Premium Hip Hop Jewelry


May Promotion with Free Techno Master Diamond watch with a purchase over $149.99


The Evolution of Hip Hop in the Fashion World

 By: Alexis Schroeder

“Hip Hop gave a generation a common ground that didn’t require either race to lose anything; everyone gained.” Jay-Z couldn’t have said it better. Not only has the world been exposed to such a genre that relies heavily on self-expression and ground-breaking music, but it has also influenced the changing wardrobes of artists and fans. The capriciousness of hip hop fashion has constantly dictated new styles throughout the decades, playing a prominent role worldwide and across all ethnicities.

In the early 1980s, hip hop fashion trends sparked a follower phenomenon. Run DMC started the black leather jackets and pants paired with a Kangol hat, thick chains and Adidas athletic sneakers, which eventually gave way to the brightly colored nylon tracksuit era. Industry icons started wearing these along with sheepskin, leather bomber jackets, and sneakers such as Converse’s Chuck Taylor All-Stars. During the 1980s, accessories ranged from heavy, chunky, gold jewelry such as necklaces, and door-knocker earrings, popularized by Roxanna Shante and Salt-N-Pepa. Long, gold chains, which have become staples in hip hop fashion for both men and women, gained mass appeal through Big Daddy Kane. The Jheri curl also sprang its way into 80s hair trends.

hip hop, fashion, 360, magazine,Alexis Schroeder, run dmc, converse, chuck taylor, salt-n-pepa

In the 1980s, widespread loyalty to hip hop fashion trends began as artists pushed the limits even further. Now, this era is remembered as “old school hip hop,” which many rappers celebrate through their songs such as Missy Elliot’s, “Back in the Day.”

As the years progressed, so did the hairstyles, fashion, and accessories. During the late 1980s and early 1990s Black Nationalism influenced the styles of artists and fans alike. Queen Latifah, KRS-One, and Public Enemy were just a few of the many who incorporated fezzes, kufis detailed with Kemetic ankh, and Kente hats into their clothing. Rappers and fans also showed support by wearing reds, blacks, and greens. Dreadlocks were also infused with the late 1980s.

The 1990s took a new approach to hip hop fashion. The Fresh Prince, Will Smith, helped to commercialize baseball caps, neon sweatshirts and pants, and geometric prints. Female rappers during this time assimilated their clothing styles to that of male artists. TLC and Aaliyah wore baggy, oversized pants and flannel shirts; however, they were the first to deviate from the male trend by coupling a flannel shirt with a tight undershirt or sports bra. Hip hop fashion proved its versatility through other artists such as Kris Kross founding the fade of wearing clothing backwards and Kwame inspiring a polka-dot sensation.

During this time, gangsta rappers emerged as a new genre in the hip hop world, especially on the West Coast. They kept it simple and tough, predominantly wearing khakis and white t-shirts with gold chains.

Hip hop fashion garnered so much attention that it even accrued credibility with high fashion designers. Designers such as, Isaac Mizrahi and Chanel sent their models down the runway in gold chains, nameplate belts, black bombers, and heavy jewelry. However, like everything in the fashion world, its presence on the catwalk was short lived.

As the hip hop industry became more widely known across all cultures, female artists digressed from the “tough-guy” baggy pants and work boots, venturing to create their own iconic hip hop style. Lil Kim helped pave the way for a more feminine and sexy wardrobes with the assistance from such lines as Baby Phat. Eve decided to keep a more conservative, but still very sultry look and hip hop inspiration. One of Eve’s most differentiating and permanent fashion trend is the two paw print tattoos, one on each breast. Tattoos are nothing foreign to the music industry, but many artists exhibit this art on obscure and seemingly painful body parts. For instance, Lil Wayne has tattoos on each eyelid and Birdman “Baby” Williams boosts a star tattoo on top of his head. Even though tattoos have already infiltrated society, regardless of music’s influence, the hip hop industry’s emergence of head-to-toe tattoos has still yet to widely catch on, if ever.

As more and more hip hop artists realized the tidal wave of fashion trends they were waving over the world, many realized their commercial potential, not only as performers, but as designers. In the 1990s and so forth, the public was introduced to many fashion labels from their favorite artists. Now, for the first time fans could further emulate their idols. Rappers such as Wu-Tang Clan featuring Wu-Wear, Nelly’s, Apple Bottom Jeans, Jay’Z and Dame Dash’s Roc a Wear, 50 Cent’s, G-Unit, and Diddy’s, Sean John are just a few of the labels that are available.

In today’s world of hip hop, if an artist proves great enough to make it, he or she will most likely have their own fashion label at some point in their career. Performers have commercialized and materialized much of the fashion trends they sport so much so that their fans are willing to pay exorbitant prices for such items. For instance, back in the late 1980s and transcending into the 1990s snapback hats were worn by many rappers. Was there any underlying meaning behind these hats, other than supporting a sports team? No, and they ranged anywhere from $10 to $15. Today, snapbacks and flat brimmed hats can range from $25 to $70. The hip hop industry’s emphasis on expensive hip hop brands deviates from its predecessors’ colloquial fashion presence. However, we do live in a capitalistic society and who is to say this should be criticized when trying to expand your business potential?

With the evolution of hip hop fashion, starting with baggy pants, Converse, and heavy gold chains, to grills, scantily dressed women, tight jeans, and blazers, this genre continues and will always have a prominent influence in the world of apparel. Several artists take hip hop fashion to an unparalleled level. Kanye West’s infatuation with high fashion has taken the industry to a sleekly sexy and luxe aesthetic, while Pharrell continues to popularize bright neons and a nerdy fashion sense. Hip hop not only provides common ground with its music across all cultures, but because of the amount of diverse artists within the industry, there are many different fashion options for fans to emulate and influence our wardrobes.


Stainless Steel Rings in stock!!!! This month’s special with NEO Grab the latest universal car mount.

Stainless Steel Rings

Get a FREE NEO GRAB with every purchase of $149.99 and UP!


Hip-hop styles help spawn hot streetwear trend Several seemingly unrelated fashion genres have melded, and the resulting fashions are spreading like wildfire. Shoppers at established New York urban fashion retailers, such as Dr. Jay’s, Jimmy Jazz, V.I.M., Portabella, Pretty Girl and Conway’s, look a lot different than they did decades ago.



<br /><br />
	Pharrell Williams attends the launch party for his new liqueur "Qream" on July 14, 2011 in Hollywood, California.<br /><br />

Jonathan Leibson/FilmMagic

Pharrell Williams attends the launch party for his new liqueur ‘Qream’ on July 14, 2011 in Hollywood.

\First, there were outfits that were once exclusively referred to as “hip hop” clothing. Remember Brooklyn rapper Notorious B.I.G. and his 1994 homage to the then-current urban style?

“Way back, when I had the red and black lumberjack with the hat to match,” he rhymed in his 1994 single “Juicy.”

But times change and tastes change.

In an increasing, multimillion-dollar movement, several seemingly unrelated fashion genres — hip hop’s urban streetwear, skateboarding clothing styles and hipster fashions — have melded, and the resulting fashions are spreading like wildfire around the world and back.

Shoppers at established New York urban fashion retailers, such as Dr. Jay’s, Jimmy Jazz, V.I.M., Portabella, Pretty Girl and Conway’s, look a lot different than they did decades ago. More whites, Asians and other ethnic groups are shopping for the popular clothing, which include baggy and skinny jeans, dresses, footwear, bags, shirts sports team baseball caps and more.

And it’s an international phenomenon., a website in Stockholm selling pricey urban clothing to shoppers around the globe, is one example of the growing worldwide demand for the fashions.

Back in the day, in the early times of hip-hop style, the fashions included personalized crewneck sweatshirts, Converse sneakers, Kangol bucket hats, name buckles and Cazal sunglasses.

They were popularized by gang members, rappers, break dancers, deejays and drug dealers and millions.

Hip hop artist Soulja Boy arrives at the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta in 2007.

Jeff Christensen/AP

Hip hop artist Soulja Boy arrives at the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta in 2007.

But in the late ’80s and early ’90s, rap aficionados were introduced to a new styles – designer Karl Kani’s oversized baggy jeans; culturally inspired Cross Colours outfits; urban/Ivy League flair of Russell Simmons’ Phat Farm and workwear clothing and boots by Timberland, Carhartt, Dickies, Champion and The Northface.

As the fashion evolved, it exploded into an international, multimillion-dollar industry, inspiring Chanel and Isaac Mizrahi.

Widespread demand eventually drew artists such as Jay-Z and Sean Combs into fashion design, while developing a niche market of independent streetwear lines such as Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne’s Black Apple, which is available online at Dr. Jay’s and in stores.

Local retailers have been successful in keeping up with the demand for the trendy apparel and accessories, which have also been embraced by Hollywood on the silver screen as well as in many popular television sitcoms, such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “2 Broke Girls.”

Apart from belts, a few watches and inexpensive bracelets, most stores sell their jewelry online. Jimmy Jazz sells costume bling bracelets, religious icon necklaces, as well as the popular “shamballa” bracelets, stretchy spike bracelets, necklaces and rings.

At Jimmy Jazz’s 125th St. and Lenox Ave. location in Harlem, manager Imram Khan says even his diehard hip-hop customers are following the trend away from old-school baggy to slimmer styles, such as Levis 569s — slimmer, relaxed-fit jeans — for example.

Whether it is men’s military-styled sweaters or peplum dresses from Jimmy Jazz’s brand Decibel, the chain’s reasonable prices provide options for fashion-conscious consumers on a tight budget.

Many shoppers also stock up closet staples such as thermal shirts, leggings, sweaters and plaid shirts. But footwear is something that people are more than willing to pay full price for said Khan, listing sneakers like Jordan Retro 13 sneakers, and boots by Polo, Timberland and Lugz among the popular items.

Jimmy Jazz is located at 125th St. and Lenox Ave. in Harlem.


Jimmy Jazz is located at 125th St. and Lenox Ave. in Harlem.

Anoop Persaud, manager of Dr. Jay’s in Jamaica, Queens, and salesman Naseem Muntaz said they first saw the move from baggy to slimmer around 2004 – 2005.

“Now, Rocawear does it, Sean John is doing it, and even the company Champion has tighter track suits,” Persaud observed.

Akademiks shirts, Smoke Rise varsity jackets and anything from rapper Lil’ Wayne’s Trukfit continue to fly off the shelves. DC sneakers and Radii boots also see brisk sales.

Michalad Victor, who was trying on a pair of black patent leather Doc Martin boots, says his clothing is inspired by hip hop.

“I wear it because it’s fashionable,” he said.

For rap fans, today’s slender clothing presents a contrasting view to early images of performers wearing oversized, baggy clothing.

The first incarnation of urban streetwear was said to be Williwear, loose-fitting sportwear by the late designer Willi Smith in 1976.

