Express Yourself: Black Music's Fashion Influence - Jay-Z, Kanye, Pharrell, Public Enemy and more

What’s up Fly people of the world?!

It’s me again, the one they call The Fly Guy. I’m here representing for Black

Music Month 2008.

As you know, Black music has had

a huge impact on style in pop culture through the trends that have erupted from

its artists' wardrobes, verses and videos. From Kwame's polkadot craze back in the day to the ever-popular adidas obsession forged by Run DMC, Hip-Hop heads have been responsible for affecting the world at large with their style.

Let’s take a glimpse through Hip-Hop

history to review some of the artists and trends that have had the most impact

on pop culture.

Y’all all tucked in?

Heeeeerrrreee we go...


Enemy - The Neck Clock/ The Africa pendant (1988- 1991)

Recently, Flavor Flav has blown

up pretty major again, and his offering to the world of Hip-Hop style has blown

up again, right along with him...The Neck Clock!

On his hit show Flavor of Love, Flav gives the young

ladies competing for his love a neck clock to symbolize them having more time

to spend with him. If they don’t receive a clock…”Sorry, Baby your time is up.”

Genius thinking, yes, but that’s how much Flav branded himself with the clock.

Honestly though, I don’t know if

it was just a Flavor Flav thing. He was just the most outlandish with it. You

might catch him one day, just chillin', with the small clock, and then you

might catch him flossin’ with the wall clock size joint. Back in the day, Chuck

D could also be seen rocking the neck clock too from time to time.

I just saw an old N.W.A. album cover that had Ice Cube and like three other people rocking clocks around their necks too. That was kinda hot.

Another neck piece that PE helped

to jump off was the Africa pendant. In my hood (Philly!), we used to call them

Peace signs. My favorite of all time has to be the one with Africa and the gold

lion head riveted onto it. Y’all remember those?

Anyway, I can’t mention the

Africa pendants without mentioning other artists who could arguably get credit

for helping to jump off that trend, like X-Clan, KRS-1, A Tribe Called Quest

and De La Soul.

At this point in Hip-Hop, late

'80s to early '90s, there was a huge Black Power/Consciousness movement, so a lot

of artists wore the Africa pendants, but who really got it popping? Its kind of

a toss up, but Public Enemy was definitely a big part of it. And the clock is know what time it is!

I also have to mention that

Public Enemy has one of the hottest logos of all time. They just

licensed the rights for their logos to be used on apparel and accessories, so

we'll see some PE clothing and accessories coming soon. [See the AHH Side Hustle column featuring PE's new line with Obey] I need one of those

jackets, asap!


Puba - Tommy Hilfiger Brand


In the opening verse of Mary J

Blige's “What's the 411?" the featured artist, Grand Puba of Brand Nubian,

could be heard saying, "Well, I be

Puba on this here/the n**** from last year/Girbaud's hangin baggy/ Tommy

Hilfiger top gear."

Although he never reached worldwide superstar status, Grand Puba was larger than life on the East coast in the early ‘90s. Remember that Sprite commercial - the freestyle session in the studio about obeying your thirst? "I give a pound to my man with the right hand/and I keep the sprite in my left hand". Yeah...that’s how large he was.

After being introduced to Tommy

Hilfiger at JFK Airport in the early ‘90s, Grand Puba, who already rapped about

Hilfiger in his songs, was treated to an extensive shopping spree in Mr.

Hilfiger's showroom. Tommy was said to be inspired by how Grand Puba and his

crew wore his brand’s clothing. He noticed that most of the crew’s “Tommy Gear”

had oversized logos, and was worn with a baggy fit.

The designer then created a line

with more in-your-face Tommy Hilfiger logos and flags, and adjusted the fit to

more of a baggy cut. He realized that someone had to create clothing to

represent the Hip-Hopper’s aspiration to be successful. At the time, the Tommy

Hilfiger brand had not yet found its niche or carved out its spot in the

crowded fashion marketplace.

With the help of Grand Puba, and

his, at that time, newfound relationships with Russell Simmons and Quincy

Jones, Tommy Hilfiger was able to leverage his access to Hip-Hop to become a

contender for the top spot in contemporary fashion.

It was said that the Hilfiger

brand really took off after Snoop Dogg wore the brand on Saturday Night Live.

Remember ­­­ those Hilfiger duffel bags from like ‘93? The white ones

with the big Hilfiger flag on the side? How about the Hilfiger jacket that

folded up and zipped itself into a bag? Those were so hot! Hilfiger had the dope label tags too, with

the seersucker stripes inside the V on the back. That’s how you knew it was a real


Of course we all know that Hilfiger and Hip-Hop eventually fell out, but it was what it was back then. I’m taking myself back down

memory lane. Thanks Puba.


B.I.G./Puff Daddy - Versace sunglasses/Versace Silk Shirts (1994-1997)


tell ya friends poppa hit it, then split it/In two, as I roll with the Junior M.A.F.I.A./I don’t know what the hell's stoppin' ya/ I’m clockin' ya, Versace

shades watchin' ya

…and the rest is history. With

the second single from his Ready to Die

album, "One More Chance (remix)”, the Notorious B.I.G. single-handedly put

Versace shades - and the brand, period - on the map with the Hip-Hop listener.

