Words by Brian Wilder
From Snoop’s immaculate press and curls to Coolio’s wiry braids, there has been a long, illustrious line of musicians who have pushed the boundaries of style and—particularly—hair since the birth of hip hop. Here, we take a look at just a few of the most iconic styles and break down how they were instrumental in standing out amongst the pack.
Kanye West’s Unique Patterning
Kanye has cycled through his fair share of notable hairstyles, but he reached peak Kanye when he showed up to the 57th Grammys in 2015 with a most elaborate pattern etched into his damn skull, like something from a Spirograph. Ultimately, he set his tone that day and showed that style can come in the most surprising forms sometimes.
Raekwon’s Wavy Half-Moon
If you talk about moments in the freshest hairstyles in hip hop history then you gotta mention Raekwon The Chef, without a doubt. He came blasting onto the scene with the Wu over twenty years ago and that was when we forever cemented Rae and Ghost as the top slang spitters in the game, as vibrant as their purple Wallabees and colored Nautica jackets. Naturally, Raekwon was a connoisseur of all things fresh and he pulled off the wavy half-moon like no one ever could. The perfect mix of street and clean.
Pharrell’s Color Palette
Never in the history of hip hop has there ever been a poignant trendsetter as charismatic as Pharrell Williams. His legendary status is earned through decades of trial and error, with one thing as his constant – never follow the trend. His approach to switching up hair colors and style speaks loud in his overall approach to life, in that if you’re willing to take the risks, you’re more than certain to reap the rewards. Be bold.
There aren’t many people who have a head of hair they can say has broken world records before, but the drummer for The Roots and resident hip-hop historian once fit over 100 afro picks in his hair as a challenge. No sweat. Questo has always been known for his iconic ‘fro, and whether fans try to celebrate it or emulate it, there’s no question that Q has been keeping the afro relevant for decades.
Snoop Dogg’s Plaits
Over the past few decades, Snoop has experimented with his fair share of hairstyles, from press ‘n curl kits and blowouts to straight-back braids and even dreads. But it was his West Coast plaited braids that helped catapult his image across the country and back. How many grown men you know can rock some 8th-grade braids and still look like they could whoop yo ass? Exactly.
Danny Brown’s Undershave
In an era where artists’ hairstyles are starting to resemble a bag of Skittles, there’s something sobering about Danny Brown’s asymmetrical under-shave that was both foreign and familiar. His crazy hair matched his off-kilter lyrical style and it was refreshing to witness in an otherwise boring sea of Ceasar cuts and two-toned dreads.
For some, hair is probably the last thing you’d think about when breaking down some of the best moments in hip hop history, but there’s a long and sometimes chaotic past that comes with how hair has affected the way some artists have been perceived in the public eye.
It’s damn-near undeniable the power (and controversy) hair has created over time for rappers, especially those of color, so it’s only fitting to pay homage to those who were able to shape a new legacy for others through beats, rhymes and a well-placed fade.