Although die-hard rap fans may still wear classic baggy clothing, some – due in part to fashion innovators such as music producer Pharrell Williams, co-designer of Billionaire Boys Club/ICE CREAM clothing and rapper Kanye West’s fashions, are also embracing slimmer-fitting, high-end clothing and accessories – many of which are replicated for affordability.

Shoe from Jimmy Jazz.


Shoe from Jimmy Jazz.

“People like more Italian style,” says Anisur Rahman of Portabella menswear in Queens. “It means they like more fitted clothing, the pants, the shirts, the skinny ties, not the baggy clothing.”

Some of their biggest sellers are cardigan sweaters, COOGI shirts and colorful blazers, while slim suits and pointy shoes are both experiencing resurgence.

Messenger bags and backpacks were the cornerstone of Brooklyn Industries in 1998; they later added women’s, men’s and children’s attire.

Items in demand include “water tower” logoed outerwear, lifetime warranty bags, women’s button-ups, sweaters and unisex “Brooklyn” hoodies.

Stores around the city do not typically carry the same merchandise, and brands may not always be known by name, but styles are recognizable to consumers. One caveat is that what’s old is new again, whether they are leggings, dolman-sleeve dresses, plaid button-down shirts, camouflage cargo pants or cardigan sweaters. In today’s world, the cyclic hand of fashion dictates that clothing from the past be worn in newfangled ways.

At V.I.M, women’s, colored skinny jeans and leggings in colors, prints and florals by Basic Essentials and Fashion Lab are worn with long or short sheer chiffon blouses from Baby Phat with Dunk Sky High Wedge Sneakers by Nike.

Dresses are often short and include vibrantly colored knits or animal prints, in one-shoulder, sleeveless and sequined styles that can be dressed up or worn casually.

Skirts are in varying lengths, from long maxis and mini “scuba”, plaid “midi” and the current hi-low hem styles from companies such as Nana Fashions.

Cropped jackets with zippers and blazers in leather or wool are also trend-setters.

Graphic T-shirts from Rocawear and Southpole, sports team sweat suits, and Levi jeans continue to be staples.

Toggle coats, military-styled wool, boyfriend sweater peacoats, and varsity jackets all add up to a complete look.


The 25 Best A&Rs in Hip-Hop History

By Dan Charnas


The 25 Best A&Rs in Hip-Hop History

When I began researching the book that would become The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop, I returned to interview Cory Robbins, the co-founder of the legendary Profile Records, the man who signed Run-D.M.C… and the first person to give me a job doing A&R.

“Cory,” I began, “when you promoted me to A&R coordinator, you called me into your office and gave me some advice. You said, ‘You can’t know what’s going to be a hit. You can only know what you like.’”

“That’s true,” he said.

I then recounted my own mediocre career in A&R—first working for him and then for Rick Rubin at American Recordings.

“I liked everything I signed. So why did you have hits and I didn’t?”

“Well,” he said, thinking for a moment. “I like hits.”

Looking back, I have no ambivalence about the artists I worked with, but rather regret about other missed opportunities. You know, like not signing House of Pain because I told Rick I thought “Jump Around” was their only truly great record. I was right, but at the same time, oh, so wrong. (Maybe Cory was right. Maybe I didn’t really like hits.)

Still, I like to think I’ve made enough mistakes to have a real reverence for the A&R people in hip-hop who had the right instincts and really did it big. I’ve certainly thought a lot about why they were good at their job: an intuition about what makes music timeless coupled with a visceral sense of the moment. With that, I’d like to present to you The 25 Greatest A&Rs in Hip-Hop History.

A few important notes before we begin.

What the hell is “A&R” anyway? It’s actually an old-timey music business term meaning “Artists & Repertoire,” a relic of a time when artists didn’t write their own material and their “record men” at the label had to pair them with songs and session musicians. In the hip-hop context, the “Artists” part means finding and signing talent to a label; The “Repertoire” part means not only corralling producers and beats, but working with the act on musical and lyrical direction. Some A&R people excel at one of these aspects in particular. You can have great talent scouts who don’t give much input on the finished product; and you have in-house A&R specialists who may not have signed the act but give crucial and timely artistic direction in the creation of an album. This list skews a bit towards the former.

Rankings. For this list, we’ve selected folks based on a balance of the above-mentioned skills, and ranked them according to the quantity of successful artists they’ve signed, the quality of their signings, the longevity of their roster, and the endurance of their artist’s work. You will notice in this list a bias towards more established A&R people (a nice way of saying “older”). That’s because this is the “All Time” list. Here, longevity and consistency trumps several years of hotness. There are also some R&B acts included in these proceedings if those R&B acts were significantly influenced by hip-hop and influenced hip-hop in return (for example, Mary J. Blige and TLC).

Who qualifies? Not every A&R person on this list has actually worked for a record company. Some were primarily artist managers, others were producers and DJs. But the rule of thumb here is that if they didn’t hold an A&R title in some place at some time, or work on behalf of their own production company, then they have to manifest some useful service as a talent scout to people with signing power.

Teamwork. The real fact about most creative endeavors—including A&R—is that it’s a team effort. Rick Rubin, who signed and produced Def Jam’s first generation of classic artists, had a bunch of folks around him who brought him demos, cajoled him, and reinforced his instincts. And for every star A&R staffer—like Kyambo “HipHop” Joshua at Roc-A-Fella—there’s a guy who hipped him to the artist (No I.D., who brought him Kanye West’s demo) and the guy who bet a small fortune and his reputation on him (Damon Dash). So who gets the credit? In this list, I give more emphasis to the highest person in the chain of decision makers who had substantial involvement in judgements of quality. Success has many authors. So, in cases where work is generally shared, the members of the A&R team will either split the billing or receive a secondary mention.

If this list were a bit longer. There’s little difference between the folks who made it onto this list and the ones who are bubbling just below it. So if this list were, perhaps, 10 longer, we might include folks like: Patrick Moxey, founder of Payday Records; Sha Money XL, president of G Unit and the guy who signed 2 Chainz and Big K.R.I.T to Def Jam; Matt Dike and Mike Ross, founders of Delicious Vinyl; Lenny S, another longtime Roc-A-Fella and Def Jam A&R exec; Eddie O’Laughlin, founder of Next Plateau Records; Wendy Day, founder of the Rap Coalition, who never worked for a label but matched artists to labels in landmark deals; Fred Munao, founder of Select Records; Mark Pitts, longtime Bad Boy and Arista alum; Steve Rifkind, founder of Loud Records; and Bryan Leach of TVT Records and Polo Grounds.

Dan Charnas is the author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop (New American Library/Penguin) and the co-author of Def Jam: The First 25 Years of the Last Great record Label (Rizzoli). He worked for Profile Records and Rick Rubin’s American Recordings. He currently serves as Big Payback Officer at ooVoo.



25. Stu Fine

25. Stu Fine

Title(s): Founder of Wild Pitch Records
Artists They Worked With: Gang Starr, Main Source, Lord Finesse, The Coup

Stu Fine should not have been a great rap A&R guy. But he was.

Before he founded Wild Pitch Records in the late 1980s, Fine was an A&R man for K-Tel Records. (For young’ns who don’t know about K-Tel, they were infamous in the 1970s for creating compilation albums of hit records and selling them like Ginsu knives via corny TV spots.)

Fine and his graphic designer wife, Amy, ran Wild Pitch Records out of a spartan two-room office in Manhattan. With little connection to anyone in the thriving New York hip-hop scene, Fine was able to create, in classic hip-hop fashion, something out of nothing. Who else would have had the chutzpah to take a DJ from Houston and an MC from Boston and put them in the studio together? The two guys, Chris Martin and Keith Elam, had never met each other. But together they became known to the world as Gangstarr, separately as DJ Premier and The Guru.

For plucking these guys from obscurity alone, Stu Fine should be in the hip-hop hall of fame. But Fine was also responsible for some other folks you might know: Lord Finesse. Main Source featuring Large Professor. UMCs. The Coup. O.C. Chill Rob G. That famous ‘90s refrain, “I got the power”? Stu Fine found and signed that record before another, bigger label muscled Wild Pitch’s version off the charts.

Stu Fine’s career was marred by poor relationships with many of his artists. The kind of person Fine was (somewhat rigid, champion of the old school cheap deal) and the kind of people his artists were (kids from the street who wanted to look and be large, and be justly rewarded for their ample talents regardless of what it said on the paper they signed) ended more than a few times in violence, threatened or real.

But Stu Fine’s legacy is clear. Primo, in particular, damn near shaped the sound of hardcore hip-hop for a decade, and can still make hits when the mood strikes him. Without Stu Fine’s ears, the culture would have sounded very different. Plus, as Public Enemy’s producer Bill Stephney once observed, he’s got the best rapper name for a non-rapper, like, ever.

24. Faith Newman

24. Faith Newman

Title(s): A&R at Columbia Recordings, A&R at Def Jam Recordings
Artists They Worked With: Nas, Big L, 2 Chainz

Faith Newman is the woman who signed Nas to Columbia Records.

(We could stop here with a “nuff ‘said” and a salute, but there’s more to the story.)

Back in 1990, Michael “MC Serch” Berrin had the foresight to sign Nasty Nas to a production deal—on the strength of just one verse that the obscure Queens rapper performed on Main Source’s “Live At The Barbeque.” Shortly thereafter, Newman made the move from Def Jam to its parent label as Columbia’s first in-house rap specialist. Newman and Berrin’s working relationship led to Nas’s signing.

But A&R is about more than just signing artists, and Newman performed some very unsung but vital key functions that kept the project afloat. After one of Nas’s entourage threatened one of the drivers from Columbia’s livery service and the label wanted to drop him, Newman fought successfully to keep him on the label. She and Serch also arranged for the stellar roster of beat producers that powered Illmatic. Newman also had the foresight to not overdo it: When the project reached just 8 tracks, she declared it done.

The minimal but potent album was awarded a coveted and rare “five mics” in The Source. Newman, who also signed the hip-hop influenced Jamiroquai, worked with Big L, and signed her former Def Jam intern, Kurious, to a record deal, imparted credibility to Columbia in hip-hop similar to what her predecessor Clive Davis had done by pushing Columbia into rock music in the 1970s.

Newman was eventually squeezed out of her role in Nas’s project because of the ever-more chummy relationship between two men—her boss Donnie Ienner and Nas’s new manager Steve Stoute. Ienner eventually hired Stoute and Newman, feeling betrayed, left. Newman was quickly offered a new job at Jive Records by Barry Weiss, who always had a good eye for both artistic and executive talent.

Newman today works for Reservoir Media Management, where she gave 2 Chainz his first music publishing deal, and represents Danja and Scott Storch, among others.


23. Atron Gregory

23. Atron Gregory

Title(s): Founder of TNT Records
Artists They Worked With: 2Pac, Digital Underground, MC Smooth, Above The Law

Atron Gregory—a mild-mannered college grad with one degree in business and four on his karate black belt—got his start in the music business as a road manager for N.W.A. After returning to the Bay Area to start a label, TNT Records, he signed Oakland-based Digital Underground, would do so well independently that it got picked up by Tommy Boy Records and went on to Platinum triumph.

