Hip-Hop Heads Project

Muse: Malissa Dos Santos. Photography: imagenix. Makeup: Krystyl Hernandez.

From Adidas shell toes to shutter shades, the Hip-Hop attitude is about being bold, standing out from the crowd. The Master of Ceremonies, the MC, especially made himself known both in sound and in sight.

For some MCs, their style wasn’t a trend, but their trademark. LL Cool J always sported his Kangol Bermuda Casual bucket hat, whenever, wherever. The style of hat had become so synonymous with LL that Kool Moe Dee used one on the cover of his diss single, “How Ya Like Me Now,” with the wheels of a jeep running over the iconic hat. Run-D.M.C. rapped about their favorite sneakers in “My Adidas.” The members were never seen without a pair on which led to a sponsorship from the brand with the three stripes itself.

Accessories were also cultural, being part of the dress code, like Eazy-E’s black snapback hat and Loc sunglasses which was representative of South Central Los Angeles gangsters at the time. For other acts, items were a mask or a costume. A black haired rubber wig would transform rapper Kool Keith into his “Black Elvis” character. Glasses with an attached fake nose would turn Gregory Jacobs into the loveably weird Shock G a.k.a. “Humpty Hump” of Digital Underground. MF Doom (Metal Face Doom) is virtually unrecognized without his signature Gladiator mask.

Pieces also served a practical purpose such as Slick Rick’s eyepatch covering his blind right eye. Nelly’s Band-Aid was both practical and symbolic, starting off as a bandage for a basketball injury. After the wound healed, Nelly wore it in honor of fellow St. Lunatic member, City Spud, who was serving a prison sentence. Young Jeezy’s angry snowman t-shirt represented being a dope dealer on the streets. There was a raise of concern when kids started to wear copies of Jeezy’s snowman t-shirt to school, known for its dangerous drug connotation. 50 Cent’s bulletproof vest was emblematic of him being struck by nine bullets in a shooting and surviving.

Whether for style, mask, practicality, or symbolism, in SICK STAR’s “Hip-Hop Heads” project with SICKS Degrees Fam Malissa Dos Santos, we pay homage to some of Hip-Hop’s greatest legends and personalities by recreating looks with their iconic accessories.

Assisant: Bri Evert
Special Thanks: Ruthless Truth

“Hip-Hop Heads Project” was a concept that I’d been wanting to pull off for a long time. One of the first pieces I bought was the MF Doom gladiator mask off of eBay. I scooped it up right away when I saw it online.

I met Malissa by way of Robin. I went to Disneyland to shoot our “Disco Is Dead” hat and saw on Facebook that Robin was there too, so I texted her. Robin, Malissa, and their friend Jaclyn all worked at The Light Nightclub in Vegas together and were all spending the weekend at Disneyland. I was just going to meet them up for a bit but ended up spending the whole day with them and drinking too, all the way through closing. I set up a shoot with Robin and a month later we did “Bound.” Robin said saw the photos and told Robin that she was down to shoot too.

I ended up seeing Malissa back at The Light one night and asked if she wanted to shoot and showed her the concept. She was down and I started collecting the props for each person over the next couple of months. I went everywhere, purchasing stuff from eBay, Amazon, Party City, and the indoor mall. I had to go to Home Depot for Treach’s chain and padlock. The Notorious B.I.G. photo with the Coogi sweater is the most expensive shot to date, with an authentic sweater and Versace sunglasses with all the cash. Mars Blackmon is the only non-rapper in the set, but I included him as I thought he was still a notable Hip-Hop personality. All of the personalities were shot in one day, in one long shoot to keep all the photos consistent. Additionally, we shot a Left Eye condom eyeglasses version and a Kanye West “Jesus Walks” version but didn’t feel that they had the right feel so they were cut. Some of the other figures and the accessories they have that I wanted to do but didn’t get to include:
Kanye West – Louis Vuitton backpack & polo shirt & Jesus piece
Redman – tissue paper in nostril
Ras Kass – toothpick
ScHoolBoy Q – bucket hat
Lil Jon – pimp cup / Oakley shades

“Hip-Hop Heads Project” was published as a book and we had a gallery for it alongside our “Greatest Hits Album” Art Show. I matched lyrics of each artist to them explaining their accessories. I also researched where they were from and a bit more into why they wore their notable pieces. Studying Anthropology in school, this is pretty much my like my thesis.

