The marriage between hip-hop and fashion once teetered on the lines of the Fubus and Sean Johns; if they weren’t going to be included in high fashion, hip-hop made the definitive decision to create their own niche.
Diddy cooked up Sean John, Russell Simmons parlayed into the garments with Phat Farm, Jay-Z sent the OK on Rocawear sketches. Instead of wearing lines that weren’t representing what hip-hop culture was, the industry adapted a “For Us By Us” mentality. If high fashion didn’t want them, they didn’t want high fashion.
Instinctually, lovers of hip-hop were learning how to dress, what to drive and what to drink from hip-hop videos. Jay-Z name-drops Cristal and suddenly it’s the go-to drink when it comes to pouring it up. Diddy places Ciroc and Nuvo in a video, and the desire to emulate the life where the champagne is always cold and the women always flock kicks in.
Hip-hop is influential.
While Tupac and Lil Kim were the pioneers of befriending high-fashion big wigs (read Marc Jacobs and Donatella Versace) somewhere in the wave of transition, Kanye West slipped in the mix and wasn’t afraid to glamorize name brands that the average hip-hop consumer couldn’t pronounce.
The money got longer and the access to the big-name European brands got better. Sagging jeans and obnoxious logos formerly associated with the rap game saw their last days. But over the years, the evolution of exclusivity had rappers dropping names of brands very few could afford, much less obtain, and the game saw a change. Hip-hop embraced high fashion and some high fashion brands opened their aims to the name-drops without a second guess.
High fashion big wigs may have turned their noses up at the ways of the hip-hop world in the past, but rap lyrics vehemently turned down the idea that men who were interested in fashion could be both the gun-toting idea of masculinity the lifestyle glamorized, in addition to lovers of an industry dominated by homosexual men.
The equation just didn’t add up.
A champion of this evolution of acceptance came together with a slow symphony from the likes of Kanye West, the outing of Frank Ocean, and support of gay marriage from hip-hop heavyweights like Jay-Z and Russell Simmons and now, none other than the gold-toothed Harlem native A$AP Rocky.
A self proclaimed “Trendy Nigga,” A$AP Rocky has been swathed in threads from designers stranger to a child from the hood, and has graced more fashion mags than he has fingers.
In a recent interview conducted by Alexander Wang with Rocky for Interview Magazine, the rapper used the opportunity to speak up against the common conception that hip-hop is homophobic.
A$AP Rocky took an admirable stance, stating:
For instance, one big issue in hip-hop is the gay thing. It’s 2013, and it’s a shame that, to this day, that topic still gets people all excited. It’s crazy. And it makes me upset that this topic even matters when it comes to hip-hop, because it makes it seem like everybody in hip-hop is small-minded or stupid—and that’s not the case. We’ve got people like Jay-Z. We’ve got people like Kanye. We’ve got people like me. We’re all prime examples of people who don’t think like that. I treat everybody equal, and so I want to be sure that my listeners and my followers do the same if they’re gonna represent me.
It seems to be an ongoing trend; the more a rapper aligns themselves with high-fashion, the more likely they are to understand that homophobic slurs went out with the shiny leather jackets and XXXL T-shirts.
Hip-hop’s mainstream stance means more visibility and appropriate social responsibility.
It’s refreshing to finally see the day when Lil Wayne raps with lyrics like those on the remix of his track “Go DJ” – “You homo niggas getting AIDS in the ass” – become equivalent to a tiny whisper in a loud room, while rappers are name dropping openly homosexual designers with “homeboy” acceptance.
On the surface, it may seem like just clothes, but the connotation of what lies between hip-hop and high fashion touches a piece of masculinity that has always been rap’s crutch; the very men once ridiculed for their personal lives are the ones clothing an industry that has grown, but is still learning what it is to be a role model.
Rachel is the Associate Editor and Senior Style Writer for GlobalGrind.com, proud graduate of a SUNY school, and as sarcastic as they come. Follow her on Twitter for random daily ramblings @MiissHislop