“Cause Calvin Klein is no friend of mine, don’t want nobody’s name on my behind”
-Run DMC “Rock Box”
While some of my favorite songs right now are named after gay fashion icons, I hope rappers hit the brakes on their oral fixation. I know high fashion and Hip Hop go together page and palm but this is worship overload. Are they getting paid for these commercials and not disclosing it to the general audience?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting luxury goods. It’s been an engrained value system long before Oran “Juice” Jones was buying girls things they couldn’t pronounce. KRS-1’s epic tale and message of obsession was a powerful lesson in the street manual, but edutainment is an old testament. Despite knowing “you can’t take it with you,” there’s a long list of rappers who have shared their fresh-to-death dress code for the casket. Still, there’s nothing really wrong with that.
Before I knew who Vinny Cha$e was, I heard Marc Jacobs made a cameo in his video. This says a lot about today’s metric system, when people mention everything but the music – luckily he’s good (and from where I’m from). Sidebar, when will rappers stop naming themselves after real and fictitious white people? No more Alpo Chinos.
On the flip side, a white girl with a “ghetto name” hit a lucky homer with “Gucci Gucci.” Kreayshawn’s catchy hook over a traditional Oakland booty baseline temporarily turned designer damsels into basic bitches. The singer Jessie J also scored points against superficiality with the substance of “Price Tags.” Then your boy Macklemore turned up the snub of materialism with the grand slam song “Thrift Shop.” His lyrical content made him a certified player who would rather pull off a heist before paying $120 for Kanye’s plain white tee. Have you seen the official unofficial video for “New Slaves?” It’s interesting how these white artists switch tags while the black ones are willingly to pay for “rich nigga racism” just because they can afford it.
The first rapper awarded the privilege of marrying his lyrical influence with a major designer might have been Grand Puba (Adidas isn’t designer). This deal with Tommy Hilfiger was done through the persuasion of his son Andy. To put this in proper context of the time period, real Hip-Hop wasn’t on national TV/radio rotation and they rarely played the version of R&B songs that featured a rap verse. This was also a big effing deal because Hilfiger and other major fashion designers (including Calvin Klein) had made racist comments about black people wearing their clothes. On top of that, Puba wasn’t just one of the highest rated rappers, he also constantly dropped 5% knowledge about the “devil” while seamlessly integrating “hittin skins” in between having a “40 and a blunt.” This contractual event between brand name and Brand Nubian may have been the actual schism in the timeline of God body and soul.
Around the same time, Wu-tang Clan helped re-aligned the psyche of self-empowerment. The urban culture heavily supported the garment renaissance of Cross Colors, Karl Kani, Walker Wear, Wu-Wear, Enyce, Mecca and more. Phat Farm was the first with a flagship store in SoHo. LL Cool J kept it Q-borough thorough and managed to promote FUBU in a Gap commercial. Roc-a-wear starting making more than Roc-a-fella and Puff changed his last name to give his couture a French flair. Even though most of these moguls probably can’t sew a button, they made millions, with us and without the co-sign of Anna Wintour and Fashion Avenue.
Here we are today, derogatorily slurring our words while we beg, borrow and steal in order to tithe gay fashion deities. When it comes to staying fresh-to-def, there’s never a phobia for photo-ops, free samples or a front row seat at fashion week. Many of us are label whores, but not enough of us have standards. All hyper-masculinity and contradict-riding aside, it would be nice if these artists simply mentioned more brown designers, whoever they are.
Next related blog: Is Basquiat the only black artist rappers know?
T. Better Baldwin is a creative mercenary and ethical lobbyist who was born, raised and resides in New York City.