Gift Ideas For The Hip-Hop Fans In Your Life (via @nprmusic)
With the Holiday shopping season in full-swing and Christmas around the corner, together this dope collection of holiday gifts that we think will make the perfect present for any hip hop head you know. And although I missed out on Haaaaanukkah, no that’s not misspelled, that’s how French Montana says it, we decided to ‘Passover’ some of the more obvious gift choices and dig deeper in Santa’s bag to find a little something for everyone. [My Jewish friends will see what I did there.]
So no, you won’t find any of the great reissues from this year on this list (although there were a ton, everything from from Public Enemy to DMX) or a pair of Beats By Dre Studio Headphones (although I do need a pair) but you will find something for everyone. In our first annual holiday buyer’s guide you’ll find something for everyone from the thrift-store-indie-label-budget baller all the way up to that i-woke-up-in-a-new-bugatti major label paper spender.
If you feel like you haven’t found the right gift for that special person, check out the UpNorthTrips Holiday’s Buyers Guide.
UPNT’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide: Gear
To say 1996 was a big year in hip-hop is equivalent to saying that Jay Z is a rich man. Both statements merely scratch the surface of reality. 1996 was the year that introduced the world to both Jay and Lauryn Hill through the releases of Reasonable Doubt and The Fugees’ The Score, respectively. However, that year also spawned the sophomore releases of both Nas and Outkast, both of which have gone on to become multi platinum successes. And then of course, the late Tupac Shakur cemented his legacy by releasing two of the genres biggest albums in the same year, one of which ended up being posthumously released after being recorded in seven days. To commemorate all of that lush history, you can cop Since1982’s “1996” Dynasty Hoodie, which makes sure to shout out the most important albums of the year. What better way to earn your hip-hop nerd stripes?
Hip-Hop and 40s go together like Bonnie & Clyde. It’s one of the few things that both East Coast (Redman & Method Man) and West Coast (The Game) rappers can come together on in shared appreciation for. Now you can indulge in your appreciation of the brew by copping this crewneck. Unfortunately, 40s not included.
Why bother with the local corner store when you can wear its most important products? That seems to be the idea behind Dope.Boy.Magic’s hockey jersey. I suppose the only problem is that you can’t just pull a swisher from out of the jersey and smoke it…
The Toronto Blue Jays last won the World Series in 1993. On the flip side of that coin, Drake has been winning ever since he broke into the game with So Far Gone back in 2008. The new OVO edition Blue Jays fitted hat seems to be a trump card in the team’s attempt to overtake the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the American League East. Considering the Red Sox won the World Series earlier this year, the tactic seems to have failed. Maybe the Raptors will have more luck with Drake as their ambassador than the Jays did (although they’re already off to a bad start).
There are 364 days of the year to get fresh and fly; Christmas is not one of them. There’s no denying that the ugly Christmas sweater is a real thing and The Roots decided to jump right into the action. Generally, The Roots Crew collective is not necessarily known for being flashy and fly but there’s no denying if you rock this sweater, you’ll definitely stand out. The real question, though? Is there anything that could look better on an ugly sweater than Questlove’s afro? The ‘do speaks for itself.
Jay Z has always been more than just a rapper; he’s a cultural icon. When he told us to get rid of throwback jerseys, we listened. And now that he’s telling us to purchase one of these $695 ski masks, it feels like the obvious progression. Luckily, the controversy from Barneys’ issues with racial discrimination appears to have washed over.
Stussy x Yo! MTV Raps Collection (Prices Vary)
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary Yo! MTV Raps. This is the perfect gift for a kid like me who rushed home every day to catch Ed and Dre on TV and also for the next-gen fan who doesn’t even know who Todd-1 is. A true die-hard fan like myself not only watched the show, but collected the trading cards - which is where the collection’s artwork derived from. So now that the weather is colder, and hoodie season is among us, these are a must-cop.
The M.O.C #DadaLean Beanie ($17.99)
“Drake in Dada” took the Internet by storm when behind-the-scenes pictures from Drake’s “No New Friends” video shoot went public. The memes that followed were at times hilarious, at times brutal, and for a span of one month, they were literally everywhere online. And eventually they made their way onto clothing too. At first it was just t-shirts, but now the line has extended to beanies and other items. This is perfect for both Drake’s adoring fans and bitter haters alike.
