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Ma You Be Killin' Em: 12 Musicians Talk About Their Moms

illustration S INVA COTA

We have so much to thank our mothers for. In addition to birthing us, feeding us, and bathing us, they’ve also been our most influential style icons. In the past, we've counted down to Mother’s Day (this Sunday, heads up!) by celebrating the style, swagger and grace of our moms. This year, we invited a couple of our favorite artists to do the same. Turns out a lot of their mothers like r&b.



Chance the Rapper

What did your mom like to wear? My mom dresses up very nice for her job every day. She works for the US Government, so she’s stylin and profilin during the week. On weekends it’s more relaxed. At home she rocks the sweatpants.

What music did she listen to? My mom is the one who put me on to hip-hop and r&b and neo-soul. She used to listen to weird Craig David, Kem, Maxwell and D’angelo.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? She always said "I love you sugar," no matter what.


Best Coast

What did your mom like to wear? My mom always dressed like Stevie Nicks. She had this crazy, frizzy blonde hair that was always in a topknot, and she looked so awesome. She wore a lot of bracelets, like these leather beaded ones, and a lot of gold bangles. She has been super into vintage her whole life, so she always wore cool vintage stuff paired with newer items. I remember she would take me to the thrift store every weekend, and I was such a young brat- I would like sit in the aisles and wait for her to be done because I was too young to appreciate thrift stores, or shopping for that matter. One time, she took my friends and I to see Blink-182 and she got all dressed up in like, vintage Levi's with a really cool top and tons of jewelry. She did her hair all big and she looked way better than all the other moms at the concert.

What music did she listen to? It was like a ritual in my house that Saturday was cleaning day, and she would always put on the album Aja by Steely Dan and sing along. To this day, I know almost every lyric on that album because I remember hearing it so many times. She loved stuff like Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac—but Steely Dan is always the band that stands out to me the most.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? I have this joke with her where I call her "Jeopardy" because she asks so many questions. I'll ask her a question, or I'll tell her a story, and then she will respond in the form of a question and I'm like "Mom! You're being Jeopardy right now!" She gives some really amazing advice. She has always been so supportive of me and my decisions, and she never judges me, even when I go to her with some of my weirdest dilemmas. She's also really amazing at reading Tarot cards so if you ever see her, flag her down and ask her for a reading.


Mac Miller

What did your mom like to wear?A lot of floral patterns, sandals. She used to have this really frizzy, curly hair. She always wore these big-ass sun hats. Not like obnoxious sun hats, but very nice straw hats.

What music did she listen to? Tina Turner. She liked the Talking Heads, Sting. She liked the Grateful Dead. I think when she was younger she may have followed the Grateful Dead. I also have all these memories of singing Lauryn Hill's "That Thing" with my mom in the car.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? She always cared about my sleep first and foremost. I always had problems sleeping since I was a little baby. So if I didn't wanna go to school, I could just hit the "I haven't slept." Whenever I had girls over she used to shut the door for me. I would push the limits really crazy, she wasn't strict. She had this white Toyota Sienna. We used to hide from it when we were kids, running around the neighborhood. You saw that Sienna, you knew it was my mom.


Ryan Hemsworth

What did your mom like to wear? Costco (specifically Kirkland brand) chic. Or L.L. Bean chic. She's always looked nice but fashion never really came first with my parents, which is fine. She spent more time on other stuff that felt more important I guess. Like hanging out with our dog.

What music did she listen to? Kenny G, Michael Buble. Classic mom stuff. I think she literally once said, "I don't really like music.” Which is awesome to me.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? Lots of sweet things but what comes to mind is, “Cut your hair you look like a hobo," or, "shave your beard you look like a hobo." She says it's because she wants people to see my "beautiful face." But I think I'm at my most beautiful with hobo hair and a hobo beard.


Vince Staples

What did your mom like to wear? The color black in Guess, Levis, Donna Karan, Smith & Wessun, Converse.

What music did she listen to? DJ Quik's "Safe + Sound"; NWA's "Straight Outta Compton"; Prince's "Purple Rain" and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? "You must be a fool."


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Iamsu!

What did your mom like to wear? My mom likes to wear leather coats, jeans and boots. A lot of fly shit.

What music did she listen to? We would listen to a lot of R&B, like Angie Stone, Brownstone, Trey Songz, the O'Jays, and reggae like Peter Tosh, One World, of course Bob Marley And The Wailers.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? She would always tell me to be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove.


Alex Zhang Hungtai of Dirty Beaches

What did your mom like to wear? She loved turtlenecks in the ‘60s and in the ‘70s she was always wearing dresses. Overall she's very fashionable and always kept changing her style with the times. She was always very modern. Even now, she sometimes cuts the collar of her t shirts. She's 65.

