Meet the Man Who Does Kanye West's 'Do
When Yeezus wants fresh designs shaved into his head for the Grammy Awards, celebrity barber Ibn Jasper is the guy who dreams up what’s next.
"Hip-hop comes from the African-American experience in this country — and in that experience we use clothing, graffiti, dance, music and hair to reinvent ourselves,” says 38-year-old celebrity barber and image consultant Ibn Jasper. For nearly two decades, the Chicago native has been behind the constant reinvention of Kanye West’s hair: Keith Haring-inspired motifs, ornate squiggles and manicured mullets that can take between 45 minutes and two hours to execute.
The two met when West was 18, and Jasper had just finished barber school. He drew inspiration for early hair designs from the skateboarding world (Jasper almost went pro, even though he says it was seen as an “outcast activity” within the hip-hop community at the time). “I used to draw the graphic art beneath the boards, so once I learned to use clippers correctly, the transition to hair was easy.”
DAPPER RAPPER: A clean shave in 2006 (left) and squiggles in 2005.
Jasper’s passion for the sport continues to inform his work. Since 2012, he has been a conceptual designer for skater brand Diamond Supply Co. and plans to launch the label’s first luxury menswear collection, Cordova, in the spring. “Skating is extremely technical, and I put that same sophistication into the line,” he says.
Given that West, 37, and Jasper share the same appreciation for high fashion (West even named a pair of shoes from his 2009 capsule collection for Louis Vuitton after his pal), the progression to clothing design has been a natural one. And it hasn’t interfered with shape-ups and intricate cuts for West and artists on West's GOOD Music label, like 2 Chainz, Pusha T and Big Sean. “When I’m getting an Ibn Jasper haircut,” says Big Sean, “it feels like he’s painting a picture, and my head is the canvas.”
This story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of Billboard magazine.