But Gregory’s adoption of a young rapper from across the Bay would turn out to be momentous.

A community activist named Leila Steinberg first brought 19-year-old Tupac Shakur to Gregory’s attention. Gregory paired Shakur with Digital Underground as a dancer at first, then promoting him to MC. When Gregory decided it was time to shop Shakur as a solo artist, he had few takers. Tommy Boy wasn’t interested. But in 1991 he eventually found enthusiastic ears in Tom Whalley and Ted Field, who were starting Field’s new label, Interscope Records.

Though Jimmy Iovine and Suge Knight eventually moved Gregory out of the picture by taking advantage of Shakur’s insecurities and dangling beats from Dr. Dre as bait, Atron Gregory deserves everlasting credit for bringing to the world the man who became a global icon of both genre and generation.


22. Matteo "Matty C" Capoluongo & Schott "Free" Jacobs

22. Matteo “Matty C” Capoluongo & Schott “Free” Jacobs

Title(s): Founder of The Source’s “Unsigned Hype” column, A&R at Loud Records
Artists They Worked With: Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, dead prez

Matteo “Matty C” Capoluongo was an A&R man long before he knew it.

Matty and I were once colleagues at The Source in the early 1990s, and I have a memory of him that illustrates the point. We were crossing Broadway on our way back from attending the DMC DJ Battle for World Supremacy, discussing the incredible performance of Harlem’s DJ Steve D.

“He could be a really great record producer,” Matty said.

I asked Matty what made him think so; it certainly hadn’t occurred to me. Matty responded that the sections of the records he picked, the creative things he did with them, was an easily transferrable skill from two turntables to a sampler and sequencer.

After I moved on to do A&R for Rick Rubin’s Def American Recordings, Matty started a new section called in the magazine called “Unsigned Hype,” where he regularly picked gold from the dirtpile of demos that flooded The Source since its inception. Among the artists he plucked from obscurity and placed on the radar of eager A&Rs across the country? Mobb Deep. Common Sense, now known as simply Common. DMX. DJ Shadow. The Notorious B.I.G., which led directly to his signing by Sean “Puffy” Combs.

Matty also deserves credit for circulating an independent single by a Staten Island group called the Wu Tang Clan, and acted as an early advisor to The RZA before he eventually signed the group’s deal with Steve Rifkind’s Loud Records.

Matty’s ears were too good to languish at the increasingly chaotic magazine, and eventually he was offered a job by Rifkind, at the behest of Matty’s friend Schott “Free” Jacobs. As a team, Matt “Life” and Schott “Free” would sign and refine Mobb Deep and Big Pun, and help to shape Raekwon’s solo album.


21. Will Socolov

21. Will Socolov

Title(s): Co-founder of Sleeping Bag Records and Freeze Records
Artists They Worked With: EPMD, Just-Ice, Nice & Smooth

You might not know Will Socolov’s name. But you’ve definitely heard the artists he signed, artists who continue to further his legacy, beyond any reasonable doubt.

Socolov’s first rap signing at his dance music label, Sleeping Bag Records, was a producer and MC duo called Mantronix. Kurtis Mantronik’s production would power Socolov’s dance signings like Joyce Sims and Nocera, contributing to a hip-hop offshoot called Latin Freestyle. Meanwhile, Socolov continued to find great rap talent, sometimes before it was mature enough for the marketplace.

Socolov was down with the Boogie Down before they even found their name and their stride, when he signed Scott La Rock and KRS-One in their first incarnation as a group called 12:41. Socolov had flavor in his ear before Puffy did, signing a rapper named Craig Mack long before he had his comeback.

Socolov’s most famous finds comprised the roster of Sleeping Bag imprint, Fresh Records: Nice & Smooth. EPMD. Just Ice. Sleeping Bag/Fresh imploded in the early 1990s, and Socolov’s two most successful artist were snatched up by Lyor Cohen for Rush Associated Labels. Def Jam/RAL became the home EMPD cohort, Redman, who first performed on Socolov’s label. Socolov later resurfaced in the mid-1990s with a new, small dance-oriented start-up called Freeze Records.

His first signing? Some guy named Jay-Z. Jay-Z’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt would be Socolov’s first and last album with the Brooklyn rapper, as Jay’s partner Damon Dash moved the artist and the Roc-A-Fella label to greener pastures at Def Jam, yet another Socolov-signed artist who migrated to the land of Lyor.


20. Paul Stewart

20. Paul Stewart

Title(s): PMP Management and PMP Records
Artists They Worked With: Warren G, House of Pain, Coolio, The Pharcyde

Paul Stewart is an unsung hero of L.A. hip-hop. A white kid who grew up in the middle-class Black neighborhood of Baldwin Hills during a time when other white families were fleeing south central L.A., Stewart became a huge fan of soul, funk and hip-hop. After college, he returned to L.A. as a DJ, record promoter and correspondent for The Source.

Ultimately, Stewart fell fell into artist management: Too much good music passed through his hands to do otherwise. Stewart was uniquely positioned between the trendy parties in Hollywood and the artists in the ‘hood, and he became an invaluable resource for almost every label in the business.

Stewart shepherded The Pharcyde to Delicious Vinyl. He shopped House of Pain and Coolio to Tommy Boy Records. He championed Warren G when Dr. Dre and Suge Knight refused to do so, and instead delivered Warren’s demo tape to Chris Lighty and Lyor Cohen (ultimately jeopardizing Stewart’s job as the head of John Singleton’s label, New Deal Records, where he signed Mista Grimm’s “Endo Smoke”). Cohen returned the favor by installing Stewart as the head of Def Jam West, where Stewart signed Montell Jordan.

It’s ironic, then, that when Stewart finally launched his own label through Loud Records that his long and impressive run came to a halt. Stewart later moved into music supervision and brand consulting.


19. Dante Ross

19. Dante Ross

Title(s): A&R at Tommy Boy Records, Elektra Records, Loud/SRC Records
Artists They Worked With: De La Soul, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Del the Funky Homosapien, 3rd Bass, Brand Nubian, Busta Rhymes, ODB, Action Bronson

Dante Ross—a white kid from Manhattan’s Lower East Side during a time when it wasn’t so common to be a white kid from Manhattan’s Lower East Side—got his first hip-hop job at Def Jam/Rush in the late 1980s, working as an assistant to Lyor Cohen. Ross was eventually hired away by Monica Lynch, the president of Tommy Boy Records, where Lynch put him in charge of a new group she had just signed, De La Soul.

Dante was such a hyperkinetic, passionate odd duck in those sessions that he actually got portrayed as one on the inner sleeve of De La Soul’s revolutionary debut, 3 Feet High And Rising, as “Dante the Scrub.”

After the album’s release, Ross would often get public credit for signing De La, no matter how many times he denied it. Ross also played a role in the signing of Queen Latifah and Digital Underground.

But Ross’s work at Tommy Boy was upstaged by what came next. Bob Krasnow, the flamboyant head of Elektra Records, had long been looking for a way into the rap scene. After reading about Ross and meeting him, Krasnow liked Ross’s blunt style, so similar to his own, and hired him. The hiring, in 1989, made Ross the first-ever major label A&R with true experience and credibility in the rap world.

Ross transferred that credibility to Elektra with some key signings: Brand Nubians. Leaders of the New School, featuring a young, frenzied MC who called himself Busta Rhymes. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth. KMD. Del The Funky Homosapien.

While he worked for Elektra, Ross also remained part of the Stimulated Dummies production team, which gave Def Jam act 3rd Bass it’s first #1 hit, “Pop Goes the Weasel.” In 1993, when the Wu Tang Clan put out their debut underground single, Ross immediately snapped up the most eccentric one of the bunch, Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Ross left Elektra not long after Krasnow’s departure in 1994. But while Ross was there, he set a high bar for the kind of quality, authentic hip-hip that could be done at a major label. His example opened the door for a generation of rap A&R talent in the record business.

Ross later went on to produce a successful rock album for Everlast and a Grammy for his production work on Carlos Santana’s “Supernatural.”


18. Chris Schwartz and Joe Nicolo

18. Chris Schwartz and Joe Nicolo

Title(s): Founders of Ruffhouse Records
Artists They Worked With: The Fugees, Cypress Hill, Tim Dog, Kriss Kross, Lauryn Hill

If Chris Schwartz and Joe Nicolo had been based in New York or Los Angeles, they might have ruled the music industry. But if they hadn’t been based in Philadelphia, they might not have enjoyed the unique “just-off-the-radar but close-enough-to-strike” position that enabled them to dominate the world of hip-hop without few people outside of the industry knowing their names.

They made their hip-hop bones in the mid 1980s, as the manager and recording engineer respectively for pioneer Schoolly D. Their label partnership, Ruffhouse Records, began in 1989 with the signing of Cypress Hill, the embarkation point for a string of impressive signings and hits from Tim Dog, Kriss Kross, and The Fugees which included the solo careers of Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean.

One more historical oddity: Ruffhouse was also the first home to DMX before he became a star on Def Jam.


17. Sylvia Robinson

17. Sylvia Robinson

Title(s): Co-founder of Sugar Hill Records
Artists They Worked With: The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five

Sylvia Robinson may have been one of the most reviled businesspeople in hip-hop. But you can’t front on the facts: She was the first record executive to sign and produce a commercially successful rap record.

As the Great Mother of all Rap A&R, she deserves her place on this list.

The most notorious aspect of Robinson’s first signing is also the most impressive: She created a hit record by fabricating a rap crew out of nothing. The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” was a pure in-studio creation, musically masterminded by Robinson.

As the first successful entrepreneur in the game, Robinson immediately had her pick of real, reputable artists from across the river in New York City. Still, we gotta give her props for picking right: Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five featuring Melle Mel; the Treacherous Three; Sequence; and the Funky Four plus One.

Robinson’s avarice and inauthenticity would betray her within a few years. She may or may not have had a heart. But the woman had ears.


16. Irving "Irv Gotti" Lorenzo, Jr.

16. Irving “Irv Gotti” Lorenzo, Jr.

Title(s): Co-founder of Murder Inc. Records
Artists They Worked With: Ja Rule, Ashanti, DMX, Jay-Z

One thing is for sure about the enfant terrible of hip-hop, Irving “Irv Gotti” Lorenzo: He would not like that he isn’t #1 on this list.

Irv Gotti, like many producers and A&R reps, made his bones as a DJ for Jay-Z. In the mid 1990s, Gotti gave TVT Records instant authority by bringing them Mic Geronimo and Ca$h Money Click featuring a little-known rapper named Ja Rule. Moving to Def Jam, he facilitated the signing of Jay-Z, and came into his own with the signing of DMX, an artist who yielded two multi-platinum albums in 1998. The self-described “hottest n—-a in the building,” Gotti was given his own imprint, Murder Inc., and slugged his grateful masters with the one-two punch of Ja Rule and Ashanti.