"I'm living that 21st Century, doing something mean to it. Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it" - Power (“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” 2010). Shutter shades - Rapper/producer/fashion icon Kanye West popularized the shutter shades trend, appearing with them in his futuristic music video for his song, "Power." / from Chicago IL
“He cleans his metal mask with gasoline, they after him. Last seen pulling chicks like a fiend pull a fast one” - ? (“Operation Doomsday” 1999). Gladiator mask - “In the beginning he’d throw a bandana (on), whatever he had to do. His idea was to conceal his identity. For his first shows, we went out and got the cheap Halloween masks you wore when you were a kid with the rubber band around the back. That was Darth Maul. It was red and black. I spray painted it silver aluminum Rustoleum and I cut out the shape and square eyes and made a prototype. He rocks that in his first video, he’s got that. But then what we did was we went out and found the whole helmet from the movie Gladiator, so I took just the faceplate off and I took it to my boy who does structure and metal. We shaped it a little and I took the webbing from the yellow construction worker helmets. I took just that, which is a band and another band and i fastened the faceplate so that he could wear it and it would actually swivel up… By DOOM keeping his face concealed, he’s able to have a life.” - KEO “Chapter 48 DOOM: KEO and the Villain: FRANK151” by FRANK151 07.27.12/ from Long Island, NY
“My Adidas and me close as can be. We make a mean team, my Adidas and me. We get around together, we down forever, and we won't be mad when caught in bad weather” - My Adidas (“Raising Hell” 1986). Adidas Superstar sneakers - Run-DMC rapped about their favorite sneakers in My Adidas. The members were never seen without a pair on which led to a sponsorship from the brand with the three stripes itself. They wore their Superstars with tongues out, no laces. / Cazal 607 eyeglasses / Stetson fedora hat / gold dookie rope chain / from Hollis, Queens, New York City NY
“Because ya’ don’t impress me, Dobalina. The style of dress is not the key, Dobalina. It’s all in the mind and the heart, so you should start by remembering ya’ gotta pay a fee, Dobalina” - Mistadobalina (“I Wish My Brother George Was Here” 1991). Headphones / lip ring / nose ring / t-shirt - “… My whole steez is pretty much built upon what George Clinton started - he and his clique are the biggest influence on me, so you’ll see that throughout whatever I do. They’re the greatest musicians.” - Del Tha Funky Homosapien “A.V. Club Interview” 03.12.09 / from Oakland California
“Can I get an eye open up? Easy locin’ up, smokin’ up” - Only If You Want It (“5150 Home 4 Tha Sick” 1992). Black “Compton” hat - Eazy-E (from Los Angeles CA), head of Ruthless Records, told N.W.A.’s members to rock all black for their first show because they were “all stars.” They would continue to wear black as their group uniform. / Loc sunglassess - The style of sunglasses was popular amongst gangsters in South Central Los Angeles in the 90s. / fingerless gloves
“I know you love flossing with X, busting them checks, getting tattoos - paw prints on your chest” - Philly, Philly (“Ruff Ryders’ First Lady” 1999). Paw print tattoos - "I just think it's a form of expression, just like going in the studio, writing a song,” says Eve about tattooing. She had wanted paw prints for a tattoo but having them inked on her chest was originally posed as a dare by a friend. “Now that’s how people recognize me.” - Eve “Billboard’s Marked Up” by Billboard Staff on Billboard 03.26.13 / from Philadelphia PA
“A clock on my chest proves I don’t fess. I’m a clock-a, rock-a rockin’ wit-da-rest” - Cold Lampin’ With Flavor (“It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” - Public Enemy 1998). Viking helmet - “I wear my Viking helmet because the horns define how sharp my brains are. If you try to rub me the wrong way, I will stick you with both of my horns.” - Flavor Flav / wall clock - “Someone in my crew put a shower clock around my neck and dared me to keep it on during our show. I thought the look of the clock around my neck was dope, so I kept it on.” - Flavor Flav “Throwback Thursday: In the 80’s Flavor Flav Made the Clock His Signature Accessory” by Ariel Adams from The Hollywood Reporter 11.27.14
“Guess you figure you know me ’cause I'm a thug. That love to hit the late night club, drunk and buzzed. Been living lavish like a player all day. Now I'm about to floss ’em off, player shit with 4-Tay. Only God can judge me” - Only God Can Judge Me. Nose ring / bandana - 2Pac is often remembered for his look of tying his bandanas in the front. “Let me say for the record, I am not a gangster and never have been. I'm not the thief who grabs your purse. I'm not the guy who jacks your car. I'm not down with people who steal and hurt others. I'm just a brother who fights back. I'm not some violent closet psycho. I've got a job. I'm an artist.” - 2Pac “Tupac Shakur: I am not a gangster’” by Chuck Philips in Los Angeles Times 10.25.95 / from Los Angeles CA