The Polo Bear Sweater ($295)
As part of its “Bring It Back” campaign, Polo brought back its unofficial mascot and the sweaters it adorned thanks to an overwhelming fan vote. Fans of the classic piece will want to get their hands on one of these, or re-up if they already own one. New York City might be a different place than it was in the 90s, but Polo remains king.
The Lo Life crew is one of New York City’s most notorious. The rapper Thirstin Howl III, an underground veteran and somewhat of a cult figure in the East Coast street rap scene, has released a t-shirt with the Lo Life logo (“cookie”) emblazoned front and center. If you can’t afford some real that bear sweater, this might be the next best thing.
UPNT’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide: Accessories
A Tribe Called Quest has apparently performed their last concert this past Fall, but now you can bring them around with you forever with this wallet designed in the spirit of the Midnight Marauder’s album. Hopefully the group comes back together for another run in the near future, but for now, this will have to suffice.
East vs. West Cufflinks ($32)
Go into business meetings and show the person sitting across from you that you mean business by wearing these cufflinks. Pac was the embodiment of “thug life,” and Biggie is still considered the undisputed king of New York sixteen years since his passing. Not only do the cuff links boost your self-esteem, they show that you’re all about working together and building unity.
Everybody has been getting a kick out of the R. Kelly revival campaign. He has dominated late night television with standout performances alongside Lady Gaga, he has collaborated with Justin Bieber, and he has called his new album Black Panties. As if the comeback couldn’t get any better, there are now stickers of some of his most famous lyrics. Just don’t let your parents see these out and about.
It’s cold out here in these streets, especially for the next few months. To help keep you out and getting that “C.R.E.A.M.,” you best protect ya lip and get one of these lip balm holders. By the end of the winter, you’ll have “Triumphed” in your battle against the elements. Wu-Tang Forever, indeed.
Cousin Bang isn’t just Cam’Ron’s cousin. He’s a comedian of the highest order, a cult leader, and a key component to Cam’Ron’s successes outside of the rap world. These du-rags are made of “expandable material” and so one-size fits all. That makes it a necessary gift for anybody.
Branding is a buzzword in 2013. With record sales at all time lows, artists are using branded merchandise as a way of generating extra income to compensate. Case in point: the A$AP Mob Purple Drink Keychain. I guess it’s cheaper, safer, and less addictive than the real stuff. Pour up.
Now this is cute. Who wouldn’t want to be wearing a hat with the image of baby Christopher Wallace (from the Ready To Die album cover) on the center. Rocking this hat in either green or black will have the girls having you Big Poppa too.
Gucci Mane Bobblehead Doll ($19.95)
You’ll find it hilarious now, and then really annoying six months down the line when you find an ice cream cone shaking in your face on a hot summer day. But still, totally worth it.
UPNT’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide: Books
This is not a novel, its a text book, it is not a storybook, it’s a history lesson. There’s no debate, there would be no hip-hop without a beat. And while sampled drum patterns and breakbeats ran the game for a couple of decades, the sound has evolved over the years and drum machines that created the sound have evolved too. For those who think 808s are a concept conceived by Kanye West,this book is for you, educate yourself.
Dear Streetwear labels of the 2000s, if you’re looking for a way to pay homage to a man whose blood, sweat and tears paved the way for success - buying this book is a good place to start. Ecko is to hip hop clothing as Def Jam is to hip hop music. This book is not your conventional autobiography but rather a tool to empower those inspired by the creativity that hip-hop embodies. The book pushes you to think outside the box and develop the entrepreneurial spirit that turned Mark’s brand into a hip hop mainstay and defined him as a cultural icon.
Houston’s rap scene is one of the more distinct subcultures. In recent times, its signature chopped and screwed sound has influenced artists across the country, most notably A$AP Rocky. The Houston Rap Book is a good place to start to find out everything you need to know to get “trill.”