Gotti’s increasing profile put him into direct confrontation with Chris Lighty, who left Def Jam shortly thereafter. Lighty’s answer to Gotti, 50 Cent, eventually silenced him. Gotti responded with threats and—if you believe some unconfirmed accounts—actual violence. But one thing Gotti couldn’t manage to do was respond musically.

We are still waiting for the comeback.


15. Chris Lighty

15. Chris Lighty

Title(s): Founder of Violator Records and Violator Aritst Management
Artists They Worked With: Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Mobb Deep, Diddy, Missy Elliott

In the beginning, Chris Lighty didn’t have business on his mind. “Baby Chris,”as he was dubbed by Kool DJ Red Alert back in the 1980s, was the pretty boy in a loose but tough crew called “the Violators.” Lighty kept one eye on Red Alert in the nightclubs, and his other on other guy’s girls.

But Red Alert saw a glimmer of light in Lighty—the solidity of his word and his restraint under pressure. Red made Lighty the road manager for his group, the Jungle Brothers. Lighty was in many ways the fourth member of the trio, but instead ended up taking on more management duties, this time on behalf of De La Soul, as Red Alert transitioned away from the music business.

Lighty migrated his artists to Rush under the aegis and tutelage of Lyor Cohen Lighty’s turn as a creative executive came when Cohen and Russell Simmons decided to close shop. Lighty quickly arranged for a production deal for his “Violator Records” with a large independent label called Relativity, signing three acts—Fat Joe, Chi Ali, and The Beatnuts. Cohen quickly decided that he had made a grave mistake in letting Lighty and his talents slip away: He made Lighty Def Jam’s head of A&R.

In the building, it was Lighty who championed the signing of Foxy Brown, over the initial resistance of Cohen. His repertoire direction reinvigorated and reinvented LL Cool J’s career. Lighty brought in Warren G, which imparted to Def Jam real relevance in the West Coast-dominated mid-1990s.

The A&R angel is a fickle friend, and Lighty seemed to lose his luster just as Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo’s A&R star rose with DMX and Ja Rule. Friction between the two, and Lighty’s unwillingness to jettison his management company, led to Lighty’s departure from Def Jam. Within a few years, Lighty signed the artist who would vanquish Gotti and his artists: 50 Cent. Lighty relinquished 50’s recording contract to Dr. Dre and Eminem in return for retaining management. But it was a shrewd move that in essence purchased his artist’s superstardom.

Lighty returned to management thereafter, maintaining a stable of artists from LL to Busta to Soljah Boy. When Lighty was found dead from a self-inflicted gun wound in 2012, he was mourned by many in the hip-hop industr


14. Juice Crew (Tyrone Williams/Marley Marl/Mr. Magic)

14. Juice Crew (Tyrone Williams/Marley Marl/Mr. Magic)

Title(s): Tyrone Williams – Co-founder of Cold Chillin Records
Marley Marl – Producer
Mr. Magic – Radio DJ
Artists They Worked With: Eric B. & Rakim, Lords of the Underground, Nas

John “Mr. Magic” Rivas was the very first DJ to host a hip-hop radio show. Magic began on a local New York community station called WHBI, and then moved to commercial FM powerhouse WBLS.

By the mid-1980s, they called him “Sir Juice” and his tight-knit group of associates “The Juice Crew.” But the Juice Crew moniker came to stand for the extended family of rap artists championed by Magic and his associates Tyrone Williams and Marlon “Marley Marl” Williams: MC Shan. Biz Markie. Big Daddy Kane. Roxanne Shante. Masta Ace. Craig G. Tragedy. Kool G. Rap. The Genius (later known as The GZA). These artists comprised the roster of Tyrone Williams’ label, Cold Chillin’ Records, later distributed by Warner Bros. Records.

To be sure, Mr. Magic — like Red Alert —was a funnel through which almost every rap artists in the 1980s had to pass in order to become a success. But the talent of each signing was undeniable, and the sounds of these artists were a truly dominant force in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Juice Crew fizzled when Mr. Magic was unthroned at WBLS, and Cold Chillin’ foundered a few years later when that funnel ceased to be a resource.


13. Kool DJ Red Alert

13. Kool DJ Red Alert

Title(s): Founder of Red Alert Productions
Artists They Worked With: Black Sheep, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, Jungle Brothers

Early hip-hop was largely a New York phenomenon. So it followed that early hip-hop’s success was largely brokered by radio DJ Mr. Magic on WBLS. The only significant rival to Mr. Magic’s dominance of hit-making and hit-breaking was posed by Kool DJ Red Alert on crosstown WRKS, 98.7 Kiss FM.

Magic was one funnel for talent, mainly hailing from Marley Marl’s home base in Queenbridge. Red Alert became the second vortex, mainly for artists from Uptown and The Bronx, beginning with Krs-One and Scott La Rock’s Boogie Down Productions and Red’s cousin Mike G’s group, The Jungle Brothers.

Red Alert launched a production company to handle his foray into the music business. Red Alert Productions had perhaps the perfect acronym for the a business in hip-hop, and through R.A.P. came A Tribe Called Quest. Red’s management arm, helmed by Dave “Funken” Klein and Chris Lighty, took on kindred spirits De La Soul. In fact, Red Alert earned some creative credit for the entire cultural phenomenon that came to be called Native Tongues, including artists like Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and Black Sheep. He also launched the executive careers of Lighty and Shakim Compere.

Red Alert was not successful as a businessman. He was, in many ways, too nice of a guy to take on the shark-like qualities that enable survival in the hip-hop food chain. But he chose the right records on the radio, and chose equally well in his own run as a talent scout. His ultimate creative notion of peace, love and positive vibes—coming straight from his Zulu Nation heritage—gave hip-hop perhaps its most beautiful cultural moment.


12. Damon "Dame" Dash

12. Damon “Dame” Dash

Title(s): Co-founder of Roc-A-Fella
Artists They Worked With: Jay-Z, Kanye West, Cam’ron, Beanie Sigel

The choleric and bilious Damon Dash was 100 percent hustler. Unlike another spiritual brother in charms, Sean Combs, he never showed much interest in what went on inside the studio. But Dash’s visceral understanding of culture—specifically the zeitgeist of the late 1990s—gave the world the two artists who to this very day dominate the game: Jay-Z and Kanye West. That throne you’re watching? Dash was the one who built it.

Now that they’re collaborators and double-daters, it’s easy to forget that Dash once famously championed Kanye West as a potential Roc-A-Fella artist when Jay, to say the least, wasn’t so confident in West’s potential.

Dash also doesn’t get enough credit for Cam’ron, whose Roc-A-Fella album went Gold after his first one, on Lance “Un” Rivera’s label, flopped. Alas, it was Dash’s horse and carriage that ended up on the auction block. Dash had the ability to pick artists who could, when necessary, reinvent themselves to continue their success. Dash himself has lacked that ability, and his virtual disappearance from the hip-hop scene is bound up within that.

Of course, Dash—being less interested in creative concerns—would not have been able to attain his level of success without a great supporting A&R team. In particular, Kyambo “HipHop” Joshua deserves credit for bringing Kanye West into the fold, and both Joshua and Gee Roberson were the irreplaceable creative and operational core for artists & repertoire at the Roc. It’s no surprise, then, that Joshua and Roberson have gone onto great success as managers for Drake, Lil Wayne, Nikki Minaj, T.I and more.

Extra credit: One must give special dap to DJ Clark Kent, who gave Dash his start in the music business and introduced him to Jay-Z.


11. Andre Harrell

11. Andre Harrell

Title(s): Founder of Uptown Records
Artists They Worked With: Heavy D & The Boyz, Al B. Sure!

If Russell Simmons hadn’t been such a poor A&R man, his employee Andre Harrell might never have started his own label, Uptown Records as a counterpoint to Def Jam’s “hard as hell” ethos. Simmons belittled Harrell’s idea that an overweight, limerick-tongued “lover” would have any kind of traction in the rap world. So in 1986, Harrell got himself and his MC, Heavy D, a production deal with MCA Records (now Universal).

Harrell won that particular debate in the marketplace. But Harrell’s greatest contribution to hip-hop wasn’t his rap roster. Harrell’s signing of young producer Teddy Riley’s band, Guy, launched the phenomenon of New Jack Swing, the folding of hip-hop style into R&B in a way that even now influences how we make music. Harrell was ultimately responsible for everything that flowed from that: from Al. B Sure, to two artists championed by his A&R man Kurt Woodley: Jodeci and Mary J Blige, who comprised stage two of Uptown’s R&B fusion movement, called hip-hop soul.

This evolution was aided by Harrell’s eye for executive talent. Harrell boosted an energetic Uptown intern named Sean “Puffy” Combs into the creative ranks of his company, and gave him Woodley’s portfolio of artists after the A&R man’s departure. Combs’ styling and studio suggestions imparted a degree of hotness to Jodeci and Blige, and in turn boosted Combs’ own stature in the industry. With that came the inevitable inflation of “Puff Daddy”’s ego, and his firing by Harrell.

Harrell’s own inability to morph his creative and business styles precipitated his eclipse by his protege. But in 2013 we’ll be able to judge his ears once more as we watch how his new group, Hamilton Park, fares.


10. Cory Robbins

10. Cory Robbins

Title(s): Co-founder of Profile Records
Artists They Worked With: Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, Run-D.M.C., Dana Dane, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, DJ Quik

In 1981, Cory Robbins’s struggling little dance label Profile Records was down to the remaining $2,000 in its bank account. As a last ditch effort, Robbins decided to produce his very first rap record.

The result, “Genius of Rap” by Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde, not only saved his fledgling company and launched the music business career of Andre “Dr. Jeckyl” Harrell (who a few years later would become an top A&R man on his own), it also changed Robbins’ perspective on rap. Until that point, rap on record had largely been the domain of one label, Sugar Hill. But Robbins realized that there might be more than enough room for another label that took rap seriously.

Robbins’ sentiments were confirmed for all time in 1983 when a young artist manager named Russell Simmons brought Robbins a demo tape of his kid brother Joey’s group, Run-D.M.C. Robbins bet on the odd, sparse first single “It’s Like That/Sucker M.C.s”; and then funded a first album. Robbins reaped the rewards when “Run-D.M.C.” became the first Gold (and then Platinum) rap album in history.

Run-DMC, the first bona-fide rap supergroup (first video on MTV, first headline arena tour, etc.) secured Profile Records’ fortunes and Cory Robbins’ place in the pantheon of rap talent scouts.

Robbins and the staff he hired were collectively responsible for signing the following artists: Cold Crush Brothers, Dana Dane, Rob Base, Special Ed, Poor Righteous Teachers. Profile was the first of the New York rap labels to open a Los Angeles office, and Robbins signed rap acts from across the country: DJ Quik and 2nd II None from L.A. Nemesis and Ron C from Dallas. N2Deep from the Bay Area.