“I’m like the deuce of diamonds cutting spades on a glass table, half a mil’ on my left ankle. Terrycloth Guess shorts, robes is comfortable” - The Champ (“Fishscale” 2006). Bathrobe - Known for his extravagance, Ghostface rocks plush bath robes, dressed in them in music videos and even on the cover of his album, “Bulletproof Wallets” 2001. / hockey mask - “I started to wear the mask because my name is Ghostface Killah, man. I got that name from Mystery of the Chessboxing, a karate flick. Yeah, I was getting my hands dirty back then. Nigga do what he do. But, you know, Ghostface Killah sounds like a man who should have a mask on.” - Ghostface Killah “Keep It Movin’” by Rafael Martinez from Prefix 05.05.06 / from Staten Island, New York City, New York
“Cannons and bandanas, blammers we don’t brandish” - Oh Boy (“Come Home With Me” 2002 - Cam’Ron). Bandana - While many have rocked the bandana before him, wore it with a style all his own. Worn in an array of colors but each one ironed and folded in his signature style, and worn covering one eye and sometimes completely covering both. / from Harlem, New York City, NY
“Black Elvis, rock star, walkin’ down Broadway. What y’all thinkin’ about?” - Black Elvis (“Black Elvis / Lost In Space” 1999). Elvis rubber wig - Black Elvis is one of Kool Keith’s numerous personas. “Black Elvis was my black symbol for the black rockstar. You know the whole symbol of the black rockstar that was popular. I was kind of like the black rockstar of rap, mostly of any other group, or solo artists out there to collaborate with rockstars and electronic bands, all types of big rock bands. I was probably the first in the music industry, besides Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith. I think on a long term base, I think I was the person doing the most collaborations of rock and rap mix, pulling in different audiences.” - Kool Keith “Davey D interviews Kool Keith about Black Elvis” from Davey D’s Hip-Hop Corner-Davey D TV 01.15.12
“I’m The Don” - The Don (“Knowledge Is King” 1989). Porsche Carrera 5620 sunglasses - The shade were first popularized by Kool Moe Dee who many wondered what he looked like without the sunglasses on. / from Manhattan, New York City, NY
“Left Eye don’t mean the rest of my body is irrelevant. In other words, let’s refresh your head about pullin’ down the curtains and breakin’ the waterbed” - Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg (“Ooooooohhh… On The TLC Tip” 1992). Left eye - “Lisa Lopes was renamed "Left Eye", after a compliment from a man who once told her he was very attracted to her because of her left eye. Lopes emphasized her nickname by wearing a pair of glasses with the left lens covered with a condom, in keeping with the group's promotion of safe sex, wearing a black stripe under her left eye, and eventually getting her left eyebrow pierced.” - Lisa Lopes Wikipedia / from Atlanta GA
“Calling all cars, calling all cars… Be on the lookout for a tall light-skinned brother with dimples… Wearing a black Kangol, sweatsuit, gold chain, and sneakers” - I’m Bad (“Bigger and Deffer” 1987). Gold dookie rope chain / Kangol Bermuda bucket hat - Kangol was a popular brand in theHip-Hop scene in the 80’s. LL Cool J became so synonymous with the particular style of Kangol that Kool Moe Dee used one on the cover of his album, “How Ya Like Me Now” (1987), containing a diss track with the same name, with a Jeep’s tire running over the hat. / from Bay Shore NY
“It’s gotta be the shoes.” - Nike Air Jordan commercial. Brooklyn bicycle cap / Cazal glasses / “Mars” gold name chain / Nike Air Jordans - Director/Actor Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon character first appeared in his debut film, “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986). He appeared as a “Brooklyn-loving” and Michael Jordan fan, namely in his Nike Air Jordan sneakers. Spike later appeared as the character in commercials for the shoes and eventually had a line inspired by Mars, called “Spizikes.” / from Brooklyn, NY
“Is it ‘cause they like my gangsta walk? Is it ‘cause they like my gangsta talk? Is it ‘cause they like my handsome face? Is it ‘cause they like my gangsta ways? Whatever it is, they love it” - Area Codes (“Word Of Mouf” 2001 - Ludacris). Bowler hat (Derby) - Always dapper, the crooner of the hooks of many West Coast hits even wore his derby when he wasn’t suited up. / from Long Beach CA
