Beards, of course, will never fully go out of style for musicians — but the long, fruitful, on-and-off relationship between the two entities seems to be very much on these days. For the likes of both effete folk-rockers and swagged-out rap stars, and a whole bunch of dudes in between, the beard has become a cherished, effective tool. To make sense of this newly crowded musical beard landscape, Vulture consulted two experts: Stalley, the New York–by-way-of-Ohio rapper freshly signed to Rick Ross’s label, and Andy Hull, the front man of Manchester Orchestra, the Georgia rock band that will be dropping its third studio album, Simple Math, on May 10. When our bearded arbiters got together for the beard symposium, they pulled no (bearded) punches in their clear-eyed analysis. That means: Feelings were hurt. Painful truths were exposed. Beards were rated.
Hull: It’s a Major League Baseball beard. I’m a big Common fan, but it’s not that gnarly of a beard.
Stalley: It’s not gnarly at all. I mean, it’s so typical. It’s like typical black-man beard. Clean and dapper.
Hull: There’s a certain freedom that should come along with a beard, in my personal opinion, and I don’t feel that Common has that freedom.
Stalley: Exactly. It’s a lot of maintenance.
NYM: Harrington refers to himself as a “beardo.” Now, is that a hurtful term?
.] I’ll be okay.
Stalley: His belly
is better than his beard.
Hull: It’s a gnarly belly with a gnarly beard. He looks like a giant baby.
Stalley: He does. He does look like a big baby.
Hull: This is the opposite of the mancare. It’s good. It works.
Stalley: He pulls it off. Even with the thinning up top, he pulls it off.
Hull: I bet he wishes he could grow hair above his lip.
Stalley: He was one of the first hip-hop dudes to make it popular, so respect for him on that, [but] Freeway’s beard has reached its peak. It’s not going anywhere. It hasn’t grown, I think, since we first seen ‘em. But it represents the struggle. [Laughs.]
Hull: Absolutely. I don’t know anything about the struggle, but I totally agree with you.
Stalley: You can see Freeway’s struggle. In the beard.
Hull: Stalley, do you have any patches? I have a patch underneath my chin; I let it grow over.
Stalley: Yeah I have a patch, too, on the side actually. You can’t tell. But I definitely can tell and it pisses me off sometimes.
NYM: I hadn’t noticed.
Hull: You can’t tell; that’s the best part, but we’re still insecure about it.
Stalley: He has a great beard. I can appreciate it. It fits the haircut.
Hull: That guy has tattoos, like, all the way up his body, too, so there’s a really cool vibe going on with him.
Stalley: That’s gnarly. The tattoos, and even the way he dresses. He dresses the beard up well. We should have had [NBA player] James Harden
on here. He might be the one of the only people that I approve of his beard.
Hull: Braylon Edwards from the Jets
, his was great.
Stalley: Oh yeah. I think he cut his beard.
Hull He did, he did. And he looked like a pussy. [Laughs
Hull: A lot going on.
Stalley: Oh, never. That’s a no-no. The two blond sides, the black in the middle? I can’t condone that look.
Hull: I completely agree. It’s a cheetah beard.
Stalley: [Laughs.] You shouldn’t have no spots like a leopard or a zebra or a cheetah or anything in your hair.
Stalley: He looks like he has the starter beard.
Hull: The blood makes it look a little cooler.
Stalley: It gives it a nice touch, ‘cause obviously he banged his head on something. That’s cool. I gotta give him respect for that.
Hull: I don’t give him respect, and this could very well be true, if he hasn’t banged his head on something. I don’t know if it’s a prop. If it’s real, it’s awesome. I used to have friends in this punk band and they’d say if they had crowds that hated them they’d just hit each other in the head with a guitar.
NYM: Stalley, you’re newly in business with Ross.
Hull: Oh, really? You don’t understand, I really love hip-hop. I listen to it all the time. And I was like, I hope Stalley fucking thinks Rick Ross is cool because I think Rick Ross is the coolest motherfucker on the planet.
Stalley: Yes he is. And Rick Ross has a great beard. It’s full, it’s healthy, and he’s confident with it. A lot of people aren’t confident with their beards. He wears his beard well.
Hull: He wears his beard like he wears his weight.
Stalley: Exactly. That’s a great call.
Hull: I heard him on the Kanye record for the first time and I’ve since gotten all his records. What he does on “Devil in a New Dress,” that is like one of the greatest verses I’ve ever heard.
Stalley: I told him, that’s one of my favorite verses from him and one of the best ones I’ve heard in years.
Hull: Rick Ross holds the No. 1 position on this chart so far.
Hull: They played on Conan O’Brien for the first time, like ten years ago, and this dude had hair and a beard that went down over his face — like massive fluffy long hair, and you never saw his face — that he banged into the mike. This dude is the shit.
Stalley: It just looks like he’s vibing out. He’s into what he’s doing. He’s vibing.
Hull: They’re one of the best live bands in America for sure.
NYM: He’s on the list because he, of course, tried rapping for a bit. Is it offensive that he grew a beard in order to pretend he was crazy?
Hull: [Drawn-out whistle.]
Stalley: That is [offensive], because now you’re trying to reach.
Hull: What’s your fucking point, man? Do people look at me like I’m homeless? Look, trying to look crazy — don’t grow a beard. That’s a phase, not a lifestyle.
NYM: Kind of a neck beard here.
Stalley: I’m not a fan of the neck.
Hull: I’ve done it.
Stalley: I’m more of a fan of length and fullness and gnarliness.
Hull: I like it as full as possible. I like it to cover my face. That can be your pull quote for this article: “I like it to cover my face.”
Stalley: He looks like he trims it around the chin area.
Stalley: What you’re looking at is the ‘fro. The pick in the afro.
Hull: Yeah. You can’t even comment on the beard.
Hull: We’re signed to Columbia, so I’ve gotten to go to Rick Rubin’s house, like twice, and we just chill on his porch in Malibu drinking green tea, and he tells me what I should do to make the next record. And his beard is no fucking joke. And he lost a ton of weight from the first time I saw him. He’s way fit. He gave me this book on health and stuff. He’s an awesome guy. The beard never changed, regardless of the weight, regardless of whatever, and that’s badass.
Stalley: The salt and pepper is a nice touch, too.
Hull: I’m incredibly impressed with yours.
Stalley: Yeah, me too. I have to say I am a fan of it. Like, big-time. It’s what I like in a beard.
Hull: You’re really making me feel good.
Stalley: It’s full, it’s bushy.
Hull: And it’s softer than you’d think.