Robbins sometimes altered the rap landscape unintentionally, like his signing of a record by Queens, New York’s The Showboyz called “Drag Rap,” which became a huge hit in the south and heavily influenced the formation of New Orleans hip-hop. And he sometimes dropped artists before they reached their potential (like Onyx). He also hired some of the best ears in the business: Brian Chin, Dave Moss, and Murray Elias, who played a huge role in bringing dancehall reggae into the mainstream and would later sign Sean Paul.

Robbins cashed out of Profile in 1994 and founded Robbins Entertainment, where he returned to his dance music roots and still finds and produces hits.


9. RZA

9. RZA

Title(s): Founder of Wu-Tang Productions
Artists They Worked With: Wu-Tang Clan

The Wu-Tang Clan—founded by The RZA—was largely composed of his friends and family. But that shouldn’t be cause for an asterisk on his ranking as one of hip-hop greatest ears for talent. After all, producers more successful than the RZA failed by picking those closest to them (witness Run-DMC’s efforts on behalf of The Famlee, or The Afros, or Hollis Crew, or SeriousLeeFine).

With the Wu-Tang Clan, The RZA resurrected his own career and that of his cousin, Gary Grice, aka The Genius, aka The GZA. He loosed Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the world. He corralled Method Man, Raekwon, and Ghostface Killa. The lackluster solo career of Inspeckta Deck was a true shame, because for the Wu he was often first in the batting order.

After the initial five year run of the Wu, RZA’s best efforts were in the world of film scoring. But RZA’s roster of talent continues to be relevant, even today.


8. Birdman and Lil Wayne

8. Birdman and Lil Wayne

Title(s): Birdman – Co-founder of Cash Money Records
Lil Wayne – CEO of Young Money Entertainment
Artists They Worked With: Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Mannie Fresh, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Tyga

Cash Money and Young Money represent two virtual generations of hip-hop talent. It stands to reason that the men behind each imprint — Bryan “Baby” Williams and Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter regard each other as “father and son.”

After making some local noise in New Orleans for several years, Cash Money charged onto the national hip-hop scene in 1998 as the result of a huge, unprecedented pressing and distribution deal with Universal Music Group, brokered by Rap Coalition founder Wendy Day, who also helped launch deals for Master P’s No Limit Records, Eminem, and Twista. The first superstar of the Cash Money stable was Juvenile, followed closely by other artists like B.G. (who with Juvenile comprised Hot Boyz), Lil Wayne, and Big Tymers.

As Lil Wayne aged and ascended, Baby gave him an imprint and ostensible executive power. Whomever you believe spearheaded the creation of the roster—Baby or Wayne—it’s incontestable that Young Money broke Cash Money out of its exclusively Southern style with the signing of Toronto-based rapper Drake and New York native Nikki Minaj.


7. Tom Silverman and Monica Lynch

7. Tom Silverman and Monica Lynch

Title(s): Tom Silverman – Founder of Tommy Boy Records
Monica Lynch – President of Tommy Boy Records
Artists They Worked With: Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force, De La Soul, Queen Latifah, Stetsasonic, Naughty by Nature

In the early 1980s, Tom Silverman, the publisher of a dance music trade magazine that charted the hits of the day, was getting so many unsigned demo tapes mailed to him that he decided to start putting them out on his own. His record company Tommy Boy Records, scored an early success in 1981 with Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force’s singles “Jazzy Sensation” and the global dance-floor shaker, “Planet Rock.”

After some fallow years, Tommy Boy experienced a rap resurgence, in no small way attributable to the cool aesthetic of Tommy Boy’s fashionable president, Monica Lynch, who opened her doors to all kinds of artistic expression. From the signing of Stetsasonic came the ears of Prince Paul, who brought Lynch a quirky Long Island trio called De La Soul. From Dante Ross and Fab 5 Freddy came Queen Latifah, who still works with Lynch to this day. From Ross and Atron Gregory came Digital Underground. From Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere came Naughty By Nature. From Paul Stewart came House of Pain and Coolio.

Tommy Boy’s triumphant tear through the 1990s was aided by label staff like Albert Ragusa, Ian Staeman and Isaac “Fatman Scoop” Freeman, who for many years guided and advised both Lynch and Silverman, whose good boutique-quality taste, artful packaging and clever marketing made Tommy Boy Records a hit machine.


6. Jimmy Iovine

6. Jimmy Iovine

Title(s): Co-founder of Interscope Records
Artists They Worked With: Dr. Dre, Eminem, 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas

Jimmy Iovine went from producing U2 and Tom Petty records to partnering with multimillionaire film producer Ted Field in his new label venture, Interscope.

Iovine immediately put Interscope on the map with two pop-rap hits: Gerardo’s “Rico Suave” and Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations.” Iovine negotiated the Death Row deal that made Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s debuts possible. While not responsible for discovering 2Pac, Iovine presided over his entire recording career as a creative executive.

When the Death Row partnership came apart, Iovine made the separation easier by offering Dre a new deal for Aftermath Records, which begat and continue to beget the following: Eminem. 50 Cent. The Game. Kendrick Lamar.

Over the years, Iovine has shown some savvy that’s surprised even some seasoned industry heads. Why, folks wondered, would he give a group with a weak track record like the Black Eyed Peas a huge deal? Only Iovine knew, and he was absolutely right.

Iovine’s Interscope has also been a graveyard for many artists’ dreams as his priorities shifted and opinions changed. Iovine’s less-than-saintly code of ethics often resulted in art that played to hip-hop’s lesser angels. But Iovine championed the raw at a time when corporations were ready to dump rap at the slightest hint of controversy. Iovine is the man who literally told Time Warner to go fuck itself.

Decades later, it’s Iovine who continues to fuck us all in the earholes, his music now transmitted to your cerebral cortex via his “Beats By Dre” headphones.


5. Antonio "L.A. Reid" Reid

5. Antonio “L.A. Reid” Reid

Title(s): Co-founder of LaFace Records, President of Arista Records, Chairman & CEO of Island Def Jam
Artists They Worked With: Goodie Mob, Outkast, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy

Few in the hip-hop business of the 1980s would ever have expected the R&B producer L.A. Reid (famed for his work with The Deele, Bobby Brown, Pebbles, and Paula Abdul) to eventually engineer some of the shrewdest signings in hip-hop; not just commercial coups but truly inspired and genre-changing records and artists.

Not long after the founding of LaFace—his and partner Kenneth “Babyface” Edmunds’ joint-venture with Arista—Reid began mining the incredible talent in the label’s home base of Atlanta, Georgia. Those signings included Goodie Mob (featuring Cee Lo), OutKast (featuring Big Boi and Andre “3000” Benjamin), Usher, and TLC, facilitated by local producers Organized Noize and Dallas Austin.

An enterprising Morehouse student named Shakir Stewart began his career as L.A. Reid’s faithful soldier, first an intern at Reid’s Hitco Publishing, where he signed Beyonce to a songwriting deal, and then at LaFace, where he signed Ciara. When Reid moved to Def Jam, Stewart followed, signing Young Jeezy and Rick Ross (who were, ironically, offered to the label years earlier by Scarface in his days running Def Jam South).

Reid retained Jay-Z in the Def Jam fold by offering him the label’s presidency, and therefore is entitled to take some credit for the signings of Rihanna. Reid also helped revitalize Mariah Carey’s career with the power of hip-hop-fueled production.

Reid is currently the Chairman and CEO of Epic Records.


4. Rick Rubin

4. Rick Rubin

Title(s): Founder of Def Jam Recordings
Artists They Worked With: Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Run–D.M.C.

Sylvia Robinson signed the first successful rap record; and Cory Robbins signed rap’s first superstar recording act. But Rick Rubin is the first bona-fide rap A&R man because his label, Def Jam, was the first to claim hip-hop as its main territory.

As a college freshman at New York University, Rubin fell in love with the rap shows taking place at downtown clubs. He wondered: Why didn’t rap records sound as energetic and raw as the stuff he heard live? Thankfully, somebody else was asking that same question: Russell Simmons, who imparted that ethos to Run-D.M.C.’s debut single. Rubin heard it on the radio and, inspired, vowed to produce his own record. The result, T. La Rock & Jazzy Jay’s “It’s Yours,” took Simmons’ “no-music-just-beats” aesthetic to its logical conclusion, and eventually brought the two men together as partners in Rubin’s nascent label.

Rubin’s proposal was simple: “I’ll do all the work. You just be my partner.” And while Simmons indeed toiled greatly to build the business, a definite division of labor emerged: Rubin signed and produced the artists. Simmons promoted them.

Rubin’s signings at Def Jam included L.L. Cool J, Public Enemy featuring Chuck D, Beastie Boys. Original Concept featuring Doctor Dre., and Slick Rick. He’d wanted to sign DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, but Simmons dissuaded him.

Like all A&R executives and entrepreneurs, Rubin retained indispensable talent scouts. It was Ad Rock of the Beasties who dug L.L.’s demo out of the rubble of Rick’s dorm room. And it nearly took a nation of millions to sign Chuck D. to a record deal: Both D.M.C. and Doctor Dre are said to have brought Rick the demo on separate occasions, and Def Jam’s head of promo Bill Stephney eventually convinced Chuck to sign.

Rubin and Simmons’ partnership began to fall apart when Simmons tried his own hand at A&R. While one record proved to be a hit — Oran “Juce” Jones’ “The Rain—his other signings, like Alyson Williams, Tashan, Blue Magic, and the Black Flames, ended up falling flat. And Simmons didn’t think much of Rubin’s much more successful expansion into heavy metal with the signings of Slayer and Danzig.

Rubin jumped his own ship in 1988 to found Def American Recordings, taking his heavy metal acts and leaving Simmons with the rap roster. While Def Jam would struggle artistically and commercially until the arrival of Chris Lighty (hits by 3rd Bass and Redman notwithstanding), Rubin resumed his success with Def American artists the Geto Boys and Sir Mix-A-Lot, and would go on to have a huge career as a rock record producer.

3.  Diddy

3. Diddy

Title(s): Founder of Bad Boy Records
Artists They Worked With: The Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e, Shyne, The LOX

He may not be the “best” rap A&R man of all time. But Sean “Diddy” Combs is undoubtedly the most famous.Combs did not sign Mary J. Blige and Jodeci—who became his first industry calling cards. But he inherited them and imparted to them his inimitable style.

It’s incontestably in Combs’ eternal credit that he championed Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G., a Brooklyn MC who came to his attention by way of two other “MC’s”: Matteo “Matty C’ Capoluongo and Mister Cee.

Combs launched his own label in 1994 with the one-two punch of Big and Craig Mack. He repeated and reaffirmed his R&B diva credentials with Faith Evans’s superb debut in 1995. While some of his signings remained creatures of their own particular time-and-space: Ma$e and 112 — other acts proved to have greater cultural legs—The L.O.X.

But it’s not surprising, given Combs’ lifetime M.O. of self-promotion, that his greatest and most enduring career has been his own, as recording artist, professional A&R, clothier, and huckster. Long after you’ve forgotten Danity Kane and Da Band, Diddy will likely still be in your face telling you he thought he told you he wouldn’t stop.


