“BAPE ya late, we call you Tokyo buffoons”
I remember it was summer ’05, three years removed from their last album and no release date in sight. Virginia rap duo Clipse was featured in XXL Magazine. I went straight to their article and there they were, standing with an aura of cockiness that screamed: “I’m on a different level”. I was ecstatic they were finally getting some well-deserved coverage, but my Hip-Hop hero’s wardrobe is what truly captivated me. At first, I said to myself, “What the hell is he wearing?”, “Is that a monkey on his shirt?”, “DoES his jeans have a star screen pressed on the front?, “Did Nike make those shoes?” “Gangsta rappers don’t dress like this!” So many questions ran through my mind. I had to know where he got his outfit. With the help of the internet, I discovered he was draped head to toe in a Tokyo street wear brand called A Bathing Ape aka BAPE. Founded in 1993 by Nigo most people in the states had no idea his brand existed and just couldn’t find or afford it. Thanks to being supplied directly from the man himself their look evolved from your typical hustler on the corner to a anime/thug hybrid. It was cool, it was different, and most importantly they didn’t look like anybody else in Hip-Hop.
“Ni**as bite the style from the shoes to the watches”
Before it was cool to copy in Hip-Hop, there was one indisputable rule… NO BITING!!! For sneakers the same rule applied. Everyone wanted to have the latest, rarest, and limited releases but nobody wanted to look the same as the next man. We all wanted to hear those four special words, “where’d you get those?”. By the early 2000s, the sneaker world started to evolve into a black market with collectors selling their rare and limited edition pairs at nosebleed prices to the highest bidder. Due to their high price tag and rarity when BAPE sneakers hit the states they were a resellers dream. The only problem was 85% of the time they were fakes. The Thornton’s pairs were 100% authentic and personified the “you ain’t got these” attitude. It’s a feeling every sneaker head wanted.
At first, they were criticized for their sherbet colored “knock off Air Force Ones” and choice of clothes, but even amongst the criticism, they stayed loyal to the Japanese brand. Every pic they wore BAPE, every show they performed in BAPE, and their feet were always covered in bright patent leather kicks. They had become the unofficial brand ambassadors for A Bathing Ape. By fall 2005 with no hit single, no music video, no headlining tours, and still no album… everybody’s favorite rapper started to look eerily similar to my favorite rappers. So much so they released the industry diss track “Mr. Me Too” as their lead single in May of “06. It didn’t matter though, the originators were being outshined by their clones (Weezy F. Baby *cough cough*). It was even becoming acceptable to cookie cut in the sneaker game. Brands like Black Sheep, Greedy Genius (remember them lol), and even Nike began biting Nigo’s footwear (a little grey area with the Nike argument). Everybody looked the same.
Hell Hath No Fury finally dropped in November of ’06 underperforming sales wise with 79,000k sold the first week. Despite the universal critical acclaim for their musical masterpiece, their lyrics had become overshadowed by their style. People wanted the clothes they were wearing instead of the music they were making. Their shoes and clothes became gold & platinum singles. By accidentally catering to a market they were unaware existed, street wear not street raps, kept them relevant. To this day Clipse is synonymous with BAPE. They may have made the brand hot in Hip-Hop, but the brand made them immortals. EGHCK!
written by @sole_frito of “Last of the Sole’hicans”