Sick, slick & stylish: your favourite hip hop artists’ favourite sunnies

Sick, slick & stylish: your favourite hip hop artists’ favourite sunnies

by Juliette Eleuterio
11 min

In the late summer of 1973, on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in South Bronx, New York, a building resident threw a back-to-school party. The host’s brother, Clive Campbell (better known as DJ Kool Herc) was also in attendance and decided to get experimental with his turntable. He stretched out an instrumental beat which meant the party attendees danced longer, and started MCing, now known as rapping, over the extended beat. And just like that, hip hop was born.

Over the course of 50 years, hip hop has grown and evolved into different subgenres but one thing has always remained the same: it has always captured the cultural zeitgeist. From the pioneering early MCs like DJ Kool Herc to the renowned golden age of hip hop in the ‘80s and ‘90s with synths and drum machines becoming more accessible to the current chart-topping ‘lil’ rappers, the evolution has been meteoric.

It’s not just musically that hip hop has captured the interest of millions, but also stylistically. Soulja Boy’s baggier-than-baggy jorts, literally any A$AP Rocky fit, and even Pharrell now creative directing Louis Vuitton – hip hop artists know what they’re doing. While the rapper’s go-to accessory is undoubtedly the blinged-out chain, there’s another one that never fails to hit: the sunnies.

Eazy-E pulls up in Giorgio Armani, allegedly
Ruthless ©

Eazy-E’s life was cut short when he passed away in 1995 but his influence is still felt to this day. From 1991 up until his death, the West coast rapper had one preferred pair of sunglasses that have become synonymous with the rapper’s image. The accessories look a lot like Ray-Ban’s Onyx model, which are often miscredited as Eazy’s sunnies. 

The specs haven’t officially been IDed, but it is believed by Redditors that they are the Giorgio Armani Model 932 020 130. These glasses first hit the market in 1988 but were eventually discontinued before being picked back up 20 years later. As you can probably imagine, original 1988 versions of these are extremely hard to come by, selling upwards of hundreds of dollars.

Soulja Boy tell ‘em how to wear sunnies
Soulja Boy ©

In 2007, Soulja Boy dropped Crank That, an absolute banger of a tune he probably didn’t realise would be on everyone’s early 00s throwback party playlist. The style we have all come to know and love Soulja Boy for is perfectly highlighted in the music video – think over-the-top oversized jorts they could practically be long-cut jeans, the large tee or hoodie to match and a side-facing cap. Though what we all remember without fault is those Soulja Boy sunglasses.

There were several iterations of the sunnies in the video – some with circular and others with squared frames, both in black and white – but Soulja’s very own wraparound white-framed version has a contested origin. That doesn’t matter though because what makes those glasses an iconic piece of hip hop history is the white paint-penned Soulja Boy signing. Honestly, we’re surprised this hasn’t been reprised by other rappers, but hey, at least it made for a fun Instagram filter for the rest of us.

Kanye shut it down in Shutter Shades
Roc-A-Fella Records ©

We can all agree that Kanye West – or Ye to prove our point – is an out-of-the-box thinker, so wearing sunglasses without the actual glass bit feels right up his alley. While the Shutter Shades may look like an antiquated artefact of yesterYe, when Kanye wore these in the 2007 music video for Stronger, it was revolutionary.

Who didn’t have a pair of these growing up found at some friend or other’s birthday party? Thanks, Kanye. These sunnies aren’t just grounds for a cultural object but actually have a pretty neat story to them. The pair Kanye wore were actually made by eyewear designer Alain Mikli but the style has been around since the ‘50s under the name of ‘Venetian blinders’ and rose to popularity in the ‘80s thanks to the pro wrestler ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage.

During the same year as the Stronger music video release, Shutter Shades, Inc. was founded, which sold imitations of Kanye’s glasses in different variations. Just a year later, Shutter Shades, Inc. hit up the rapper and his Bravado International official merch brand to sell these shades (including glow-in-the-dark versions) to fans at every stop of his “Glow In The Dark” tour. 