Ed Piskor’s Hip-Hop Family Tree ($24.99)
Dear Streetwear brands of the 2000s, if you’re looking for a way to pay homage to a man whose blood, sweat and tears paved the way for success - buying this book is a good place to start. Ecko is to hip hop clothing as Def Jam is to hip hop music. This book is not your conventional autobiography but rather a tool to empower those inspired by the creativity that hip-hop embodies. The book pushes you to think outside the box and develop the entrepreneurial spirit that turned Mark’s brand into a hip hop mainstay and defined him as a cultural icon.
Most rapper’s try to sell you their autobiography in book form. A few have given us their lyrics with in-depth interpretations. Some of them (such as 50 Cent) have given us full-fledged fiction novels. But Bun B is not the average rapper. The Trill O.G. got together with writer Shea Serrano to create rap’s first coloring and activity book. Why didn’t anybody think of this sooner?
Where’d You Get Those, a book on the history of New York City’s infatuation with fresh kicks, was published in 2003. To celebrate the milestone, it is being republished in hardcover form, with additional sneakers included to the collection. Very relevant for those who believe Kanye West when he insists that he nearly singlehandedly made Nike culturally relevant. Also, the book’s author, Bobbito Garcia, is as hip-hop as it gets: he was the co-host of WKCR’s legendary “Stretch & Bob” show that helped break artists such as the Wu-Tang Clan.
Is there something to be said about Questlove that hasn’t already been said 50 times before? If anyone was to write an autobiography filled with hilarious anecdotes about that time they saw Prince rollerskating, it would be the Quest. He even addresses some of the moments where he was unafraid of going beyond the edge, as he talks about his decision to play Fishbone’s “Lyin Ass Bitch” when Michele Bachmann came on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. That decision almost cost the Roots their gig on Fallon’s show. Hopefully we get a sequel, where Quest explains what prompted him to attempt (unsuccessfully) to revive Little Brother.
New York CIty was not only the epicenter for hip-hop culture, it has long been held as the tastemaking ground of hip-hop style. One of the staples in the 80s were the Mighty Shirt Kings, whose customizable t-shirt designs became legendary. This book takes an in-depth look into their emergence and also into hip-hop fashion of that time, particularly in New York City.
Snoop Dogg: Reincarnated ($27.92)
2013 was the 20th anniversary of Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, a milestone so big that even Suge Knight broke out of his cocoon to speak on it in an interview. However, for Snoop, 2013 might be better known for his abrupt transformation into Snoop Lion, honorary Rastafarian. To accompany the album of the same name, Snoop dropped this book, which narrates Snoop’s spiritual journey and transformation. It also includes extended interviews from influential people in Snoop’s life such as Daz Dillinger and Louis Farrakhan.
UPNT’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide: Tech
Crosley Cruiser Portable Turntable ($79.99)
At this stage in the game, a portable turntable is probably not quite as useful as it might have been ten-fifteen years ago. A real DJ probably wouldn’t need to carry a turntable, and if you aren’t a real DJs, the other options available are likely better. That said, vinyl still produces better sound quality than any other medium, and it is pretty cool to be able to pull out a portable turntable (especially for children who have never experienced a vinyl player).
Reloop USB Mixtape Recorder ($129.99)
Did you know that a mixtape was given this name because it was released on cassette tapes back in the day? That concept might be lost on the Datpiff generation, but now they have a way to never forget that. And while the design might be retro and reminiscent of the “good old days,” the functioning of this USB mixtape recorder is entirely digital and modern. While those mixtapes are relics of yesteryear, the Internet has really been a powerful enabler.
Beats By Dre Product ($379)
Kanye West has been calling himself the “next Steve Jobs” for almost six months now, but that honor might have to go to both Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. The Beats By Dre brand has become a nearly ubiquitous part of American culture. Their headphones are distinctive in design and its sound quality is amongst the best. The new studio headphones are a revamped version of the original, with increased comfortability and Adaptive Noise Cancelling.
Not everybody can be a producer. It takes a good ear to hear contrasting sounds and put them together in a manner that makes sense. It takes attention to detail and sheer persistence. So now for those who wanted to master the MPC but never had the talent to do so, here’s the next best thing: put some Soundcloud instrumentals on your new MPC flash drive and take them on the go.