2. Dr. Dre

2. Dr. Dre

Title(s): Co-founder of Death Row Records, Founder of Aftermath Records
Artists They Worked With: N.W.A., The DOC, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, Game, Kendrick Lamar

The emergence of N.W.A. in 1987 as the vanguard of L.A. hip-hop is generally credited to the two co-founders of Ruthless Records, Eazy-E and Jerry Heller. And while these two men indeed had the ears for talent (including rapper Ice Cube and producer Andre “Dr. Dre” Young) and the stomach for financial risk, I propose looking at history the other way around. It was Dr. Dre who chose to work with Eazy and make him more than an ex-drug dealer with a loud mouth.

It was Dr. Dre who crafted the brief but brilliant career of The D.O.C.

It was Dr. Dre who chose to start his own label venture and mentor a young rapper from Long Beach named Snoop Doggy Dogg.

It was Dr. Dre who championed and mentored the Death Row Records stable of artists. And, after Death Row’s demise, it was Dre who snatched the Eminem demo tape from Jimmy Iovine’s clutches and funded Eminem’s Shady Records—which in turn gave us 50 Cent, G Unit, and The Game.

Not all of Dre’s choices—business and creative—have been wise ones. But his good ones have attained Biblical proportions. It’s no wonder then that Dre has become overly cautious about his own career. But he’s still making the right moves today with Kendrick Lamar.


1. Barry Weiss

1. Barry Weiss

Title(s): Former CEO of Jive Records
Artists They Worked With: Too $hort, Schoolly D, Whodini, A Tribe Called Quest, Boogie Down Productions, E-40

Who the hell is Barry Weiss and why is this old guy the best A&R man in hip-hop history? Answer: He built the most powerful and lasting roster of hip-hop and hip-hop-influenced R&B and pop music in history as the head of Jive Records.

This begs the question: How much credit should the head of a record label get for a career’s worth of signings that often came to his attention via the A&R people who worked for him? For example, it took the late Sean “The Captain” Carasov—a young, wiry British expat on Jive’s staff—to bring A Tribe Called Quest to his attention. What’s more, label heads like Weiss had the best managers and lawyers coming at them all the time with the choice cuts and prime properties. So Weiss had easier access than most to the best of hip-hop culture in the late 80s and early ‘90s.

But Weiss deserves credit because, unlike many of his contemporaries, he nearly always made the right decisions with his artistic judgment and checkbook. You cannot front on the man who invested in the following artists: Whodini. Too Short. Schoolly D. Steady B. Boogie Down Productions and KRS-One. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, which launched the career of Will Smith. Souls of Mischief. UGK. Spice One. Keith Murray. R. Kelly. Aaliyah. And in later years, T-Pain and Chris Brown. Weiss’s shrewd but dignified business practices gave E-40, a Bay area artist already making hundreds of thousands of dollars on his own without a label, the incentive to sign with Jive when other bigger labels were clamoring for his business.

(And let’s not forget that Weiss is also responsible for greenlighting a few other projects you might have heard of: The Backstreet Boys. N’Sync and Justin Timberlake. Brittany Spears.)

Extra credit goes to Ann Carli, who’s creative genius for packaging art and soothing sensitive artists was a crucial ingredient in Jive’s early success; and Jeff Sledge, discovered by Stu Fine at Wild Pitch but a longtime member of Jive’s promotion and A&R team.



Big Boi Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors- Album of the Week


Big Boi - Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors

After Speakerboxxx, after Big Boi Presents Got Purp?, after Sir Lucious Left Foot, it’s now possible to say that Big Boi, the solo artist, has his very own aesthetic — one pretty far removed from the ruminative Dungeon Family gutbucket soul-funk that animated the first three OutKast albums. Big Boi’s sound builds on the anarchic plastic funk of Stankonia, pushing it further, weirding it up. On Big Boi’s own records, sound veer in all directions, squirming and veering and switching up mid-bar. Producers pile on the guitar-squiggles and horn-stabs and synth-noodles until the tracks seems like they’re about to fly apart. It’s a sound that mirrors Big Boi’s precise, tourettic, ADD delivery. In the context of all that, Big Boi’s longtime, much-remarked-upon Kate Bush fandom makes a lot more sense; of course he’d love listening to another virtuosic and idiosyncratic vocalist, another artist who pushes her voice in every unexpected direction at once and who encourages her collaborators to do the same. That aesthetic is a tough one to pull off, and the enduring strength of both Speakerboxxx and Sir Lucious Left Foot is even more impressive in hindsight. Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors, Big Boi’s new one, isn’t quite as inventive and skillful as those two ones, but it’s still an end-to-end rewarding experience, another missive from a craftsman unafraid to risk complete embarrassment in the pursuit of fleet-footed funk euphoria.

A few years ago, word circulated that GZA, the Wu-Tang legend, was working on a new album with a whole host of indie-rock new jacks, and I witnessed a godawful mess of a surprise set that he played with the Black Lips at SXSW. I prayed that that album would never come out, and blessedly, it never did. But when the details ofVicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors showed up online, I got that same worry in my soul: That an aging rapper would tarnish his immaculate legacy by chasing relevance, enlisting a bunch of indie festival staples to make sounds that had nothing to do with his own music. And bits and pieces of Vicious Lies are just as ill-advised as I’d feared; the thin and smarmy Wavves/B.o.B. collab “Shoes For Running” is definitive skip-button material. But for the most part, Big Boi has made room for people like Phantogram and Little Dragon within his own sound, inviting them to his studio and using their breezy and luminous voices as pure-float counterpoint to his syllabic spray.

And the sound here is, if anything, even busier than what Big Boi and his collaborators managed on Sir Lucious Left Foot. Grooves don’t get a chance to ride out for long before a stray guitar-solo or a manipulated vocal squeak comes along to interrupt them. This isn’t comfortable ride-out music; it’s itchy and anxious and sometimes uncomfortable. But the songs still hang together more often than not, and they sometimes achieve banger status. On “Thom Pettie,” Big Boi and old buddy Killer Mike trade hornball verses over a track that feels simultaneously slowed-down and sped-up. “Apple Of My Eye” is rippling Afrobeat that could’ve fit beautifully ontoSpeakerboxxx. And on “In The A,” faded-superstar guests T.I. and Ludacris join Big Boi in reclaiming their old embattled triple-time snarl.

Near the album’s end, Big Boi even practically abandons rapping for an improbably gorgeous three-song stretch. “Rasperries” is a pinched, tortured, sexed-up back-and-forth with soul-singer guests Scar and Mouche. “Tremendous Damage” is simply a gorgeous canned-orchestra survival ballad, one full of touching and none-too-heavy lines about Big Boi’s father. And on the beautiful extended outro “Descending,” Big Boi and Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano coo emotively over weightless acoustic guitars and strings. That placid grown-man stretch might indicate a new way forward for Big Boi’s voice, not that he needs one. For the most part, though,Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors doesn’t bring new ideas; it coasts on Sir Lucious Left Foot‘s relentless rumble. But if anyone has earned the right to coast for a bit, it’s Big Boi. Of the man’s three de facto solo albums,Vicious Lies is easily the weakest, and it’s still miles better than any other new record you’ll hear this week.


New Book Reveals How Hip-Hop Became a Multi-Billion Fashion Industry

Hip-hop superstars Kanye West and Nicki Minaj are known for taking fashion risks, for better or for worse.

Nicki Minaj and Kanye West like to experiment with fashion. (Brad Barket & Evan Agostini/AP)
(Courtesy of

Elena Romero has much to celebrate. It’s been a long road, but the Nuyorican college professor has finally released her first book, titled Free Stylin’: How Hip-Hop Changed the Fashion Industry. Comprised of countless interviews and research, the book is a comprehensive look at how hip-hop transitioned from the hood to the runway.

Hip-hop fashion is very near and dear to Romero. For years, she wanted to publish a book that detailed how hip-hop celebs and designers in the genre created their own niche in the multi-billion-dollar fashion industry. It’s a story Romero knows very well, having reported extensively on the growth of hip-hop’s influence in fashion while it was happening, as a journalist for Women’s Wear Daily (WWD).

Both blunt and hilarious (and very pregnant), Romero recently walked us through her own ever evolving fashion sense, as well as some unforgettable fashion moments in the culture. Remember Lil Kim’spurple, flower-shaped nipple pasty? Now that’s what you call taking risks.

In your book, you go into great detail about how hip-hop and fashion weren’t always viewed as a likely combination. Where do you see hip-hop fashion now?

It’s [hip-hop fashion] not in its purest form as it was once because now artists, just like people in urban cities, are influenced by more than one thing. You’ve got urban kids skating now – that wasn’t the case thirty years ago.

Right now what we’re seeing is a transition. The original hip-hop artists are getting older now; Jay-Z’s in his forties, so he can’t necessarily dress the way he did when he was 18, but there’s still an urban aesthetic that translates throughout.

Let’s talk about you. What was your fashion sense like when you were younger?

I was definitely a hip-hop kid, but it depends on the music era that we’re talking about and the stage of life I was in. I listened to Michael Jackson, so of course I wore all those Michael Jackson-inspired looks of the 80s – the jackets with the zippers and the shiny socks… which is embarrassing now, to think about it. I was a big fan of [freestyle icon] Lisa Lisa of Lisa Lisa and The Cult Jam – before there was J.Lo, there was Lisa Lisa.

I had the Lisa Lisa haircut with the sideburns, the poofy front with the long straight hair in the back. But yet I listened to hip-hop, so I wore my colored Lee jeans and my Le Tigre shirt – and my brass buckle leather belt… and my shell-toe Adidas. And then you go through your Madonna phase – your Material Girl look. I wouldn’t say I was a trendsetter; I was definitely a follower of trends. Even now, being 39, my look is much more mature but I still have an urban sensibility. That’s always something that I carry with me.

What trend in hip-hop is the biggest fashion fail of all time?

I almost have to think about that, because it’s not easy… you have to put it into perspective. I still can’t believe… well, I can kind of believe it – the big MC Hammer pants. I hated those. But guess what? I wore those too – as much as I thought they were horrible! There was also the 90s rap duo Kris Kross, known for rocking their clothes backwards, but that made them stand out.

Who is someone who always gets it right?

I would say Sean Combs [Diddy] is a no brainer. He’s always had a sophisticated eye and that can easily be seen in how he envisioned his artists dressing.

In your opinion, who is the best-dressed female rapper – past or present?

I’m going to put things in perspective… I know you want to call it “best dressed,” but I don’t know if I would call it that. I would call it symbolic more than anything else. I think of Queen Latifah and how she pushed the whole Afro-centric look, and being a queen. The categories of best and worst dressed are kind of funny. Some people dress a particular way because it goes with their image and they want to be outrageous and outlandish. I wouldn’t personally wear that, but I understand they’re trying to come up with a costume-like persona….

Are you talking about Nicki Minaj?

Yeah! You’re reading my mind. And I think about her only because of her wigs and all that stuff. The clothes? That’s costume – that’s not everyday wear. Would she be wearing that walking down the street? Probably not. But for the stage, it gives people something to talk about. It does make her stand out – good or bad.

