“What’s that jacket, Margiela?” – Kanye West
Designer name-dropping in rap music is nothing new. In fact, it’s an essential fabric of some of the most beloved rap songs of our generation, whether it’s Notorious B.I.G.’s ode to Versace and Moschino in his 1996 hit Hypnotize Me (lyrics: “Miami DC prefer Versace, all Philly go with Moschino”), Kanye West’s 2004 All Falls Down track (lyrics: “I can’t even pronounce nothing, pass that ver-say-see”), or more recently A$AP Rocky’s Fashion Killa (lyrics: “She got a lotta Prada, that Dolce and Gabbana, I can’t forget Escada, and that Balenciaga”). The rap industry’s dependence on luxury name-dropping is akin to Lil Wayne‘s dependence on purple drank.
Ok, yes, if we look back – or, as I personally prefer to put it, stop wait, reverse the tape – fashion and hip-hop have a long history together, but rappers are no longer contained to the fashion industry via their songs alone. Rather, they are increasingly popping up on the front rows of Fashion Week, designing their own lines, and – more than anything – being taken seriously by the industry, whether inspiring luxury designers or collaborating with them. Think Kanye West’s annual front-row presence at couture and ready-to-wear shows, from Stéphane Rolland to Céline to Valentino, A$AP Rocky’s role in DKNY’s Spring/Summer 2014 ad campaign, Cam’ron hitting the catwalk to debut his cape collection at New York Fashion Week, Jay-Z and Kanye’s Watch the Throne album cover designed by none other than Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, and Drake being kitted out in custom Calvin Klein for his upcoming Would You Like a Tour? tour. I could go on, but you get the picture: this list is as long as DMX’s rap sheet.
Cray as it may seem, the merging of the hip-hop and fashion industries is here to stay. In fact, it’s instructive to look at the two together, because this highlights a historic moment in culture production. It’s a time when rap is not only metaphorically seated beside the high-fashion industry, but an epoch when rappers-turned-fashion-icons are literally seated on the front rows of the most exclusive fashion shows in the world, sandwiched between industry legends, free to mingle and talk about, well, God knows what. But, really, it doesn’t matter, because sure enough its got the whole world goin’ gorillas.