UPNT’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide: Music
The first six albums Public Enemy ever released (through Def Jam Records) were each certified at least gold. Three of those albums went platinum, an astonishing feat for a group known for its political commentary and willingness to speak out against authority, especially the government. Chuck D’s aggressive delivery and polished rhyming style were a tour de force that needed to be heard, and the more serious Chuck played well off of the more playful Flava Flav. If you need more of a reason to grab this collection of essential albums in vinyl form to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Yo! Bum Rush The Show, then you need to read this.
There are a lot of similarities between hip-hop and punk, with their rebellious routes and constant demand to go against the grain in order to promote culture. That said, there is something unnerving about hearing Nas’ vocals over the Adolescents, or hearing Dead Prez’s “Hip-Hop” mashed up with Sex Pistols. And while not all hip-hop mashups sound good, this one does.
K-Def’s name might slip through the cracks, but that doesn’t diminish his catalog at all. A legendary producer known for work alongside Marley Marl during the 80s and for producing on songs for Lords of the Underground, UGK, and Ghostface Killah, his One Man Band instrumental album was one of three instrumental projects he dropped this year. Of course, the limited white cassette tape makes this one a bit more special than the rest.
Mobb Deep’s The Infamous set the standard for what hardcore grimy East Coast hip-hop should sound like. While Havoc may not get placed on the same pedestal of production greats such as DJ Premier, RZA, or Pete Rock (likely because he did not really produce much outside of Mobb Deep), his haunting, distorted synthesizers and muffled drums helped set the tone for Prodigy to unleash his gripping dose of reality rap. With the Internet creating a platform for rappers and producers trying to bring back the 90s with “Nostalgia Rap” the right set of sounds are essential to do it right. Havoc might have summed it up best in his sales pitch for his producer kit: “You want the right tools in your toolbox.”
Forreal though, does it get more classic than Nas’ “Halftime”? Way before Illmatic, Nas laced the Large Professor-produced cut, which originally appeared as a track from the Zebrahead soundtrack. In 2014, we’ll celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Nas’ historic seminal debut, so impress a boyfriend, son, or co-worker with this limited edition Record Store Day exclusive release.
Very simple: When DMX entered the game in 1998, he released two albums within the span of seven months, and both albums have subsequently sold over seven million copies combined. If you combined the sales of all the rap albums of 2013, you would likely not even come close to half that total. Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood brought out more of that visceral emotion and aggression, and stark introspection that made DMX a powerful emcee. Meanwhile, the album’s artwork with DMX immersed entirely in blood, might be as bone-chilling as the music. Altogether, this makes it a perfect candidate for a Vinyl reissue that takes advantage of its signature design also.
Amongst the solo albums within the Wu-Tang Clan’s extensive catalog, Ironman stands out. The debut work of Ghostface Killah, the album introduced hip-hop to a personality unlike any other, a rhymer whose creativity and signature usage of non-sequitur has made him one of the best to step into the booth. While the album went on to become Ghostface’s only platinum-selling album, being able to buy a 24-karat gold album that comes with a matching plaque and an in-depth hardcover book with more goodies is totally worth it.
Earlier this year, Unsung did a full documentary on the career of the Geto Boys. It’s a thorough work that details both the vast success the group had as one of Houston’s pioneering members of the hip-hop community and the obstacles they faced with each member going through personal strife. Included in the documentary was the grisly tale of the making of the album artwork for We Can’t Be Stopped, a turning point in the Geto Boys emergence into the mainstream. The new clear vinyl reissue of the album does not contain the same exact artwork from the original but a modern-day recreation of the original cover. , the music remains, including the classic song “Mind Playing Tricks On Me.”
UPNT’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide: HomeGoods
Def Rugs ($89)
From the genius mind of Erick Sermon, Def Rugs allows you to bring hip hop into your house. Every time a guest steps into the building, they will see you rep your hip-hop badge loudly and proudly. Whether its for your crib, or the studio, this is one rug where you may not want people to wipe their feet as they enter the spot.
Davey Gravy Cross Stitch (Prices Vary)
The cross stitch is an undervalued part of any respectable household. This collection of hip-hop related cross stitches include some incredibly detailed representations of Eazy E and Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. But the highlight, of course, comes with the clever flip of Kendrick Lamar’s song, “Stitch don’t kill my vibe.” Priceless.
