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Biggie wearing bape 1

Actually, Biggie Was the First Rapper to Wear Bape

“Who was the first rapper to wear Bape?” it’s the question on every hypebeasts mind. But just like the question of “who the first person to make white on white Airforce 1’s?” We might never know the answer (although it was probably Jay-Z). It’s a crown that the wider streetwear community isn’t looking to give up lightly, with many referencing Pharrell or The Teriyaki Boyz themselves as those who championed Bape first. We know for a fact that it wasn’t Lil Wayne because Curren$y himself said he put Wayne on Bape’s. So who was the first rapper to wear Bape? As it turns out, it was actually Biggie.

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In a recent episode of Complex’s Sneaker Shopping, Soulja Boy, aka ‘Big Draco’ claimed that he was the first person to wear Bape’s. Explicitly stating that people in high school used to clown him for wearing the sneakers that were once regarded as ‘fake Air Force 1’s’. “I was the first rapper on Bape, period,” said multi-platinum rapper Soulja Boy. And in his own world, he might truly believe that. He did write a rap with the lyrics “I got me some Bathing Apes” in the 2007 hit single “Crank That (Soulja Boy). But we have to be honest here, there’s nothing more enjoyable than fact-checking Mr First to Do Everything.

Biggie bape merchandise

Image: @historyvlt

After digging through the archives, looking to get to the bottom of things, we stumbled across a 2019 post by the streetwear Instagram account @historyvlt. The account is followed by the likes of Virgil Abloh and Joe La Puma himself and is well-known to be the number one source for BAPE & BBC/Ice Cream History. So the sources (while hidden) are certainly reliable. And as it turns out, Biggie was the first rapper to actually ‘wear’ Bape. Not popularise it, but wear it.

The story goes, in 1996 Biggie was scheduled to participate in a photoshoot with Shawn Mortensen. A famous photojournalist whose photos are often imitated and include a catalogue with the likes of Keith Haring, The Beastie Boys, Biggie Smalls, Kate Moss, and the Sex Pistols. During the shoot, Biggie liked Mortensen’s jacket (the Bape piece pictured) so much, he asked to wear it for a single shot. Of course, Poppa was a big fella and it wouldn’t fit, so he just draped it over his shoulder.

Biggie inquired about who made the jacket, and Shawn mentioned that it was by his friend Nigo who made them in Japan. Explaining that the brand was called ‘A Bathing Ape’ or Bape for short. As many Bape heads would know, it’s hard to obtain anything in sizes above XL, and as such, Nigo offered to make Biggie some custom pieces that would fit his size. But by the time they would arrive in New York, Biggie would have already passed away. We never saw them again.

In December 2002, long time friends, Shawn and Nigo held a photo exhibition at the Bape Gallery in Japan titled “It’s My Life… Or it Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.” Where a select handful of photos were printed on blanks and sold at the exhibition with super limited numbers (ten in each size, fifty all up). These were the last seen evidence of Biggie wearing the famous Bape jacket, and as such, the first known existence of a famous rapper wearing Bape. You can follow @historyvlt for more crazy Bape history lessons like the one above. Including rare footage of Robin Williams wearing a Bape Green ABC Camo button up tee during an interview in France, circa 2002.

Check it out

Robin williams bape

Image: Reddit

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