Hair: that all-important mop a-top your melon. The stuff you twist, fry, pick, braid, color, and contort, and one of the first things people notice about you. Hairstyles are such an integral part of personal style, that they easily become an artist’s trademark (I often wake up with Chaka Khan Hair) and as far as image goes, there’s few things as iconic as a memorable head of hair. So here we pay homage to hip hop’s 10 best hairstyles of all time. Love them or hate them, these ‘do’s are so brazen and recognizable, they will forever be linked to the rappers who rocked them:
No one rocks the pigtail braids quite like Snoop Dogg. In fact, his hair is so iconic it actually has it’s own Facebook page. To be fair, there’s not much to it: if you’re like me, you spent most of your childhood running around the playground with this same hairdo. But it’s just so much more gangster when it’s worn by a grown-ass man, with a blunt in his mouth, and a mic in his hand. Legend has it that at the height of his beef with Suge Knight, Suge made an open offer to buy a Benz for any man who could cut off Snoop’s hair. As Snoop later revealed to Rolling Stone, that didn’t go over very well…
Whether tied up in ponytails, knotted, braided together, or waving around frantically, Busta’s dreads were as distinct as the rapper himself. Though he’s clean cut now (he gave them the chop in 2005 after 15 years), the iconic image of Busta, whipping his dreads around in a fish-eye lens, is how hip hop heads will probably remember him.
Lady of Rage
With a line like, “I rock rough and stuff with my Afro Puffs”, did you really think I could leave Rage off this list?? With her “no nonsense” flow and tomboy style, Rage made it clear that real gangster females had more important things to do than sit around relaxing their hair. Whether cruisin’ around Cali in a drop top, or kickin’ it in a parking lot with Snoop and the fellas, Lady of Rage made Afro puffs the style of choice for all rugged and raw ladies.
The Detroit-misfit-turned-underground-rap-god, Danny Brown, has the most controversial hair in hip hop right now. Its impossible to find another rapper whose mane is so talked about, hated-on, and celebrated. Shaved on one side and fried straight on the other, it’s hard to miss even with a baseball cap on. Haters took to twitter and called the shock of hair a “side salad”. Recently adding a dyed strip in the back, Danny told Fader mag, “It came from the Japanese niggas… Like the Yakuza gang members. Them niggas gangster, they cut your head off with a sword for all types of shit.” The ‘do is relatively new, so who knows what kind of longevity it’ll have, but it’s already become an undeniable part of the talented rapper’s quirky, misfit persona. Here’s hoping the Side Salad is here to stay.
Salt N Pepa
I’m not even going to pick favorites here. Salt N Pepa as a whole had some of the most era-defining hair that hip hop has ever seen, introducing the world to the Assymetrical cut. In Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair”, Pepa reveals that this pioneering look was actually caused by a mishap: an over-processed relaxer job by her sister caused patches of hair to drop out on the side of her head. Deciding to go with it, she buzzed the patchy area, colored the holes in with brown pencil and 90’s hip hop hair was born.
Some guys shave their heads because they’re hoping to hide a bald spot, while others do it because they can’t be bothered to style it. But then there’s men like Common, who make the choice to go bald look so good that we never even wonder what they looked like with hair. Paired with that perfectly groomed beard, Common’s smooth dome has become a trademark look. An all-around men’s style icon, Common has appeared in everything from Terminator Salvation, to the Obama inaugural Ball, and was the face (and head) of Diesel’s “Only the Brave” fragrance campaign. His ninth studio album is set to drop later this month, and we can expect Common to keep rocking his tried and true style. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
To be fair, any credit to Nicki Minaj’s emergence as a hair icon, should probably go to her wig stylist, since Nicki’s the only person on this list whose hair is obviously not her own. That being said, I think we can all agree the ‘blunt bangs & long mane’ thing looks pretty bangin. And regardless of where you stand on the Nicki/Lil Kim beef, Nicki sure has taken Kim’s original, ‘sexy-meets-wild-meets-manic-panic-hair-dye’ template to some next level.
MC Lyte debuted with a bang in 1988, dropping what would be the first ever full-length album by a female MC. An instant icon, Lyte’s fashion sense matched her smart, fearless vocals perfectly. With a flamboyant flip in the front and a curled lady-mullet in the back, her style was bold and fun, and ushered in an era of short, Brooklyn-inspired ‘dos. A trend-setter, Lyte’s finger was always on the pulse of street fashion and in her video “Paper Thin”, some extras can be seen sporting some of the very first Hi-Top Fades… which is next on our list!
Would any list about hip hop’s best hair be complete without mention of the hi-top fade? And would any conversation about the hi-top fade be complete without mention of Kid’n’Play? The hi-top, which dominated the late 80’s and (very) early 90’s, was almost single-handedly responsible for putting an end to the drippy, greasy mess that was the Jheri Curl era. While Kid, (who House Party fans will lovingly call ‘Eraser Head’), was definitely not the only rapper rocking the cut, his was the most outrageously memorable and helped bring this over-the-top hairstyle into mainstream culture and worldwide.
Ol Dirty Bastard
Wild and troubled, the late-great ODB’s hair was as crazy and untamed as the rapper himself. Faded around the sides with gravity-defying medusa braids on top, ODB’s mane will forever be immortalized in the government-issue welfare photo that graces the cover of ‘Return To The 36 Chambers’, his 1995 solo debut. Though his style waned in the years before his 2004 death – with alcoholism and crack addiction giving way to an unkempt appearance, weight gain, and even more missing teeth – ODB’s original wild style and unpredictable antics made him a hip hop enigma.