could be next for the ever-evolving world of hip-hop fashion? Will the early-2000s baggy era make a comeback? Or will Yeezy-inspired minimalism stay for years? Or maybe the classic white tank and gold chain will make a comeback. The fashion in the hip-hop world is as unique and ever-changing like the artists within the genre. With these new artists continuously pushing boundaries in the world of music and fashion, the newest trend in hip-hop could be right around the corner. We just hope it won’t include bucket hats.