Dreadlocks are a popular hairstyle known to people of African descent across the globe. Locs are formed when kinky-textured hair is left to intertwine, mat and marry, combining each strand into a new rope-like pattern.
However, many no longer choose to refer to their matted hair as dreadlocks because of the negative connotations and socializations attached to the term “dread.” The term means unpleasant and disgusting, used by the Europeans in response to the Rarastafarian community, who did not cut their hair as a sign of solidarity to their leader, Ethiopian emperor Ras Tafari in the early 1900s.
The term “locs” is considered all encompassing and is a more positive description associated with the look. Throughout the movement of civilization, locs have gone from being considered unacceptable and banned in professional settings to a fashion trend with even white people attempting to loc their hair. Locs can be considered a disregard of vanity, dismissal of Eurocentrism and white supremacy, a spiritual awakening and simply just a serve.
Below is a list of rappers who have boldly chosen to rock their locs throughout their careers for the world to see, despite all the ways their hair is politicized.
The Washington, D.C. native came out rocking his starter locs when the world was first introduced to his crafty wordplay on go-go inspired tracks at the end of the 2000s. Other than Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne, Wale is one of the only rappers whose loc journey we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing long before his mane passed his shoulders.
In the video for Wale’s debut single, “Chillin’,” featuring Lady Gaga, his locs can be seen at barely an inch long, worn under a number of hats and hoods while Gaga croons in a lavender get-up. The Nigerian rapper’s hair has spanned the course of his tremendous career in every era, from his early Interscope days to joining forces with Maybach Music and Def Jam.
Wale’s hair game, like his wordplay, is not to be overlooked through its many switch-ups, giving fans up-dos, crinkled locs, and rope twists. Wale proves men can change their hair just as much as everyone else can.
2. J. Cole
J. Cole also took the rap scene by storm in the 2000s, transitioning into locs years after the world was initially introduced to him. Lucky for us, Cole’s hair journey is well-documented on his album covers.
Prior to the transition, the Fayetteville, North Carolina, rapper was seen sporting a teeny weeny afro (TWA), like on the cover of 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Later, he had starter locs, as seen on 4 Your Eyez Only. Then, he finally showcased the style in its mature stage as flowing freeform locs on the cover of The Off-Season. What are freeform locs, you might ask? They are not consistently retwisted at the roots or even all the same size, but mat and marry naturally over time.
Out of the class of female rappers to garner a name for themselves at the turn of the 2020s, Kaliii is most distinguishable by her lustrous crown of matted coils. Since Lauryn Hill in the 1990s, there haven’t been many women who confidently rocked their locs in the Hip Hop scene.
The rapstress, who also made XXL’s 2022 Freshman Class list, is not afraid to add some color into the mix either. Kaliii has worn her hair Black, added some blonde peek-a-boo highlights, and even went red — because who says you can’t dye your locs? Women rappers should be afforded the space to express their creativity through song, style and the very unique ways they choose to wear their hair. Kaliii is a testament to that truth.
The Atlanta rap trio became a household act associated with locs as they gained momentum in their heyday, but when they officially became Migos in 2008, Offset was yet to start his hair journey. Early on, Quavo and his late nephew, Takeoff, both had locs that had begun to form well beyond the starting stage. At the height of the group’s career, after teaching the world how to dab and solidifying the descriptors “bad” and “boujee” in the cultural zeitgeist, each member was not only notable for their dreadlocks but for their intoxicating catchphrases and ad libs.
5. Lil Wayne
The Young Money mastermind is another rapper the culture has witnessed with a head full of locs for the majority of his career. As a Hot Boys member in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Wayne wore his hair in cornrows. The lyricist, credited with aiding the careers of Hip Hop heavyweights Nicki Minaj and Drake, grew locs long enough to reach his mid-back and even cut them at a point.
Wayne is versatile in the various genres he’s dipped into over the course of his career, spawning pop and rock sounds and feature verses, similarly to the way he has also chosen to express his creativity through hair. He has worn his locs in a blunt cut, had a few multicolored tresses at a point and has even bleached his hair.
Jigga man began his loc journey following his pseudo retirement era. Throughout the Brooklyn lyricist’s decades in the limelight, he routinely had a clean cut, covered with a skully hat or a Yankee fitted.
Entering into the latter stage of his lengthy journey making music, JAY-Z seemed to emerge into another period of metamorphosis, depicted through more than an evolution of headgear. Mr. Carter often references the iconic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in his music, and his hair seems to be another extension of his admiration. JAY-Z’s locs are known as wicks that are free formed and tend to stand up-right as they are a lot larger in size. Sometimes, wicks are created by surrounding locs marrying together over time or using a technique to create the manicured look of larger strands.
7. Snoop Dogg
It’s safe to say the most notable rapper with locs is none other than Snoop Dogg. His brand is synonymous with blowing trees and matted afro-textured hair as much as someone like Bob Marley. Prior to having locs, Snoop has worn his hair in single plaits, and has even shown the world how a gangster rapper can pull off an afro and a smooth silk press with some drop curls.
The Long Beach, California MC has always kept his style distinctive along with his laid-back flow and charisma. The one rapper who may find some success in the hair business has got to be the “Gin and Juice” creator, as you have likely never seen him have a bad hair day. Apart from rapping, his ‘do has got to be a talent in and of itself, not to mention the countless rebranding rollouts showcasing his soul, reggae and gospel sides.
8. Young Thug
Jeffery Williams, popularly known as Young Thug, is a unique artist who has carved out a distinguishable sound and look. His clothing defies gender in cuts, color and fit, and his hair story follows his eccentricity.
Since the world was introduced to the lyricist and singer from Atlanta with his standout record “Stoner,” Thug has had locs. He, like Lil Wayne, doesn’t shy away from dyeing them, as he’s sported many golden hues, pastel pink and red tones as well as the more common brown and black locs. Thug’s melodic rap, infectious cadence and brightly colored hair is without question an inspiration to the next generation of rappers.
9. Little Simz
The impeccable lyricist from London, England is a rapper, singer and actress who the world seemed to take real notice of recently. Even though Simbi had been releasing full length projects since 2015, her 2021 album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert earned her critical acclaim and went on to win the 2022 Mercury Prize. As for her hair journey, Little Simz has had different natural styles, but in the last few years, she has honed in on locs as a staple.
Little Simz was visibly wearing various faux locs at a point but has since seemingly transitioned into growing them. She’s worn her hair in large high and low buns, in cornrows and barrel twists with locs that usually remain on the larger side as opposed to micro or sister locs.
10. Lil Tecca
The Queens, New York rapper began his career roasting his friend while playing Call of Duty on Xbox Live. Tecca’s 2019 single “Ransom” was his first to chart the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 4 on the list.
In the music video for the mega-hit, it’s clear the artist was beginning his loc journey with two-strand twists that would eventually grow into mature strands in tandem with his career. Perhaps being Jamaican influenced his decision to begin growing locs, or maybe he just wanted to look like one of his musical influences, Chief Keef.
11. 2 Chainz
2 Chainz is one of few rappers who had locs since the world knew him; namely, as Tity Boi of the music group Playaz Circle. As the former self-proclaimed “Hair Weave Killer,” 2 Chainz may know a thing or two about the natural hair movement. He’s never shied away from letting his locs flow down his back. The rapper, from Atlanta, Georgia, has often worn his lengthy tresses in one large barrel twist, surrounding the perimeters of his head. Notably, he has also added blonde highlights before.