You’re Nuyorican, so I have to bring up Jennifer Lopez. Thoughts on her style?

J.Lo isn’t necessarily hip-hop per se, she is very much influenced by hip-hop from her early days of being a Fly Girl. She’s a great example of someone who can easily wear a velour tracksuit one moment, and an elegant gown in another – and still have a certain urban flair and sophistication. Whether it’s wearing those clothes or putting her hair in a slicked-back ponytail and the hoop earrings. So you can see how it’s not just this cookie-cutter look. People tend to think “Oh hip-hop, it’s just t-shirts and baggy clothes,” but it’s definitely more than that.


Hip Hop Fashion History

Hip hop fashion, also known as urban fashion is a distinctive style of dress originating wih African American youth on the scene of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philapelphia, the San Fransico Bay Area, Detroit, Memphis, Virginia, Atlanta, and St. Louis among others. Each city contributed various elements to its overall style seen worldwide today. Hip hop fashion complements the expressions and attitudes of hip hop culuture in general. Hip hop fashion has changed significantly during its history, and today, it is a prominent part of popular fashion as a whole across the world and for all ethnicities.


Late 1970s to mid-1980s

In the late 1970s, established sportswear and fashion brands, such as Le Coq Sportif, Kangol, Adidas and Pro-Keds attached themselves to the emerging hip hop scene.

During the 1980s, hip-hop icons wore clothing items such as brightly colored name-brand tracksuits, sheepskins and leather bomber jacket, Clarks shoes,Britishers a. k. a. British Walkers and sneakers (usually Pro-Keds, Puma, Converse’s Chuck Taylor All-stars, and Adidas Superstars often with “phat” or oversized shoelaces). Popular haircuts ranged from the early-1980s Jheri Curls to the early-1990s hi-top fade popularized by Will Smith (The Fresh Prince) and Christopher “Kid” Reed of Kid’ N Play, among others.

Popular accessories included large eyeglasses (Cazals), Kangol bucket hats,nameplates, name belts,and multiple rings. Heavy gold jewelry was also popular in the 1980s; heavy jewelry in general would become an enduring element of hip hop fashion. In general, men’s jewelry focused on heavy gold chains and women’s jewelry on large gold earrings.Performers such as Kurtis Blow and Big Daddy Kane helped popularize gold necklaces and other such jewelry, and female rappers such as Roxanne Shanté and the group Salt-N-Pepa helped popularize oversized gold door-knocker earrings. The heavy jewelry was suggestive of prestige and wealth, and some have connected the style to Africanism.

1980s hip hop fashion is remembered as one of the most important elements of old school hip hop, and it is often celebrated in nostaglic hip hop songs such as Ahmad‘s 1994 single “Back in the Day“, and Missy Elliott‘s 2002 single “Back in the Day“.

Late 1980s to early 1990s fashion

Black nationalism was increasingly influential in rap during the late 1980s, and fashions and hairstyles reflected traditional African influences. Blousy pants were popular among dance-oriented rappers like MC Hammer. Fezzes, kufis decorated with the Kemetic ankh,  Kente cloth hats, Africa chains, dreadlocks, and Black Nationalist colors of red, black, and green became popular as well, promoted by artists such as Queen Latifah, KRS-One, Public Enemy, and X-Clan).

In the early 1990s, pop rappers such as The Fresh Prince, Kid ‘n Play, and Left Eye of TLC popularized baseball caps and bright, often neon-colored, clothing. TLC and late R&B singer Aaliyah created a fashion trend among women. Wearing over-sized pants and big flannel shirts, they would couple the over-sized clothing with a tight shirt usually a sports bra underneath their big shirts. This was to show their own version of femininity, everything does not have to be form fitting and tight in order to be sexy. Kris Kross also established the fad of wearing clothes backwards. Kwamé sparked the brief trend of polka-dot clothing as well, while others continued wearing their mid-80s attire.

The Nike capture of soon-to-be superstar basketball protege Michael Jordan from rivals Adidas in 1984 proved to be a huge turning point, as Nike dominated the urban streetwear sneaker market in the late 1980s and early 1990s.Other clothing brands such as Reebok, Kangol, Champion, Carhartt, and Timberland were very closely associated with the hip hop scene,particularly on the East coast with hip hop acts such as Wu-Tang Clan and Gangstarr sporting the look. Gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. popularized an early form of street Gangsta style in the late 1980s from the African American Gangs and Huslter clicks who were there, consisting of Dickies pants, white T-shirts, Locs sunglasses, Chuck Taylors sneakers, with black Raiders baseball caps and Raiders Starter jackets. Starter jackets, in addition, were also a popular trend in their own right during the late 1980s and early 90s. They became something of a status-symbol, with incidents of robberies of the jackets reported in the media.

Hip hop fashion in this period also influenced high fashion designs. In the late 1980s, Isaac Mizrahi, inspired by his elevator operator who wore a heavy gold chain, showed a collection deeply influenced by hip hop fashion.Models wore black catsuits, “gold chains, big gold nameplate-inspired belts, and black bomber jackets with fur-trimmed hoods. ” Womenswear Daily called the look “homeboy chic. ” In the early 1990s, Chanel showed hip-hop-inspired fashion in several shows. In one, models wore black leather jackets and piles of gold chains.In another, they wore long black dresses, accessorized with heavy, padlocked silver chains. (These silver chains were remarkably similar to the metal chain-link and padlock worn by Treach of Naughty by Nature, who said he did so in solidarity with “all the brothers who are locked down. “) The hip hop trend, however, did not last; designers quickly moved on to new influences.

Mid-1990s to late 1990s fashion

 Fashion among “hip hop” elites

On the East Coast, members of the hip hop community looked back to the gangsters of the 1930s and 1940s for inspiration. Mafioso influences, especially and primarily inspired by the 1983 remake version of Scarface, became popular in hip hop. Many rappers set aside gang-inspired clothing in favor of classic gangster fashions such as bowler hats, double-breasted suits, silk shirts, and alligator-skin shoes (“gators”).

This certain look transcended into the R&B world in the mid 90s when Jodeci came onto the scene, who were crooners but with more edgy and sexual look. By wearing gangster style clothes along with the badboy attiude and being a R&B group they appealed to both men and women. Particularly known for their baggy clothing, symbolising a hand me down from an older relative of a bigger build as a sign of toughness.

On the East Coast, “ghetto fabulous” fashion (a term coined by Sean Combs) who was responsible for Jodeci‘s look was on the rise.

Urban streetwear

Tommy Hilfiger was one of the most prominent brand in 1990s sportswear, though Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Nautica, and DKNY were also popular. When Snoop Doggy Dogg wore a Hilfiger sweatshirt during an appearance on Saturday Night Live, it sold out of New York City stores the next day. Hilfiger’s popularity was due to its perceived waspiness, which made it seem exclusive and aspirational. Moreover, Hilfiger courted the new hip hop market: black models featured prominently in the company’s advertising campaigns, and rappers like Puffy and Coolio walked during its runways shows.

Karl Kani was the first to set the trend of merging hip hop with fashion. By combining his two passions Karl started a whole new fashion movement and many designers followed in his footsteps. Growing up Karl Kani wondered ” Can I do it? Can I become the Ralph Lauren of the streets? Karl didn’t have the answer for all these questions but it did provide the basis for his new name, Kani, a variation on “Can I?”. With a stylish “K” replacing the “C” in his first name, he ventured his own optimistic reply, Karl Kani.

Other brands, such as Nike, Jordan, FUBU, Reebok Pro-Keds, Adidas, Ecko Unlimited, Mecca USA, Lugz, Rocawear, harputs by Gus Harput, Boss Jeans by IG Design, and Enyce, arose to capitalize on the market for urban streetwear.

Throwback Clothing

One sportswear trend that emerged was the rise in popularity of throwback jerseys, such as those produced by Mitchell & Ness. Sports jerseys have always been popular in hip-hop fashion, as evidenced by Will Smith‘s early 90s video “Summertime“, and Spike Lee wearing a throwback Brooklyn Dodgers jersey in the film “Do the Right Thing. ” The late 90s saw the rise in popularity of very expensive throwbacks, often costing hundreds of dollars. Hip-hop artists donning the pricey jerseys in music videos led to increased demand, and led to the rise of counterfeiters flooding the market with fake jerseys to capitalize on the craze. The mid-to-late 2000s saw a decrease in popularity of throwbacks, with some hip-hop artists even shunning the raiments. In 1990 it was very big part for fashion because of all the hip hop artists that wore the various throwback jerseys.

The “hip-pop” era also saw the split between male and female hip hop fashion, which had previously been more or less similar. Women in hip hop had emulated the male tough-guy fashions such as baggy pants, “Loc” sunglasses, tough looks and heavy workboots; many, such as Da Brat, accomplished this with little more than some lip gloss and a bit of make-up to make the industrial work pants and work boots feminine. The female performers who completely turned the tide such as Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown popularized glamorous, high-fashion feminine hip hop styles, such as Kimora Lee Simmons fashion line of Baby Phat. While Lauryn Hill and Eve popularized more conservative styles that still maintained both a distinctly feminine and distinctly hip hop feel.


In the mid to late 1990s, platinum replaced gold as the metal of choice in hip hop fashion.Artists and fans alike wore platinum (or silver) jewelry, often embedded with diamonds. Juvenile, and The Hot Boys were largely responsible for this trend. Platinum fronts also became popular; Cash Money Records executive/rapper Brian “Baby” Williams has an entire mouthful of permanent platinum teeth. Others have fashioned grills, removable metal jewelled teeth coverings. With the advent of the Jewellery culture, the turn of the century established luxury brands made inroads into the hip hop market, with brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and 212 Diamond City making appearances in hip hop videos and films.

Modern Hip Hop fashion (2000s/10s Hip Hop fashion)

In the 1990s and beyond, many hip hop artists and executives started their own fashion labels and clothing lines. Notable examples include Wu-Tang Clan (Wu-Wear), Nelly (Vokal), Russell Simmons (Phat Farm), Kimora Lee Simmons (Baby Phat), Diddy (Sean John), TI (AKOO), Nelly (Apple Bottom Jeans), Damon Dash and Jay-Z (Rocawear), 50 Cent (G-Unit Clothing), Eminem (Shady Limited), 2Pac (Makaveli Branded) and OutKast (OutKast Clothing) Lil Wayne (Trukfit) . Other prominent hip hop fashion companies have included Karl Kani, FUBU, Eckō, Girbaud, Enyce, Famous Stars and Straps, Bape, Billionaire Boys Club, Beans, Ciara, Erykah Badu (Starter Clothing Line), LRG, Akademiks and Southpole.