What music did she listen to? She loved this Chinese singer Bai Guang. Here's one of her songs:

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? "When are you coming home?" One day, mama, I'll be home and take care of you everyday. I love you mom.


Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire

What did your mom like to wear? My mom was always fly as hell, still is. I can remember her in her shoulder pads and pantsuits and shit in the early ‘90s.

What music did she listen to? All the stuff that got me into music. Anita Baker. Frankie Paul. Barington Levy. Mary J. Blige. My mom had a big vinyl collection. There was a lot of reggae in my crib, even though she's American. She was an aspiring singer and I have a lot of early memories of her writing records and just rewinding her tapes back and forth. A lot of Motown. Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton. My mom's poppin man. A lot of womanly music.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? If she's on her phone she's probably gonna be like "Mmhhmmm girl... mmhhmmm girl... didn’t I tell you?" If she's giving me advice she'll say, "You know what always happens when you don’t listen to me."


Maria Minerva

What did your mom like to wear? My mother doesn't care much about fashion and HATES shopping. Yet in my mind she is a style icon, especially her 90s self. She had a short mahogany bob, dark red lips and wore oversize white silk shirts, light high waisted jeans and big coats, super 90s, post-Soviet style but nowadays you see the same look in American Apparel. I would get really annoyed when shopping with my mom as she used to always check out stuff forever and then conclude that she was too tired to "make a decision to buy." But in a way she taught me about feminism/capitalism like that. She just didn't care, and kind of revealed the meaninglessness of it all to me in an early age.

What music did she listen to? My mom loved Annie Lennox, Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, especially the latter. This is what my mom and dad had in common. But I have a feeling that the reason why my parents' marriage fell apart was namely because of music, My dad is a music critic and used to listen to music every day after work for like 4 hours, everything from Neil Young to disco to metal. So as my dad was enjoying his growing CD collection, my mom developed a hate for music. She herself says that she stopped listening to music at that time. And after they divorced she was just enjoying living alone in silence for a few years before opening her heart to sounds again. After I got into music she's always forced me to listen to my own CD on the car stereo when I'm visiting Tallinn, and I'm like, "Mom, this is disgusting!"She listens to it when I'm not around all the time which is funny. I think one of the biggest compliments ever for me was when my mom said that my music made her realise what music should be all about: intimate, honest, at times raw.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? My mom is a genius. She is really funny. She has a lot of opinions on everything. My fave saying of hers is "People are just information." Lately she talks a lot about how good it is to be solitary and how marriage is basically a sacrifice you make for the society, a phase you have to go through. She's like almost making fun of me as I have this phase still ahead of me. She also likes to talk about how hard she finds it to pretend she's normal at work and listen to boring people’s stories. Often on a friday night she has a drink and then her and my ex-boyfriend (who's also drinking home alone; he is still one of my best friends) have these long conversations on Facebook, which seemed weird to me at first but then again why not.


King Tuff

What did your mom like to wear? My Mom's name is Lil' Smashy and that's how it should be printed. Lil' Smashy likes to wear all different kind of clothes. She loves socks and has a massive collection of them. She also has a pair of tight, sort of acid wash punk jeans. She loves stealing my clothes more than anything. I used to have an old hardcore T-shirt that just said "GO!" and she stole it and wears it to this very day.

What music did she listen to? Her theme song is "Smash It Up" by The Damned. She also loves old Shaker music, James Taylor, and The Memories. When she would drive me to high school we would always listen to "Bang On The Drum All Day" by Todd Rundgren.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? She has many catchphrases. She says "Do it, will ya?!" when she wants you to do something, and then you have to do it no matter what. Also she always says "God help me" when she's crawling up the stairs at night.


Black Dave

What did your mom like to wear? My mom was always big on style. In the '90s she always had the most swagged up outfits. Growing up in Brooklyn, she always had a close eye to what was poppin in the hip-hop scene.

What music did she listen to? My mom loved hip-hop and always played it, but her true love had to be soul. Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations. Can't forget Mike Jack. She's a die-hard MJ Fan.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? Millions. They usually always come out when she's yelling at me. For example, whenever I'd do something or piss her off she'd say, "OH HELL TO-THE NO!" instead of saying "Hell No!" Had me laughing.


Aaron David Ross

What did your mom like to wear? Contemporary casual; a bit of yoga modesty with a tie-dyed undercurrent. Therapist chic.

What music did she listen to? ‘60s psych rock, Russian ballet music, Bobby McFerrin and some two-tone ska CDs I gave her when I was in high school.

What would she say? Does she have a favorite phrase or saying? My mom is obsessed with affirmations. She has more surrounding her then I could ever remember, but some of my favorites are: "I allow the flow of life to guide me"; "What doesn't kill us makes us kinder"; and "Luxury is my soulmate."

Ma You Be Killin' Em: 12 Musicians Talk About Their Moms