Getting into the game in the rap world can be hard enough as it is. But doing it in the fashion world too? It can get ugly. Many rap artists have created or attempted to create their own clothing line. Some brands change the culture, others simply exist within it. Here are some of the most notable fashion brands created by hip-hop artists. Dressing like rap stars is now within your grasp, in urban style from trainers to jackets.
Let's discover these rappers who have made their mark on streetwear fashion.
In 1999, Jay Z was preparing his fourth studio album, Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter. He teamed up with Dame Dash, and together they founded the Rocawear brand. The brand was huge in the hip-hop world in the early 2000s. The help of Ciara, Chris Brown and Three 6 Mafia for publicity didn't hurt. Since then, Rocawear has modernised, focusing on the street styles we've seen since 2010 while still sporting a classic, clean logo. This is Jay Z's label, a must-have in your wardrobe, just like the big urban brands. Jay Z explores the world of the jumper through the timeless hoodie.
In 1998, Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Puffy, etc.) launched a unique collection of sportswear under his first name, Sean John. The collection was a huge success, leading Combs to create an entire brand around it. Since then, the brand has ditched its cursive-style logo and bagginess, synonymous with early 2000s hip-hop fashion, in exchange for a more modern and clean look. But he hasn't forgotten his streetwear influences, adapting them into jumpers, sweatshirts and other clothing. Puff Daddy's urban fashion has been the rapper's own style for years, in a cleaner line, including jogging suits, T-shirts, the timeless shorts or beanie and coat, but also jackets.
Just after the release of his first studio album Get Rich or Die Tryin' in 2003, 50 Cent teamed up with Marc Ecko (founder of the streetwear brand Ecko) to create the G-Unit clothing line. The brand was similar to the common style of rappers in the mid-2000s, with extremely baggy jeans with sewn-in back pockets. Apparently, 50 Cent planned to relaunch the brand with a spring collection in 2009, but it never came to fruition. Perhaps he was too preoccupied with his other business ventures, such as headphones, or promoting a brand of vodka on social media. However, 50 Cent remains committed to low top trainers, tracksuits, his parka and down jacket, cap, sweatshirt and t-shirt, all in an oversized style. The designers have worked on his range in a more fashionable, casual spirit.
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 just about anything else you can think of. Although Wu-Tang member Method Man was once quoted as hating the brand, that didn't stop him, RZA and Cappadonna from creating a clever promotional song for the brand called Wu Wear: The Revival of Clothing. Like true influencers, they were able to spread their fashion.
In 2005, Pharrell Williams and Japanese fashion icon Nigo joined forces to create the streetwear brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. Billionaire Boys Club was launched in late 2005 as a partner company to Nigo's already popular brand, A Bathing Ape (BAPE). It's no secret that Pharrell is a colourful character (his new grids may tell you that), the BBC and Ice Cream complement Pharrell's unique character. The BBC often features its astronaut logo with some bright splashes of colour. The brand's fluorescent colours have since influenced the new wave of bright, eye-catching streetwear designed by other fun hip-hop icons, including Tyler, the designer. There are colourful hip hop influenced jackets, hats and other accessories.
TYLER, THE CREATOR
Naming your clothing brand after a popular American sport may not be the best idea, but since when did Odd Future's Tyler do what you'd expect? Not to be confused with Odd Future's official clothing line, Tyler's GOLF line consists of his own creations and designs. Tyler cites Pharrell Williams as one of his biggest influences in both music and fashion, which is clearly evident when looking at his clothing line. Tyler combines bold lettering with his love of bright colours for his streetwear. The brand is a perfect encapsulation of Tyler himself: the funky colours, the sometimes controversial designs and a hint of immaturity. He has even teamed up with Vans.
In 2012, everything was bright. Lil Wayne helped push this movement even further down this eccentric path with his own clothing brand, Trukfit. The name comes from a term used to describe fake clothes, as Wayne wanted to give the term a new meaning. The name of the brand becomes ironic, as a lot of the text is an outline of other street brands, except that the name Trukfit is stylised to match the logo. Where it doesn't feature borrowed motifs, it has latched onto other popular designs of the time, such as rounded camouflage and Aztec prints, mainly for men. Here, however, we are dealing with designer trousers in skinny, slim and wider cuts. The various cuts of clothing are also found in a range of T-shirts, both short and long sleeved.
Hip-hop fashion has evolved remarkably: from the baggy spirit of brands like Sean John and Rocawear to the era of bright colours and skate-inspired streetwear, thanks to brands like Pharrell and Tyler. Today, it has moved into the era of minimalism. Kanye West, the fashion icon himself who started trends such as the backpack, shutter glasses, leather joggers and all the sometimes high-top red trainers, has moved to a new frontier of clothing design. His Yeezy line focuses on muted colours and basic patterns, with a little detail to add that typical Kanye flair. The stripped-down designs and muted colours have taken hip-hop streetwear into a new casual phase, with comfortable, sometimes loose-fitting, tracksuit-like clothing.
So what could be next for the ever-changing world of urban hip-hop fashion? Will the baggy era of the early 2000s make a comeback? Or will Yeezy-inspired minimalism stick around for years? Or maybe the classic white streetwear tank top and gold chain will make a comeback. Urban culture and especially fashion in the world of hip-hop is as unique and ever-changing as the artists in the genre. With new artists constantly pushing the boundaries of the music and fashion world, the new hip-hop trend could be just around the corner (in ready-to-wear), still holding influences from its label collaborations, but also from the street sportswear that started it all (skateboarding).