Nas’ career has gone through a lot of ups and downs in the twenty plus years he’s been rapping. And because of the standard he set with Illmatic, we sometimes overlook some of his other career highlights (or, some have even disapproved of them). That’s why we all need this poster of God’s Son and his achievements in our lives. And naturally, the guy who made it is from Queens. Of course, there’s also a similarly intricate poster of Biggie for those who rep Brooklyn.
LP Crate Record Crate ($29.99)
A record crate is absolutely necessary if you collect vinyl. The LP crate is easy to assemble, can hold 100 LPs, and is easily customizable with stickers and other accessories. And for those of you whose entire music collection is on your computer, the case can be used to store just about anything.
Kevin Lyons’ St. Ides Artwork ($1,750)
In 1994, Craig Mack released the remix for “Flava In Ya Ear.” While the single did well, Craig Mack was unfortunately overshadowed by the rapper who starts the remix off, the Notorious B.I.G. It’s easy to see why just from the first line of the entire song, “N***as is mad I get more butts than ash trays.” And now that classic line has been immortalized in a beautiful painting.
Remember the awesome-yet-often-forgotten Isaac Hayes/Wu Collab, “I Can’t Go To Sleep”? If you don’t, the video featured the insomnia-riddled Wu crew, all decked in Wu PJ’s aggressively rhyming while sleeping on cozy Wu-Tang embroidered bedspreads. As I recently re-watched the video I noticed one thing that was missing. Wu-Pillows. Well, fear no more Ghostface - we gotcha covered.
For those proud of their record collections, the Art Vinyl Play & Display is the perfect way to showcase your collection. As any good record digger would tell you, the artwork is part of the appeal in buying certain records that one has never heard before. It’s what catches your eye more than anything else in a record shop crammed with vinyl. Show off your favorite records and don’t worry about not being able to actually play them.
Mark Chronic’s DEEZ NUTS ($70)
These Peanuts-inspired paintings put together by artist Mark Drew are limited edition re-releases of in his famously popular original prints. These limited edition release, put a more colorful, energetic twist on the original re-creations featuring lyrics from Nas, Wu-Tang, Gang Starr and more. Drew, a graphic artist based in Tokyo is also the co-founder/curator of Australian gallery, China Heights.
UPNT’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide: Magazine/DVD
Sevens Clash Zine ($20)
Hip-Hop’s connection to Jamaica starts with Kool Herc, and has continued into the current day. Kanye West’s progressive Yeezus album contained a myriad of regga-e samples and interpolations, and A$AP Ferg’s biggest single of the year was an ode to Shabba Ranks. If that hasn’t been enough for you, immerse yourself into the culture with the Sevens Clash Zine.
Ego Trip Back Issues ($10)
Before Elliott Wilson was “YN,” leader of Rap Radar, he was one of the founding members of Ego Trip (alongside Sacha Jenkins), one of the most legendary magazines in hip-hop culture. The magazine was known for its wit and balls-to-the-wall writing style that simply will not be replicated ever again. Look at what the younger generation is getting right now from their magazines, and be a good Samaritan: put them up on how a magazine should be presented.
The Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan DVD ($19.99)
We can’t forget about graffiti when we talk about hip-hop culture. And one of graffiti’s most successful artists was Cool “Disco” Dan, a man who has left his mark forever in the Washington D.C. area. This DVD, narrated by Henry Rollins, tells his narrative, and with Five Pointz having been taken down, it’s only right to get yourself a copy.
After a lengthy hiatus, one of hip-hop’s signature publications has returned to print in 2013. The return, Issue #52, had Earl Sweatshirt on the cover. Earl would go on to release his well-received Doris album a few months later. The magazine clearly knows what it’s doing, making it well worth a subscription.
Frank151 5-Pack Gift Box ($40)
This might be the best sales pitch ever. “Nothing stops a bullet better than a thick brick of quality publications housed in a handsome slipcase.” If that isn’t reason enough to make a purchase, Frank151 is allowing you to select any five of their vintage issues. Frank151 have always been ahead of the curve with their publication, and this allows you to look back and see why.