Notorious Style: Biggie’s Influence On Hip-Hop Fashion
“…cuz the greatest rapper of all time died on March 9.”
- Canibus, “Second Round K.O.”
The Notorious B.I.G. Biggie Smalls. The King of New York. The Black Frank White. Big Poppa. Christopher Wallace, the Brooklyn native known also by these aforementioned aliases has been gone for over a decade, yet his influence on hip-hop culture has been monumental even in his absence.
The late and great emcee was considered light-years ahead of his time, which is probably why he’s still spun regularly on radio stations all over the globe. Biggie’s still in the forefront of the minds of virtually all those who appreciate hip-hop; from those who remember scrambling home and eagerly ripping off the plastic to the ’94 classic Ready To Die to the younger guys and girls that had no qualms illegally downloading Biggie’s posthumous album, Duets: The Final Chapter.
The one thing Biggie did phenomenally that was constantly overshadowed by his dazzling wordplay was dress himself stylishly. The younger generation didn’t really get a glimpse of his ability to start trends, but they definitely heard about it in his countless rhymes filled with constant references to his various designer clothes and accessories. To celebrate the 12th anniversary of Biggie’s passing, we decided to focus on the rapper’s most memorable fashion contributions to hip-hop.
Sure, Australian clothing company COOGI had been creating these multi-hued sweaters since 1969, and Bill Cosby’s Heathcliff Huxtable character sported them on The Cosby Show in the ’80s, but the ‘hood wasn’t hip to the colorful look until Biggie did it. When Biggie donned the sweaters during performances — and, notably, on the cover of The Source with the Twin Towers behind him [picture above] — the look exploded in the hip-hop scene.
But as the story has it, Biggie borrowed his style from another New York kid, Mount Vernon resident Walt G. local As told to MTV News by veteran stylist Groovey Lew:
“We used to go to [Manhattan club] the Grand on Sundays, and my man had all the Coogi’s and the Kangols. And I got the pictures where G got his Kangol on and his COOGI, but Big had on Army jackets and Timberlands. So [Big] fell in love with this kid’s style right there — just took it to the next level for the world to see. If you weren’t Bill Cosby or just a rich mother—-er from Australia playing golf, nobody knew about [COOGI]. Big homie started running around with it, and that’s what opened the hood up to it.”
Once Biggie introduced the luxury company to the streets, he helped start a trend in colorful clothing that streetwear brands everywhere adopted. We’re one of the few retailers with a constant supply of brand new COOGI gear for the fellas and the ladies, so make sure you grab some today – check it out here.
Biggie was often draped in Versace from head to toe – from the shades to the silk shirt to the upholstery in his crib. He didn’t mind that that Versace didn’t design 4XL; he wore it anyway, tailor-made. In 1997, when Biggie rocked a rare, limited edition of Versace sunglasses in his “Hypnotize” video, the streets went crazy trying to figure out what model of the shades he had on.
Even Lady GaGa referred to her 1980s vintage Versace frames as her “Biggie Smalls Versace glasses” to the media after they were stolen from her on her European tour earlier in ’09. The international superstar went as far as to offer whoever finds them a spot in her next video. To this day, collectors are auctioning the few pairs in this style that still exist at ridiculous prices. Your best bet may be hitting eBay, but beware of fakes!
Biggie made the infamous “Jesus Piece” his choice of jewelry in the ‘90s and a significant amount of rappers today are resurrecting the piece. If there ever was a checklist of must have items rappers should have, this tops the list. Kanye West and the G.O.O.D. Music crew definitely have these bad boys crossed off their list. While his was glittering gold, the piece has been redesigned in various styles and with countless materials.
If you’ve ever wanted to own a Jesus Piece but didn’t have the funds and despised the cheap imitations on the market, New York-based brand Good Wood has a great alternative. The Good Wood Jesus Piece features a 30-inch wood beaded chain available in various colorways. These items became popular towards the end of ’09, and have been mostly sold out on their online store – check it out to see what you can still get your hands on.
These are just a few of the fashion items that Biggie brought to the forefront of hip-hop culture. We’d love for you guys to share your favorite fashion memories of Biggie’s, and even your favorite verses that relate to his style. Hit us with ‘em!