These Rarely Seen Snapshots Document Iconic Hip-Hop Looks & Candid Moments

Fans of Hip-Hop photography have had a lot to celebrate of late. In addition to the advent of Instagram, where iconic photographers like Jamel Shabazz, Joe Conzo, Chi Modu, and others share the snapshots they’ve taken of the culture’s earliest days, museums and similar institutions have begun the process of preserving photos. Just last month, Smithsonian Magazine reported on a treasure trove of photography heading to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and this week, the New York Times has unveiled a collection of rarely seen images taken during Bad Boy Records’ prime.

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In yesterday’s (May 19) issue, Marcus Holmlund shares the words and photographs of Misa Hylton, a costume designer and fashion stylist who worked closely with Puff Daddy and his musical family to create some of the bombastic and bold looks that adorned the likes of Lil’ Kim, the Notorious B.I.G., and others. However, the 16 photos released show much more than the flossin’ and profilin’ and include candid images of Mary J. Blige, Russell Simmons, Usher, and many others. Hylton – who dated Puff and is the mother to their son Justin and is a cousin of Faith Evans – recalls some of her experiences working on music videos for some of Hip-Hop and R&B’s hottest acts, saying “[t]he first video I did with Mary was for her first single, ‘You Remind Me,’ and I dressed her in all silver. It was this get-up I got from Patricia Field’s. After that video, we went on to work together to create a harder look, similar to that of Jodeci — combat boots, tennis skirts and hockey jerseys from Paragon — and that really changed the game.”

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As Holmlund writes, it would be a look for Lil’ Kim that earned Hylton some serious mainstream notoriety. “Hylton lavishly un-dressed Lil’ Kim to make her into the provocateur she’s recognized as today, finding femininity in her overt sexuality — including the now-infamous single-pastie look that Hylton created from Indian bridal fabric for Kim to wear to the MTV Video Music Awards in 1999,” he writes. As Hylton explains, “It just felt right. We were never trying to shock anybody. It was too organic for that. Let’s put it this way: I almost died when Diana touched the pastie because I was so damn scared it was going to come off on live TV and I would have had the FCC at my door. That night, we actually went after the show to shoot a video with Kim and Mobb Deep, and by the morning, it was on every newspaper in the world.”

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With the Bad Boy Reuntion Tour taking place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York in mind, Hylton tells the Times “I come from a time when we were first-things-first about the culture. Everyone had their own identity. I think it’s the perfect time to remind people of Bad Boy’s influence and legacy, because it never left.”