Sosa loves Gucci
Michael Knapp ©

If there’s one thing you need to know about Chief Keef its that he simply doesn’t give f*ck – it takes less than 10 seconds of listening to Love Sosa to get the picture. The same goes when it comes to splurging on his style. In 2012, the rapper went on a shopping spree at True Religion for which he shared the receipt that came to over $2,000.

Quick flex aside, Chief Keef was then seen wearing his True Religion fit with a pair of Gucci 1030 sunglasses. The aviator-shaped glasses feature blue and orange-tinted lenses and a white frame with a double bridge. These have been discontinued for a while now and getting your hands on a pair is going to cost you, considering an now-sold Grailed listing had them up for $259.

Fashion history repeats itself with the clout goggles
Playboi Carti ©

It was in 1993 that Kurt Cobain through the lens of photographer Jesse Frohman made a pair of white rounded-frame sunglasses, a type of eyewear which had been coming in and out of style since the ‘30s, enter the Hall of Fame of Fashion. Designed by Christian Roth, the bug-eyed shaped frame, also referred to as the ‘Kurt Cobain shades,’ were a notorious idol of rockstar attire.

That was until the summer of 2017 gave these sunnies a hip hop rebrand, thanks to a viral video posted by the Floridian rapper Denzel Curry where he is seen wearing an iteration of those glasses, saying “These ain’t glasses, baby, These are clout goggles!” And just like that, the clout goggles found their way onto all your rapper’s heads.

Well, they had been spotted for a while – Wiz Khalifa’s music video for The Play in 2015 or Lil Yachty’s 2016 CNN interview. But the Curry-coined term definitely set ablaze the brewing flame. Playboi Carti, Cardi B, Takeoff, Lil Xan… If you rapped, you wore clout glasses, the objectification of the saying “2017: The Year of Clout.”

The YZY SHDZ that never were
@kimkardashian ©

Kanye has never been known for his punctual releases, though his YZY SHDZ, although notorious, never even made it out of the promotional stage. Back around this time last year, the rapper now known as Ye hadn’t quite been completely shunned after his series of anti-semetic remarks though he was still being dissected by the public over his (failing) Gap deal.

What was meant to become the collaboration of our generation ended falling through after a back-and-forth of various allegations. It was around this time that the YZY SHDZ, often mistaken for a Gap collaboration though it was designed by Kanye West and Mowalola (the then Ye-appointed Design Director for YZY x Gap), started popping up on our feeds.

Nick Knight brought a Candice Swanepoel-fronted campaign to life which clearly underlined Mowalola’s influence on Kanye. The shades were seen worn by Kanye’s entourage, which means Kim Kardashian and North West, Quavo and TakeOff, Jordyn Woods, West himself and most notoriously Anna Wintour. If that wasn’t enough to get you hyped around the sunnies, Ye announced that the YZY SHDZ would retail for $20. As we all know now, the shades were never sold en masse.

Pharrel x Tiffany & Co. at the Louis Vuitton debut
@pharrell ©

As you probably know too well, Pharrell showed his debut collection as the Menswear Creative Director at Louis Vuitton last June during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in an evening filled with legends bridging the gap between music, fashion and culture – Beyoncé with Jay-Z, Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, Naomi Campbell, Kim Kardashian and NIGO were just a few in attendance. 

The producer-turned-creative director stepped out to take his final bow and thank all those in attendance wearing the same pixelated motif that dominated the collection, in the form of a fitted suit accompanied by a cap bearing the same motif and finished off with just the right amount of jewellery, specifically his sunglasses.

A Pharrell Williams x Tiffany & Co. V2 pair of sunnies, the teardrop-shaped sunglasses made out of 18-carat yellow gold and the 20 carat diamonds that frame the lens aren’t too dissimilar to the first pair Pharrell debuted at Paris Fashion Week back in January while attending the KENZO show. The artist told WWD that he and Tiffany & Co. are “engaged,” without revealing any more information. Considering Pharrell’s position in fashion now, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a Louis Vuitton x Tiffany & Co. full blown line, considering both operate under the LVMH conglomerate.

Curated by Prosper Samanyada

More on Culted

See: We’re throwing shade(s) in this week’s shopping guide

See: Culted Sounds: celebrating 50 years of hip-hop

in other news