What's happening to hip-hop? Look, I'm not about to launch into that tired rant about how modern pop-hop has raped the integrity of the most influential cultural movement of the last century...blah blah blah. Yes, I know - It's unfortunate that the crappiest aspects of hip-hop saturate the mainstream, while real genius remains underappreciated. The music sucks, and all the bedazzled dentures and clapping buttocks in the world can't distract me from this fact. But I care about hip-hop and I at least want to understand what's causing the decay. I've been investigating all week and I think I've found something. What's the one connecting thread among all rap artist, past & present? You guessed it. Hats. My hypothesis - The quality of hip-hop music is directly proportional to the quality in selection of hip-hop hatwear. Before you dismiss this as completely harebrained, please humor me through the following retrospective:

In the late 70's, hip-hop hats were about the exorbitant expression of all things funky & fresh, a celebration of the universal 'hood, washing over inner city youth in a tidal wave of hat fantasy.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
These hats really breathe life into hip-hop's humble beginnings with a childlike, wanton wonder. A time when gold lamé and canary yellow banana hammock ensembles were completely reasonable. And check out Kid Creole (that mini red-bone brother on the left), HE can't even believe his audacity!

Afrika Bambaataa
Afrika Bambaataa again
This hip-hop pioneer has done more for the culture than arguably anyone, founding the Zulu Nation and perhaps even coining the term "hip-hop." Could it be that the glorius hat, and not the man, holds the formula to such a powerful influence and enduring legacy? Tell us your secrets, Tut Hat.

With a hat this super, you only need one kneepad.
And now we complete the ritual - Join hands and open your mouths. Activate the power of my stylish pork pie hat!
Can you spot the Time-Traveller? Hint: He's wearing a hat.

The next era of hip-hop was easily the finest, and the hats were no exception. Let's jump right in! Trends in hatwear had achieved maximum wow factor. They were brighter, more geometrical and a swatch of kente cloth overloaded the African pride meters. Hats cavorted with printed fabrics, leathers and furs, mirroring the brave push into more controversial and conscientious lyrical territory. When a crew of MCs were united in hat, no one could ignore the resounding chorus - "Awwww Yeaaahhh! Pu-Pu-Pu-Pump it up!" What a fun stamp on the face of the 90s - alongside block parties, spraying fire hydrants, blow pops, moon pies, and Body Electric's Margaret Richard.
This dime snowflake be cock diesel, yo!
But that's enough outta my piehole; I'll let these brainlids do the talkin'!

Cuz wit' dat Kangol slayin' ho cakes coast to coast!

These around the way honey dips gots dat ill stilo.

Yo' boy's dome piece be all the way live!

Yo, Roxanne Shante, dat pillbox be butter, ma!

Who knew a boonie hat could facilitate such a delicious gangsta lean?

Wit' hats and dukey ropes like dat, we straight goin' for dolo!

Humpty 'bout nathan but straight up lunchin'!

Parappa flossin' the OG skully, gettin' crunk off dat 808.

Prince hit up Hollyhood - now his bankrolls be swole, rackin' the stacks, Scoobies!


I should point out that, often even a hat can't ease a rapper's glaring state of suckery. Peep the following chumps:

Hip Hop Harry droppin' science on the shorties. Still kinda lame, tho.

Don't get ganked, wanksta - You ain't trill!

I don't know who this is. But I kinda wanna hit him.

Is it still cool to mock this guy? Yeah? Ok, then.

Meet Dude Cigarette, children's anti-smoking rap artist and convicted bigamist...? Aww hell naw, don't get got, nucker! You ain't bumrushin' this nappy donut!

Word to the wise, toys - watch yo' back 'less you catch a squab... BOOYAKA!!

...let's move on.

So here we are... the 21st century. And there are some corny ass hats floating around. Lil' Mama is a great example, as her style is childish and ridiculously megatard, much like her music. To be civil, I've not heard her new record, and I'd like to check it out - as soon as the rabies on my eardrum dries up from that grating "Lip Gloss be poppin'" inanity.

You buggin', Lil Mama. Dats real booty.

Keep your eyes open and I'm sure you'll see these correlations emerge for yourself. I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge those few shining stars who continually display primo hat taste. I don't think it's a coincidence that they all kinda rule. Presenting:

Bizarre - I got some pickle juice and tartar sauce for you, baby.
I don't know your music, but you were great on Celebrity Fit Club.

Missy Elliott - Has she ever been NOT cool?

M.I.A. - I never know what she's talking about, but I still dig her.

Mos Def - Hip-hop's connoisseur of hat chic.

MF Doom - The ultimate bad-assest face hat.

Of course, there's no way I can cover all the hat history...but I hope this has challenged your way of thinking about the relationship between hats and hip-hop. Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions! Together, we can make a change. Pick better hats, please...and stop sucking.
Pixel ghost up out this bitch! Protect yo' cabbage, whoadie!

Contact Pixel at pixel@pixelgamemusic.com

All rights reserved. (c) 2008