Among a horde of rappers who flaunt their luxury lifestyle with foreign cars, expensive jewelry and designer clothing, it’s easy for budding artists to mirror the flashy image displayed by many. Even emcees who pride themselves on their lyrical caliber have donned a gold chain around their neck at some point in their careers. While nothing is wrong with lavish living, sometimes it can be difficult for newcomers to distinguish themselves with music alone. However, this is where one’s appearance can make a difference. Whether intentional or not, some hip-hop artists have caught the public’s eye not only through their catchy tunes but also with how they look.
Take rapper Lil Yachty for example. With his Hot Cheeto-colored braids, the young artist set the rap game ablaze with hit singles like “One Night” and “Minnesota” in 2015. His contemporaries Lil Uzi Vert, XXXTentacion and Kodak Black also rocked unnatural hair colors or unique hairstyles, and their appearance generated just as much buzz as their music. As these rappers found popularity, not only did fans imitate their looks but other novice rappers did as well. This would lead to a flood of copycats and look-alikes with identities that rested heavily on their image. Regardless, these rappers offer just a few examples of how individuals can stand out in hip-hop solely by their appearance.
Like Lil Yachty, some rap artists are known for a specific look, one example being Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper. Whether he is at an interview, concert, award show or red carpet event, Lil Chano always dons his iconic 3 hat. He even wore his signature cap at the 2021 Met Gala, tailored to match his red, white and black blazer; there are few that can effortlessly pull off wearing a baseball cap to formal events like he does. When asked about the story behind his hat, Chance remarks it represents his independence:
“I used to always rock a cap when I was in high school and get them taken away. It was an excessive amount. Like, so often that at the end of each school year, there would be a box of all the confiscated caps. After they gave back a few caps to other kids, they would just give me the box because the rest were all my hats. So I think, in one part, it’s a rebellion.”
Just as Chance’s hat shows his individuality, other musical artists have also changed their appearance to symbolize their personal growth or freedom. J. Cole decided to grow out his hair to show he no longer cared what others thought of him, rapping on his track “False Prophets,” “Therefore from here on out, my hair grow out/ I care nothin’ bout opinions.” Doja Cat also expressed how shaving her hair and eyebrows was a freeing experience for her, even having to reassure her fans she wasn’t going crazy. Artists have changed their appearances for less profound reasons too. An example of this is Tyler, the Creator, who wears a platinum blond wig to embody his alter ego Igor. Other artists like Anderson .Paak also love to wear silky black wigs simply because they can; he looks good too, and knows he does.
Even without Lil Yachty’s crimson braids or Lil Chano’s signature baseball cap, hip-hop artists can still stand out with hairstyles that are seemingly plain. Pusha T, ASAP Rocky and Travis Scott are just three of the many rappers with braids, which have become their trademark look. They may fashion their hair in different styles but part of their appearance is defined by their hair; photos of these three without their braids are a rare sight. The paparazzi has even confused ASAP and Travis on more than one occasion. In spite of this, Rocky, Trav and King Push aren’t looking to change their hair anytime soon.
Unlike other rappers, they’ve also never experimented with other hairstyles during their careers. However, this is something that can’t be said about Drake, who has had quite the transformation during his run. If someone were to tell you this guy would be one of hip-hop’s chart-topping artists, you probably wouldn’t believe them. At the start of his career, Drizzy looked nothing like he does now. He was like any other rapper at the time and his face was completely bare. As he began to gain popularity, his appearance made subtle changes; he grew his hair a bit more and let his facial hair sprout. He would eventually ditch his afro and revert to a shorter haircut with a thick beard. And that beard changed his life, making him the Drake we know today. Recently, he’s used his appearance, most notably his hair, to promote new albums.
To prepare for his highly anticipated sixth album, “Certified Lover Boy,” the Canadian rapper debuted a new heart-shaped haircut online. Several months after the album’s release, Drake would later reveal another new hairstyle, swapping his CLB haircut for braided cornrows. However, his latest hairdo was of suspicious origin, considering just a few days before, he’d posted a photo with hair that seemed way too short for such a hairstyle. Regardless, with this bold haircut came an even bolder album that was house and dance-inspired rather than hip-hop. Following that album’s release, the 6 God would then unveil another new haircut that would leave the internet in shambles.
Drake showed off his latest hairstyle in an Instagram post with a caption that read, “Other than myself…everything has changed.” Social media had a field day with his newest look. His slicked-back curls earned him comparisons to the late singer Barry White, the Rev. Al Sharpton, comedian Katt Williams, a lunch lady or anyone else you can think of that has a sleek perm. As the internet relentlessly clowned the Canadian rapper, some speculated he would be releasing new music. Considering his last two albums were released alongside the debut of a new haircut, it’s possible that new music is on the horizon. Drake also isn’t the first rap artist to change his hair to promote new music, as California rapper The Game dyed his hair a vibrant red for his 2011 work, “The R.E.D. Album.”
Then again, maybe Drake is just having fun and doing what he wants. He was on vacation after all. Sometimes rappers like to switch things up. When Lil Yachty abandoned his signature red braids, fans thought his music would adopt a darker tone, but he would put these rumors to rest, saying,
“Honestly, [my hair] was hard to maintain. The bleach was literally killing my hair….That’s all. It’s just hair. I just kept it red because I loved it. I think sometimes people just assume things are a lot more complex. In my world, it’s just not that deep, bro…It’s all fun to me. There’s no strategy behind it, like, ‘oh, his hair was red, it’s black now. [He’s] making evil rap music.’ It’s not like that.”
That being said, who knows what this new hairdo means? The “certified lover boy” could just be having a good time. Drake’s no stranger to bizarre haircuts anyway. Though it would be great to see a romantic, ’80s-inspired album from him, considering the lukewarm reception to his last two projects, maybe not. Even if no new music comes out of this, we can still enjoy all the memes that came as a result.