Over the course of his career, he

continuously rapped about the Italian powerhouse brand, now headed up by

Donatella Versace, after its legendary founder Gianni Versace was murdered in

1997 - ironically the same year as the Notorious B.I.G. was killed.

Because of his lyrics about

rocking the expensive brand, The Notorious B.I.G. was a big part of Versace and

other Italian brands becoming status symbols to the younger generation. In his

“Hypnotize" video, B.I.G. and Puff were also seen rockin’ Versace all-over

printed silk shirts, in addition to the shades that they made popular years


It’s hard to mention the

Notorious B.I.G without mentioning him trailblazing the Coogi trend as well. I

remember not knowing what he meant when he said, “I stay Coogi down to the socks

Back to the topic though, it

seems like the perfect time for the Versace shades/silk shirt trend to come

back around. I caught a video about a month ago that had Fat Joe driving a

speedboat in Miami, while rocking what looked like a vintage Versace silk

shirt. Puff was in the video driving a boat too. To rock one of them, you

almost gotta be driving a boat… you definitely shouldn't be rockin one of them

joints on the subway.

Versace as a brand is also making

some pretty big moves, including a new hotel in Dubai, the Palazzo Versace

Resort, which will be furnished completely with the Versace Home Collection.

The original Palazzo Versace is in Queensland, Australia.

Anyway, Thanks B.I.G., Puff and

Mr. Versace. May Mr. Wallace and Mr. Versace rest in Peace! It’s all good Baby,



- Platinum Jewelry

(1999- 2007)

Gold Jewelry has finally come

back into style over the past year and a half or so. Where did it go, you ask?

Just ask Jay-Z! The following line was like a deathblow for Gold jewelry: "Baby, I don’t play/All my jewelry is light

grey/ Platinum, Spend ya whole life in a day/ What’s down is a bet, roll the

dice/Lets play."

It’s funny, because before that, all we knew was either gold or silver. Gold always wins over silver, so if you had paper, you would always grab a gold chain and medallion. Mr. Carter even used that fact to further cement his platinum jewelry's rise to dominance. In Blackstreet's "Call Me” (Hip-Hop mix), he said, "Jigga murder tracks, let the rap flow kill ya/Rock platinum

jewelry/Young ladies think its silver."

Crazy!! A lot of people were

rocking silver or stainless steel chains saying that they were platinum, too.

Needless to say, platinum kicked gold to the curb, and had a hell of a run on

the precious metals throne. Slick Rick even came back out and exchanged all his

gold jewelry for platinum in his first video after his release from prison.

It took damn near 10 years and an

‘80s retro craze for gold to make a comeback. I’m not saying that gold jewelry

was ever played out, but its popularity did take a dive for a minute. Recently,

we have seen gold jewelry, especially ‘80s style dookie ropes, make a return to

the spotlight. This time it looks as if it could be here to stay for a while.

Rose gold actually had a nice run too. Thanks Jay-Z!


- Throwback jerseys


Not too long ago, it was

impossible to walk down the street anywhere in America and not see jerseys

everywhere. First it was all about regular jerseys, but it had to be an

official NBA or NFL version. Not the one with the Champion logo or the Nike

swoosh underneath the NBA logo...haha. They were like $160 a piece. Then all of

a sudden, people started talking about throwback jerseys.

I remember thinking, "What

the hell is a throwback jersey?" I've heard it defined as the jersey of an

old school player, or a jersey from a team that no longer exists. In my

opinion, Fabolous gets the credit for trailblazing the trend and making it his

own. It seemed as if his collection was never-ending (and he used to have the

crazy fitteds and custom AF1's to match). I don’t remember anyone that had a

comparable throwback game.

In the same breath as I say Fabolous gets the credit for wearing them, Jay-Z gets the credit for bringing the phrase "throwback jersey" into popular vocabulary. On "That N**** Jigga" from The Blueprint album, he could be heard in the opening lines saying, "Come on the track like Dent Dent Dented, with a throwback jersey and a fitted."

Fabolous also celebrated his

extensive throwback collection in his 2003 song, “Throwback.” The hook says it

all: "Throwback this, Throwback

that/They even look better with the matching hat/All you gotta do is check a

player's stats/It ain't where you from, it's where you wear your throwback at!" In the verses, he cleverly spits about how he

rocks a different throwback, depending on the city he's in.

As throwbacks were proudly

enjoying their moment in the spotlight, time passed and gave way to the release

of Jay-Z’s The Black Album. Let’s

just say that his taste in clothing must change quickly because, this time

around, Mr. Z spit a line that single-handedly destroyed the trend that he

helped to establish not too long before that. 

On "What More Can I Say" he sarcastically said, "I don’t wear jerseys, I’m 30 plus/gimme a

crisp pair of jeans n****, button up."

