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Long after the rise of action figures and limited-edition figurines of the Seventies and Eighties came Funko Pops, a series of miniature, caricature-style figures that depict famous celebrities and characters alike. But despite what you may think, the best Funko Pops are not just for nerdy collectibles from the likes of franchises such as Star Wars, Star Trek, or Disney films. In recent years, Funko has brought in several musicians to their lineup too, from the likes of KISS and the Ramones, to Run DMC and Tupac, adding the iconic artists into the brand’s Pop! Rocks collection.
“Once we sign a partnership, we set up a creative kick off call with the representative of the artist or estate and talk through options and find out what will connect with the fans,” Matt Lattier, Manager of Brand and Licensing for Funko tells Rolling Stone. Lattier works specifically with music collaborations to immortalize pop culture icons in 3.75-inch square-headed form.
He says that with current artists, the team often tries to celebrate a recent look, or tie it in to an album or video release. “With other artists, we may be working with looks that are in celebration of an anniversary of some kind.” These anniversary figures are often used for limited-edition releases (like this Iron Maiden Comic Con exclusive), or with references to iconic records, like with their Funko Pop! Albums collection.
When asked how they work with musicians on their Pop likeness, Lattier says they take the process seriously, and ultimately want the artists (or their estates) to be proud of their figures. “I think that’s what makes this so incredibly fun,” he says. “We’re creating something that these artists and their estates have a direct hand in. From the creative ideation to approvals along the way with concepts to final product and packaging, every step of the way has its own approval process.” The end result is a figure that fans can really rally behind, he says.
Since the first vinyl Pop! Rocks sets were released, featuring Jimi Hendrix as Purple Haze, and two versions of Elvis Presley (including 1950’s Elvis and “Aloha” Elvis), Funko has expanded their collection into wider genres of music. Now the figures have brought to life artists from all corners of the music world who have made their mark, from boy bands like NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, to hip-hop and rap starts like Notorious B.I.G. and Eazy-E. Whether you rock out to classic rock, pop, or hip-hop, there’s a Pop! Rocks for you.
1. Angus Young AC/DC
If your want to bring the Highway to Hell into your own home, then you’ve come to the right place. Funko has recently added the Glasgow-born rocker and lead guitarist of AC/DC Angus Young as an officially licensed Pop! musician, turning up the voltage with his iconic red guitar. Pop this figure on your shelf, and it’ll make you want to blast some rock’n’roll and do the duck walk. There’s also a limited-edition Chase variant from this collection that features Young in his Highway to Hell outfit.
The perfect companions to rock and roll all night and party every day, Funko has brought back rock legends KISS to the Pop vinyl universe after an earlier release. Instantly recognizable, you can get Starchild, The Demon, The Spaceman, and The Catman either in a four-pack, or get the veteran rockers separately (though we’re biased towards Gene Simmons ready to breathe fire).
Thrash legends Metallica are available in nearly four-inch Funko form, so you can now get mini versions of the band’s current lineup, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo, and Lars Ulrich. Though some older members haven’t been Pop-ified, you can however get a Funko of Lady Justice from their album …And Justice For All album (just don’t let her fall to pieces).
4. Notorious B.I.G.
Funko has released more Biggie figures than you can shake a cane at, including a Pop! Album of Ready to Die and even a vinyl entirely covered in gold chrome. Considered to be one of the greatest East Coast rappers in history, you can now get this Biggie Smalls Pop! Vinyl decked out as the king of rap with his crown, gold chain and cane.
You don’t have to go chasing waterfalls to get Pops! of this groundbreaking Nineties trio, with this three-pack featuring Chilli, T-Boz and Left Eye. Admittedly, women are sorely lacking in the Pop! Rocks collection, but you can celebrate the heyday of girl groups with these vinyls from the Chasing Waterfalls music video, or get the translucent ice Chase variants for an early CGI throwback.
6. Queen (Freddie Mercury)
While you can get the whole gang with Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, Freddie Mercury steals the show with his own Pops! (including one immortalizing the famous 1986 Live Aid performance). But at the end of Queen’s ‘Magic’ concerts, Mercury would walk onto stage wearing a robe and a crown, and that’s become our top pick for Queen Pops.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate decades-spanning career of Prince one of his most recognizable looks — the Funko Pop Rocks Purple Rain vinyl. Collect different variations of the rock god and Minnesota native showcasing three different eras in his career, including Around the World in a Day and 3rd Eye Girl figures.
8. Run DMC
Fun fact: Run DMC was the first hip-hop group to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, and now you can get Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay as their very own Funko Pop! Rocks. It’s not tricky to picture these vinyls displayed on your shelf, especially with Jay Master Jay‘s turntable work on display (he also played keyboards, bass, and live drums, but we don’t think that would all fit under four inches).