In the 90s, the representation of hockey — historically white, historically Canadian, historically under-loved — in hip-hop was a surprise. Implicitly, it carried a message. Rap music was a foundational scavenger art: Krautrock drum fills, post-funk bass licks, spare snatches of forgotten B-movie dialogue, the sound of the F train doors opening and closing — there wasn't much that hip-hop could not or would not dust off and reimagine. The hockey jersey was an inspired, calculated aesthetic choice. In that, it was another reminder: there isn't much that hip-hop cannot elevate into art.
Everyone has their favorites, and the list is long. But a few do come immediately to mind.
The photo of 'Pac, mid-spit, in the Red Wings jersey is iconic.
Phife repping the Devils from across the Hudson River in the "Oh My God" video was also a lovely moment.
And then, of course, there is "Ice Cream" and Cappadonna — in the Habs sweater, with an improvised Wu neckband, saying the words "I LOVE YOU LIKE I LOVE MY DICK SIZE."
But now — enter Future. On his ongoing Summer Sixteen tour with Drake (AN ACTUAL HOCKEY-LOVING CANADIAN who by the way FAMOUSLY LOVES OUTERWEAR), it's been our man in Pluto doing all he can to bring us back to the ice.
It's an incredible look: self-evidently sharp, appealingly unexpected, sensible for the frosty temps just around the corner. Much like the wide-brimmed hats he favored for a while — eventually and rightfully renamed "Future Hats" — it'll almost certainly trigger a trend. (Note Houston's Maxo Kream: "My hockey [jersey] collection is crazy crazy. I don't even know how many I have at this point.") Frankly, it's inspiring: I'll be damned if I didn't find myself Googling "sweet hockey jerseys" just the other day.
Of course, questions remain: why now? Why here?
Maybe it's because the Summer Sixteen tour has just happened to find itself in decidedly hockey-forward locales.
Maybe it's because Future looks good wearing pretty much anything.
Or maybe — just like the rest of us —he remembers the 90s, a freerer, better time, when the Canadiens jerseys flowed like jungle rainfall, when Tupac's spit flew far and true like uncaged parakeets, when Cappadonna compared the love of a woman to the love of own's one dick.
Who could say for sure? It's going to be a question that only future historians of the Future-spurred hip-hop hockey renaissance can truly tackle. For now, we just sit back and appreciate this very special place we've found ourselves.