The day after that song dropped,

the throwback trend was a wrap. Goodbye jerseys, hello ‘grown and sexy’! I feel

bad for the people that got their first throwback like a week before that. They

used to cost a grip. You could pay $300 easy. Some of the more exclusive ones

were damn near a stack ($1000, if ya didn’t know).

After all is said and done

though, throwback jerseys had a nice run. Shout to Big Rube. Shout to Remix the

Kicks too. The jersey trend actually gave birth to the custom sneaker craze.


West - The resurgence of Preppy (2004-2007)

In 2004, Kanye West bumrushed the

Hip-Hop scene with his debut album College

Dropout. With the release, he also bumrushed the world of Hip-Hop style

with his preppy meets Hip-Hop look that further pushed the grown and sexy trend

forward. Instead of jerseys, baggy clothing, or any of the other looks that

were expected of rappers at the time, Kanye stuck to his own script.

It was actually kinda ironic that

Kanye came into the game with College

Dropout, because his style had a very academic feel to it. Polo by Ralph Lauren always represented that Ivy League collegiate energy with its collections, and he wore the brand faithfully. He rocked

polos and rugby shirts with the collar flipped up, blazers, proper sized jeans,

and made it Hip-Hop with the Roc chain, hot footwear, the LV backpack and


Since then, the blazer and jeans

combination has experienced an iconic following. When I saw dopeboys on the

corner rocking jeans, blazers and button-ups, I knew the trend was out of


As for the polos, Kanye also used to rock his own brand, with the bear

logo embroidered on the chest. Who didn't want one of those? I think they

started out as a promotional tool for the College

Dropout album.

I actually had a track jacket

with the bear on the chest in like '05, from one of the first production runs

of Mr. West's still unreleased line, Pastelle. (I gotta find that

thing...Thanks Rocawear). Two albums

later, Mr. West seems to keep reinventing his style and staying a couple steps

ahead of the competition.

He just started another crazy

trend with the shutter shades from the “Stronger” video.

He said it best, "If y’all fresh to death, then I'm

deceased." Call the coroner. Thanks Kanye


Williams - Fitted clothing, skatewear, streetwear (2005-present)

Ever since Mystical's "Shake

Ya Ass" video, we have seen Pharrell rocking the fitted jeans and t-shirt

look. On the low, people were kinda clowning him for it. The funny thing is,

some of the same people that were clowning his "tight jeans" in ’02

are the same people that are rocking True Religions, Earnest Sewns, or even

Levi's more slim fitting looks these days.

The whole urban fashion game has

moved into more fitted or tailored looks over the past few seasons. That’s a

perfect example of just doing your thing and the times just coming around to

you. Of course he’s stepped it up a few notches since then, but Pharrell still

kinda dresses the same as he always has. It’s just that now everybody dresses

like that.

He has also been a huge influence

to skate/streetwear style. After teaming up with Japanese streetwear legend

Nigo (founder of A Bathing Ape) to create his brands Ice Cream and Billionaire

Boys Club, his fashion sense helped make Pharrell one of the posterboys for the booming skatewear/streetwear culture. He is also largely responsible for the crossover success of

Nigo's brand, A Bathing Ape.

Before he had his own sneaker

deal, Pharrell was seen religiously rocking Nigo’s BAPEsta sneakers. BAPEstas

actually revolutionized the footwear game, because they were the first sneakers

to gain popularity that totally knocked off another sneaker’s pattern and

replaced the original logo with its own. Did I mention they cost like $300 a

pair? The hefty price tag was partly due to the limited amount of pairs

available in each colorway.

After that, everybody figured

they could come out with their own sneaker too. Just knock off the air force 1

and put their own logo on the side. So they are also largely responsible for

the recent “I have my own sneaker line” trend (by the way, check for my new footwear brand, Etiquette, comin'

atcha soon…haha).

Pharrell also helped to jump off

the all-over print hoody trend, when he rocked the diamonds and dollar signs in Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It’s Hot" video.

He was also seen previously, rocking A Bathing Ape’s colorful all-over ape print hoodies. The printed hoody seems to be the single item that got the whole streetwear scene popping (outside of jeans of course).

Pharrell and Nigo have even

designed for high end powerhouse, Louis Vuitton. Millionare frames, anyone? Please believe

that Nigo is a rockstar too! Anybody ever seen this guy's teeth? Ridiculo!

Yo, I forgot to talk about the

trucker hats! Pharrell was wearing them since the “Shake Ya Ass” video too! Remember

how big that trend got? The Von Dutch hat?! Everybody was wearing them. Did you

know that the designer behind Von Dutch is the same guy behind Ed Hardy and

Christian Audigier? Anyway, I’m rambling. Thanks Pha-real!

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, I

hope you enjoyed the show. The Fly Guy is officially outta here. Don’t worry

though, I’ll be back before you know it. Have a memorable rest of the Black Music

Month celebration. Make sure you to advantage of all of the free music laying


Thanks for rockin with the flyest. Peace!