Making money from rap music has never been more difficult. If you're a rapper whose last name isn't a compass direction and you regularly browse this website for tips on which brand carries the best $300 jogging pants, it stands to reason that you're also a very successful street pharmacist, because rappers aren't getting money like that anymore. We live in a time where the only way to profit off your rapping ability is to perform live shows as often as possible, while creating a brand that's seen desirable to impressionable youth, forcing them to come out and attend said shows whenever you come to town. Selling your brand's accompanying merchandise has always been a necessary staple of the live show, but the "designs" have never been very complicated or, well, fashionable. Most of the time they simply feature the artist's face or most recent album art screen printed onto a cheap cotton tee, available in black and/or white. But recently this trend appears to be changing as rap acts, especially new ones, understand their role as tastemaking icons and are leveraging their popularity by selling clothes during shows and online without a middleman.
But with great output and need for monetary gain comes great opportunity for ridicule. Not every rapper is a fashionista like A$AP Rocky, nor can they all bend the will of the youth to convince them that the niche things that they like are actually cool, ala Odd Future. Most camps seems to generally aim for the middle, creating clothing that's reflective of current trends while still reflecting that artist's essence—the same essence that people want to emulate. With this in mind, let's examine the online merchandise stores of 15 popular rap acts, picking our most and least favorite items from each collection.
Slava P is a writer living in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter here.