A couple of weeks ago Beyonce was Lil Kim for Halloween, and it was everything. Bey recreated just a few of Kim’s iconic looks, but she had plenty to pick from. Lil Kim’s reign as Queen B has been marked by unforgettable looks; from the colorful “Crush on You” video looks, to the purple jumpsuit and pasty at the 1999 VMAs. It’s also no secret that Kim brought styles such as logomania and bright colored hair to the hip-hop community.
However, she isn’t the only hip-hop style icon. We can’t forget Andre 3000 who’s been pushing gender norms and giving uniquely stylish looks since the early 1990s. There’s also trendsetter, Missy Elliot; self-proclaimed pretty boy, A$AP Rocky and even the OGs, Salt-N-Pepa. All of these people brought their dynamic personal style onto the scene with them when they entered the spotlight.
These artists found their place in a long tradition of Black celebrities setting fashion trends for their peers in their respective industries as well as their fans. Another industry where this is common is sports, specifically the NBA. Interestingly enough, many style icons in sports find their fashion inspiration in hip-hop stars and vice-versa. This is a longstanding relationship between fashion, hip-hop, sports and the Black community.
This brings me to a question: “Who is taking on that legacy now?” One could argue that A$AP Rocky, Kanye and Rihanna are today’s hip-hop style icons, but that answer isn’t sufficient for me. A$AP Rocky is great, but he’s one person who represents one niche of hip-hop at a time when the genre is arguably more diverse than ever. Kanye simply isn’t a style icon anymore, you can look at any Yeezy runway and see what I mean. His “designs” have essentially become the material for Twitter jokes. Finally, there’s Rihanna. Rih is undoubtedly a style icon, but despite her feature on N.E.R.D.’s “Lemon,” she’s not a rapper, and I can’t count anyone who is hip-hop adjacent as a true hip-hop style icon.
This gross lack of someone to take the torch is dissatisfying, to say the least. The worst part is that a style icon is nothing more than someone who consistently dresses strangely and does it well, and I’m convinced plenty of today’s rappers could do that. Today’s rappers are weirdos, but for some reason, they’d rather wear jeans and a t-shirt or poorly curated head to toe designer than display that weirdness in their wardrobe. In an industry where everyone works so hard to prove that they’re different, no one really wants to be different anymore.
Fashion is a huge part of building a brand. There are plenty of past names in the hip-hop industry that are still identifiable by the fashion that was unique to them, but we don’t see that anymore. This lack of style makes artists forgettable and leaves fans like me bored. We all know that fashion needs hip-hop, but it seems that we’ve forgotten that hip-hop needs fashion.
Be the zeitgeist.