Up and coming urban clothing lines have dominated the fashion in the Hip-Hop genre. Baggy Pants and Skinny Low jeans also came into style due to New Boyz’s jerk dance from the song “You’re a Jerk. ”

The hip hop fashion trends of the 2000s were all over the place and changed constantly, with the continue (balla) type image meaning extra baggy clothes, jerseys,and continue of bling. During these years there was a heavy celebrity influence among fashion trends. Hip Hop artists made brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton popular amongst the hip hop community, where most initially used hip hop as a way to a better life. Throughout these years many fashion trends from the 80s and early 90s were made popular again, when we see the rebirth of the door knocker earring and form fitting jeans for males. We also see bright colors being used and cartoon graphic print hoodies by Bathing Ape made popular by artist and producer Pharrell. Females could not get enough of high heels in all different forms and many ideas were crossed and we saw things like the open toed boot.

In recent years the hip hop world has seen a resurgence of old fads as well as the emergence of new ones. The last few years of the first decade of the new millennia gave rise to the popularity of tattoos covering artists from head to toe. Soulja Boy, Wiz Khalifa, Lil’ Wayne and Tyga are all examples of artists that have set the trend of being completely “tatted up. ” Although having tattoos is nothing new to the music industry, never have tattoos been so pervasive in the hip hop industry. Tattoos covering the face and the head have also become increasing popular. For example artists such as Birdman ‘Baby’ Williams now sports a star tattoo on the crown of his head, Gucci Mane proudly boasts an ice cream tattoo on his right cheek, and Lil Wayne on his eyelids and forehead. Tattoos got so famous by Tom camms how But sadly he died 4 or 5 about years ago. One cannot speak of fashion trends without mentioning the importance of hair styles, particularly for women. In the past few years there has been a resurgence of the asymmetrical hair cut with a contemporary spin. Stars such as Rihanna, Cassie and Kelis have all dared to be different by setting the new trend of the half-shaven head. The reemergence of Adidas track jackets and the use of fashion scarves have been some of the latest trends to hit the hip hop fashion scene. Adidas track suits are certainly not new to hip hop culture as they have been around essentially since commercialized hip hop was created, however they have recently once again become popular. Fashion scarves have also become popularized in recent years. Kanye West is the most recent artist to launch his own line of products by selling decorative scarves with provocative depictions, named Risque Scarves. Skater Fashion has been used on Hip-Hop scene this 2010-2011 including Knit Caps, Bonnets, Fitted Pants or Shorts, Vans, Nike SB (Skateboarding), Shirts with sleeves, Printed Tees (brands like OBEY, Stussy, Adidas, Supra, Circa, DC, RDS, Emericas). Chris Brown, Tyler the Creator & Lil’ Wayne wear this once or twice on their music videos & concerts.

The rebirth of the 90′s Snapback Caps is the most notable sign of the New School Throwback Image. The “New” Snapback hype started around mid-2010. Around late-2010 and early-2011, the “New” Snapback movement exploded. Starter Clothing Line manufactured the most sought for Snapbacks in the 90′s, and made its return in the Coming of Age as the hype for snapbacks grew, many of the well-known hat companies started to sell snapbacks, such as New Era, Mitchell & Ness, Reebok, Adidas, and many more companies followed suit. There are many notable artists are credited with the comeback of Snapbacks by sporting gear from a company named Ti$A VI$ION. Chris Brown, Tyga, and Big Sean are among the early supporters of this company since the Spring of 2010. Many urban fashionists credit Mac Miller, a well-known YouTube MC, with starting the hype with the release of his song entitled “Snap Back, ” which was on his mixtape The Jukebox: Prelude to Class Clown, released in June 2009. This was earlier before the “New” Snapback hype started to take root in Hip-Hop culture. Much controversy surrounds this topic of who started the “New” Snapback trend. It is enough to say that snapbacks now have an importance when it didn’t matter back in the day. Many arguments of Snapback Caps almost leave the originators of the “Original” 90′s Snapback trend bewildered. Before they were seen as items to show support to the local teams of the states. It’s as though the true meaning of Snapback Caps is gone. Examples are seen today with the overpricing of Snapbacks. Snapbacks in the 90′s went for $10–$15. Now the prices range from $25–$70. Snapbacks have now become a business proposal with a reception of major profit. Modern hip hop fashion includes low rise, whale tail for girls, skinny jeans, graphic tees, snap back. Also sports wear, basket ball and skateboarding shoes, hoodies, piercings in one ear or both, leather jackets, sleevless shirts, polo shirts, saggy pants, bikini top for girls, crop tops, tube tops, tanks tops and cropped t-shirts.
Criticism of hip hop fashion
Commentators from both inside and outside the hip-hop community have criticized the cost of many of the accoutrements of hip hop fashion. Chuck D of Public Enemy summarized the mentality of Hip hop fashion and some low-income youths as “Man, I work at McDonald’s, but in order for me to feel good about myself I got to get a gold chain or I got to get a fly car in order to impress a sister or whatever. “In his 1992 song “Us”, Ice Cube rapped that “Us niggaz will always sing the blues / ’cause all we care about is hairstyles and tennis shoes”. Some fans have expressed disappointment with the increased amount of advertising for expensive hip-hop brands in hip-hop magazines. In one letter to the editor in Source magazine, a reader wrote that the magazine should “try showing some less expensive brands so heads will know they don’t have to hustle, steal, or rob and blast shots for flyness. “ In fact, there were many highly-publicized robberies of hip-hop artists by the late 1990s.Guru of Gang Starr was robbed of his Rolex watch at gunpoint, Queen Latifah‘s car was car-jacked, and Prodigy was robbed at gunpoint of $300,000 in jewelry.

A few hip hop insiders, such as the members of Public Enemy, Immortal Technique, Paris and Common have made the deliberate choice not to don expensive jewelry as a statement against materialism.

Women in hip hop

Along with the turning of the tide by select female hip hop artists came the emergence of promoting sex appeal through fashion. Female artists have faced a number of pressures ranging from gaining exposure to further their careers as well as conforming with certain images to remain in demand and relevant. The alignment of R&B music with hip-hop music (with collaborations being more and more prevalent) placed a whole new category of females within the categorization of what constituted a hip-hop artist.

As referenced above, the nineties decade centered around women’s senses of style revolving around that of men in that they’d adopted the use of oversized t-shirts and baggy pants. Also listed above are Aaliyah, TLC, and Da’ Brat as conformists to that trend. Female rap group Salt-N-Pepa are considered amongst the frontrunners in leading the transition of moving away from the male alignment and asserting feminism in creating a new sense of dress. They are said to have “wowed fans while wearing hot pants, cut-off denim shorts and Lycra body suits”.

“Black women’s relationships to their bodies occur within overlapping cultural contexts that offer contradictory messages about their value and function”.In a male dominated society, it is no wonder that women used to work hard to align themselves with male images including how they’d dressed. As women generally gained access to and exposure within the offerings of several sectors of society, for example music, movies and television, we saw more images of what constituted attractiveness emerge. Following this came the perception of freedom to express oneself through several avenues including apparel. Rappers Lil’ Kim and Eve are known for resorting to trends surrounding being scantily clad with provocative tattoos and being perceived as attractive in the process. Not all female rappers, or female artists in general have resorted to these methods within their careers. “..the recent appearance of Black women performers, songwriters, and producers in Black popular culture has called attention to the ways in which young Black women use popular culture to negotiate social existence and attempt to express independence, self-reliance, and agency”.




Hip Hop Jewelry Retailer Cream Jewelry Best Is Giving Away a Free Diamond Watch With Purchase

Cream Jewelry Best wants to give you a diamond watch that normally retails at $200 when you make a purchase of over $120.


Cream Jewelry Best is giving away a men’s diamond watch with purchases over $120.  The watch features a leather band,  ten diamonds providing a total .10 carat weight and a stainless steel back. To qualify to receive the watch free, orders for premium hip hop jewellery must be over $120, not including shipping fees.


Getting a free watch with your iced out jewelry purchases is a great way to give yourself or someone you love a gift. While shopping at Cream Jewelry Best, you can pick out the iced out watches you want to give as gifts or the custom chains that you want for yourself.


With wholesale hip hop jewelry, Cream Jewelry Best wants to make sure you get the best bling for your money, and this free diamond watch is just an added bonus. The watch features Japanese quartz movement and is water resistant.  With a 2″ face and ring of diamonds, this watch is sure to look good with your hip hop bling.


Cream Jewelry Best offers wholesale prices and customization options to help you find or design the hip hop jewelry that you want. They also offer a recycling program to allow you to get a discount when you send in your old bling and buy something new.


“This is a great opportunity for ladies to get some of the hip hop jewelry they want and something free for the man in their lives,”  said Joseph Nam, CEO of Cream Jewelry Best, “or for the men out there to make big points with their ladies by buying them new jewelry and getting a watch for themselves.”


For more information about the free watch offer,  visit Cream Jewelry Best at


About Cream Jewelry Best


Cream Jewelry Best is one of the leading high end premium online hip hop jewelry retailers. The company seeks out the newest trends in iced out jewelry and hip hop bling to provide its customers with unique and fashionable pieces. Cream Jewelry Best offers the finest quality hip hop jewelry with the best customer service in the industry.


Learn more about Cream Jewelry Best at


Hip Hop Jewelry Seller Cream Jewelry Best Celebrates Halloween the Hip Hop Way


There are lots of ways to celebrate Halloween, but Cream Jewelry Best says that the best way is to dress as your favorite hip hop icon.

Halloween is just around the corner, and if you haven’t figured out what your costume will be, hip hop jewelry retailer Cream Jewelry Best has a suggestion: why not dress as your favorite hip hop star?

With the right iced out jewelry and attitude, you can rock Halloween as a hip hop legend. Several hip hop icons have embraced this tradition, allowing exclusive masks of their likenesses to be produced so that fans can live the life on Halloween night.

Lil Jon has taken an especially enthusiastic stance, encouraging his fans to purchase masks of his likeness and wear them to his concerts. These masks have Lil Jon’s trademark gold grillz, beard, dreads, and giant grin. Lil Jon even posts pictures of his fans wearing their masks on his Facebook page.

“We love when rappers like Lil Jon celebrate their fans by encouraging them to dress in their likeness,” says Joseph Nam, CEO of Cream Jewelry Best. “Since Halloween is such a great opportunity for people to dress up as their heroes, we think it’s a great chance for our customers to dress as their favorite rapper or athlete.”

If you’re planning to rock your Halloween party as a hip hop superstar, you’re going to need some bling bling jewelry to complete your look. Cream Jewelry Best is a premier online seller of hip hop jewelry, and the company can fill your needs for custom hip hop bling. With a wide selection of blingin’ products, from real diamond watches to hip hop chains, Cream Jewelry Best can outfit you for the holiday and for everyday.

Learn more about hip hop jewelry at


About Cream Jewelry Best

Cream Jewelry Best is one of the leading high end premium online hip hop jewelry retailers. The company seeks out the newest trends in iced out jewelry and hip hop bling to provide its customers with unique and fashionable pieces. Cream Jewelry Best offers the finest quality hip hop jewelry with the best customer service in the industry.

Learn more about Cream Jewelry Best at