“Holla at Yo, cause I need that custom made - waves, fresh fade, brand new Band-Aid” - Oh Nelly. Du-rag / platinum jewelry / Band-Aid - Nelly’s Band-Aid was both practical and symbolic, starting off as a bandage for a basketball injury. After the wound healed, Nelly wore it in honor of fellow St. Lunatic member, City Spud, who was serving a prison sentence. “I know when he sees me on TV and sees me wearing this Band-Aid, he knows I'm wearing it for him” - Nelly / from St. Louis MO
“This goes out for those that choose to use disrespectful views on the King Of NY. Fuck that, why try? Throw bleach in your eye” - Kick In The Door (“Life After Death” 1997). Crown / gold chain - The iconic image taken by photographer Barron Claiborne for the cover of Rolling Stone in 1997, just 3 days before the rapper’s death shows Biggie with a crown. Biggie used to go by the alias Frank White, the name of Christopher Walken’s character in the movie, “King Of New York”.
"However, I stay Coogi down to the socks. Rings and watch, filled with rocks" ... "I don't know what the hell's stoppin' ya'! I'm clockin' ya', Versace shades watchin' ya'" - One More Chance / Stay With Me (Remix) (“Cut Killer mixtape special lunatic 1995” 1995 - Cut Killer). Coogi sweater - Sweaters from the Australian clothing company were worn by Bill Cosby on “The Cosby Show” in America in the 80s-90s. It wasn’t until Biggie rocked one on the cover of The Source magazine did the sweatshirt become prominent in the world of Hip-Hop. / Versace sunglasses - "I think Biggie was amazing. He came to my shows in Paris many times, and we’d see each other often. He always used to talk so nicely about my family. I think he was so smart, so intelligent. He had such a mind. So I loved what he was doing and how he was giving people a way to know about Versace - I do think a lot of people started to know about Versace because of him." - Donatella Versace, Interview Magazine with Nicki Minaj, December 2011 (interviewmagazine.com) / from New York City NY
“Because I'm happy” - Happy (“Girl” 2014). Pharrell rocked the oversize hat from Vivienne Westwood's Autumn Winter 1982-83 collection, "Buffalo Girls (Nostalgia of Mud)" and a red Adidas jacket at the 2014 Grammy Awards, inspired by the “Buffalo Gals” music video from Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team / born in Virginia Beach VA
“Woke up, I had the same clothes on I had on last night. I must have passed out” - Provider (“In Search Of…” 2002). N*E*R*D mesh foam trucker hat - “I always did the same thing. I've dressed like I make my music. "No one's doing that: I'm gonna go do that." With the trucker hat, it was just a different time. And it was just N.E.R.D. time for me, you know? And that's what we represented—like, the anti-media image. We represented the real: black kids that skated.” - Pharrell Williams “Pharrell williams on Advanced Style Moves and The Oscar Snub: My Song Will “Be Here For 10 Years” by Zach Baron in GQ Magazine 03.14 / born in Virginia Beach, VA
“‘Cause I’m always fresh and guaranteed to pass any MC contest. Like M&M candy we’ll melt in you hand. So be a real live lover in where I stand” - Fat Boys (“Fat Boys” 1984). Boombox / food / coonskin cap - Prince Markie Dee was featured with the Fat Boys, who were very expressive about their enjoyment for food, in the movies, “The Disorderlies” and the Hip-Hop classic “Krush Groove”, where he can be seen rocking his signature cap. / from Brooklyn, NY
“Hip-Hop fashion makes a little sense, but even that is confusing: Does it refer to fashions popularized by Hip-Hop musicians, like my Lego heart pin, or to fashions that participate in the same vague cool that defines Hip-Hop music?” - When The People Cheer: How Hip-Hop Failed Black America (2014). Afro pick / vintage eyewear / Lego brooch - “I found a company in Brooklyn called Dee and Ricky. They make these brooches out of Legos, and they gave Kanye and me the very first ones. It’s a heart made out of Legos. As of lately, I’ve been rocking my nondescript blank hoodies with my Lego heart piece. It’s a great conversation piece.” - ?uestlove “54 Minutes with Questlove” interview by Mike Guy on New York Magazine 03.29.12 / born in Philadelphia, PA
“My nose is big, uh-uh I’m not ashamed. Big like a pickle, I’m still gettin’ paid. I get laid by the ladies, ya’ know I’m in charge, both how I’m livin’ and my nose is large” - Humpty Dance (“Sex Packets” - Digital Underground 1990). Glasses with fake nose - Rapper Shock G would don a pair of glasses with a fake nose attached and become his alter-ego “Humpty Hump.” They used to make 'em connected to the stern Woody Allen-type glasses, but now it's the cheaper, bendy glasses. The slightest pull and the ear-thing pops off. So I buy 'em, tear the mustache off, pop the ear-strap, whatever, and rest it on my nose and put a real pair of glasses on to lock it to my face. - Shock G “Shock G Fesses Up About Humpty Hump” by Philip Mlynar in SF Weekly 05.25.10 / from Oakland CA
