Style is more than just fashion. Style is a way of living life, of leaving its mark on the world, of identifying who you are and what is important to you. And look like a fucking boss. There’s no doubt who’s leading the style trends right now: the hip-hop elite. It’s not even close. Every brand has a relationship with someone who spits bars, and even if they don’t, their customers are influenced by them. / It’s time to name names. Here are the 21 style elite of the hip-hop world, with some explanation as to why they’re here with us today. / Hip-hop is not the oldest musical genre, but in 2016 it is not the youngest either. There are icons that have come and left their mark in a big way, but our focus is on who is still alive, whether they’re still on the charts or not.
21. Two chains
Two Chainz launched a career with a name based on a bold style movement: literally wearing two chains. This guy may look like pure flash, but his has stood up to this criticism after that first press of fame. His extracurricular activities focused on spending a lot of money (see: GQ‘s The most expensive shit series), and he always wears his money on his neck – or his wrist or his waist – but make no mistake, this guy writes rhymes and shines while he does.
20. Flavor Flavor
Admit it you look at the picture of Flava Flav and you don’t recognize him but you see the big clock around his neck and know it must be him. You could post a picture of a cat wearing a big watch as a necklace and you would think it’s Flava Flav. That’s the value of a signature look. It takes balls to wear something like this around your neck everyday forever, but that’s exactly what Flav did. Maybe you can’t name a single one of his songs, maybe you only know his voice from his dating show, but thanks to a commitment to the clock around his neck he will never be forgotten. .
19. André 3000
The most iconic thing about Andre 3000 is his broad smile, but next to that are his glasses and eclectic taste. Never afraid of a pork pie hat, bow tie or silly costume, Andre uses style as a tool for self-expression, not a burden in building identity. In an industry where everyone takes themselves way too seriously, Andre is having fun with anything that ultimately has more of an impact than some of the others on this list.
Few artists go through the intense focus of living positive lives like Common, let alone do so in public. In 2011, he faced a race-fueled controversy for performing at a White House poetry reading, but his style focused on clarity of message and healthy living. His style followed. If he’s not wearing a collared shirt, he’s wearing a sweater or turtleneck. It is far from bad publicity for Men’s Warehouse, we are giving it the benefit of the doubt.
17. DJ Khaled
There aren’t any Jordan sneakers that DJ Khaled doesn’t get early on, and that makes sense – his social media following is insane. His followers are loyal and passionate, exactly the public open to know the keys to success. They follow her every move and take notes – it helps move products for all the brands involved. A lot. Does that mean everything he wears is beautiful? Surely not. But he’s incredibly influential. (Also, we still don’t understand what he’s doing. Can someone help us?)
10. Run DMC
It’s not everyday that you run into Run DMC anymore, but the mere mention of the name brings up images of tone-on-tone outfits, wide-brimmed hats, shell toes, and chunky lace-up sneakers (they prefer Adidas.) Even though all of these style cues went out of style after Run DMC fell off the charts, each one returned, making the group either timeless or premonitory. Hip-hop isn’t very good at respecting its elders, always going after (while deifying those who pass), but Run DMC is still playing, maintaining the style choices they made popular. When you lace up your Fenty Creepers, remember where it came from.
Queen Bey might not be the best artist when it comes to fashion, but Beyoncé’s style is on the cards. After all, there’s more to style than clothes. Style is about how a life is lived and what one looks like while doing it. She’s a woman who used one of the most visible and powerful positions in the world, the Superbowl Halftime Show, to sit America down and have a conversation about race – while dressing herself and her dancers, with a look that is still reproduced these months later. This, ladies and gentlemen, takes a lot of style.
8. Yassin Bey
Rather Yasiin Bae, amirite? The artist formerly known as Mos Def brought this OG “hipster” look to fashion. We think of “hipsters” as the gentrification of white flannels, but in reality the term was coined in the 1940s to classify jazz aficionados. Bey’s affinity for well-cut jackets and pants of quality suits, oxford shirts and sophisticated hats bring a flair hard to find in any genre. Although her styling is subtle, in context her appearance defies expectations and is crucial for anyone worthy of being part of the elite. There is a story to what he does, even a touch of social subversion. But you don’t have to think about it too hard – just admit that it looks good.
2016 was the heyday of Normcore, the style trend that made it cool to dress like your dad. No one mastered this look like Drake with his turtlenecks, chunky glasses, and puffy winter coats – even wearing them throughout his “Hotline Bling” video which has become a living meme. It was all a meme! Now that Normcore has reached its expiration, it’s time for Drake to find his next niche. We give him the benefit of the doubt that he will find the new incarnation of Drake and that we will love him as he loves every girl he has ever seen.
While she may not be widely regarded as the queen of hip-hop, there is no other woman who can hold a Rihanna-style candle right now. She revolutionized Puma’s identity as Creative Director, bringing an entire generation or two back to the brand, making her one of the most powerful hip-hop figures in sneakers, regardless of gender. She not only kills in streetwear, but she also challenges everyone in tailoring. Even when the Westes catch a glimpse of something wild they chose to wear to a Met Gala, it’s Rihanna who ends up dominating the conversation for weeks. Part of his power comes from his status as an outsider, something that needs to be reconsidered for a long time. Bow down.
5. Young thug
We’re going to say it loud and clear: America needs more Young Thug. In a time of mass uncertainty and resistance to learning from the experiences of others, Young Thug is at least eight breaths of fresh air. His rejection of gender norms and his ability to wear clothes he loves because he loves them, whether it’s an Alessandro Trincone dress, gold lamé pants, or a fuzzy hat , is not only great, it is necessary. Fashion and style are about clothes and conventions. Young Thug uses one to disrupt the other. Perfect.
Tupac’s death in 1996 meant he would miss out on hip-hop’s current obsession with style and the variety that came with it. Tupac lived with baggy pants and the inelegant “threshing woman” undershirt, two looks that have mostly expired. But Tupac’s signature – the bandana tied with the knot – has become an icon and has survived him well. That’s why he’s on this elite lifestyle list: An element of his look has survived the tides and changes in fashion that most of the other people on this list go through every season. His was a pillar.
3. Kanye West
There was a time when Kanye was at the top of this list, but the boy had the mighty fallen (just at number 3 though.) Kanye’s touch created trends that have lived on for seasons, featuring Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent in the foreground. from the streets, to usher in a generation of children wearing neutral tracksuits that are way too big for them. But lately, its more comfortable style – shall we say “homeless” – has made us reconsider. We hope he has just gone through a phase and will return to the top soon enough.
2. A $ AP Rocky
The identity of hip-hop has been linked to street fashion from the start. It came with a deep inspiration from high fashion houses, and no one got more engaged than A $ AP Rocky. Not only were his looks impeccably trimmed, but he mixed ups and downs so expertly that he almost made them his own world. Everything he wears, whether it’s Topman at the Met Gala or filling his mouth with diamonds for a movie screening, is a meditation on convention.
When you think of Pharrell and style, it’s a wild mishmash of risk-taking, going overboard, and failed trends. He doesn’t hit 1000 here, but no one swings as much as he does. Style is about more than getting it right all the time, it’s about experimenting, challenging expectations, and revealing a vision of possibilities beyond what people think. Pharrell does it over and over again, whether he’s working with Domeau & Pérès to make a bike or Kiehl’s to make an Acai Spray, he’s always up to something. Remember, Adidas went to Pharrell’s before going to Kanye’s. Pharrell may not have the omnipresent star power like the others on this list, but when it comes to seeing and living that vision: there is no one better.