“I’m wonderin’, should I begin to kick ya’ mind in ching ‘cause I’m King” - King (“The Ruler’s Back” 1991). Eyepatch - Slick Rick’s eyepatch covers his right eye in which he was blinded when he was an infant. / crown and jewelry - Hip-Hop royalty, Slick Rick a.k.a. “Rick the Ruler” is an ”English-born performer and the most successful British-American rapper in music history” (“Slick Rick” Wikipedia). The British monarchy is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, where the male ruler is known as the “King”. He and his family emigrated to the United States when he was young and settled in The Bronx, NY.
“But why the rubber band? It representing the struggle man. My folk gonna trap until they come up with another plan” - Rubber Band Man (“Trap Muzik” 2004). Atlanta Braves baseball cap - T.I. wears his hats and other headwear tilted in such a way that they look as if they are just floating above his head. This led to one of his fans, “@KriegLaFlare” on Twitter, challenging him to an “anti gravity hat off” in 2016. T.I. accepted the challenge and reclaimed his throne as the anti gravity hat master. / rubber band - “We used to wear rubber bands to signify how much money, how much blow we had,” he says of the origins of his nickname, the Rubber Band Man. “I would wear three rubber bands, and that would probably hold $5,000. If you anticipate making $20,000, you gonna have eight, nine rubber bands on both wrists.” - T.I. “Rubber Band Man” annotation by 2Gatz via MTV on Genius
“‘Cause I’m Naughty by Nature, not ‘cause I hate ya” - Hip-Hop Hooray (“19 Naughty III” 1993 - Naughty by Nature). Padlock - The padlock and chain around Treach’s neck represents his incarcerated friends & family. / baseball bat - A menacing figure in rhyme and persona, Treach is often seen with a baseball bat, chainsaw, or his machete, named “Ali Baba”. / born in East Orange NJ
“Clan in the front, let your feet stomp. Niggas on the left, rag shit to death. Hoods on the right, wild for the night. Punks in the back, come on in the track to what” - Clan In Da Front (“Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers” 1993). Black hoodie / white stocking cap pulled over face - Wu-Tang Clan used to perform with stocking caps over their face. The look was cemented in Hip-Hop history when they appeared faceless on the cover of their debut album. “You’re not showing our faces?” [RZA] I’m like, “Yeah, man, you guys are the Wu-Tang Clan. You’re selling the Wu-Tang Clan. Let’s do this. Let’s get some hoodies, put the logo on there.” They had stickers so they put them on their hoodies. [I was like], “Get some hoodies and then fuckin’ put on the stocking masks, and then we do the cover.” - Daniel Hastings “UNCOVERED: The Making of Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) Album Cover (1993) with Photographer Daniel Hastings in Ego Trip 11.08.13 / from Staten Island, New York City NY
“In my hood they call me Jeezy the Snowman. You get it? Jeez the Snowman. I’m iced out, plus I got that snow, man” - Icy (“Trap House” 2005 - Gucci Mane). Atlanta Braves baseball cap - from Atlanta GA / Angry Snowman t-shirt - Young Jeezy’s angry snowman t-shirt represented being a dope dealer on the streets. There was a raise of concern when kids started to wear copies of Jeezy’s snowman t-shirt to school, known for its dangerous drug connotation.
“Glare and think, how I got the whole New York wearing pink. Girls, they stare and wink, how I flare the mink” - Dead Motherfuckers (“Diplomatic Immunity 2” 2004 - The Diplomats). All pink everything - While the color is widely associated with femininity, Cam'Ron flipped the script, starting the Hip-Hop trend of wearing it in the 2000s. He first appeared with this look, dressed in pink from head to toe, in a fur coat & hat with matching cell phone at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2002. Killa Cam also had a purple phase, with his "Purple Haze" album. / platinum & diamond jewelry / from Harlem NY
“They say I walk around like I got an S on my chest. Nah, that’s a semi-auto, and a vest on my chest” - What Up Gangsta (“Get Rich Or Die Tryin’” 2003). Bulletproof vest - 50 Cent’s bulletproof vest was emblematic of him being struck by nine bullets in a shooting and surviving. The incident is a recurring theme throughout his career, shown in his music with the song titled, 9 Shots (“Street King Immortal” 2016), and his video game, 50 Cent: Bulletproof (2005), released on Xbox, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable. / New York Yankees baseball cap - from South Jamaica, Queens, New York