Tag: Hip-hop

Culture Changes and We’re Just Going to Have to Accept It

Things are getting weird. Michael Kors purchased Versace for $2.3 billion and the hip-hop scene is becoming unrecognizable. Other than being odd, those two things are seemingly unrelated, but in actuality, they’re both indicators of the same occurrence: a shift in culture.

Every generation has them. It’s the time in which an era’s trends are defined and in most cases, they come with some opposition. Change, especially in the things we hold dear such as music and family fashion business, is hard to accept, but not accepting it problematic. The spirit of the times, the zeitgeist, will persist, even if you disagree.

It’s also worth noting that those changes are often less dramatic than we realize, but the fear of the loss of tradition can cloud judgment even when in reality, it’s not that bad.

Concerns that Michael Kors’ acquisition will ruin the brand are valid only when you don’t consider the facts. Firstly, Versace was bought by Michael Kors Holdings, which will soon be changing their name to Capri Holdings, not the MK brand. Secondly, Donatella isn’t going anywhere. She will remain creative director as well as become a shareholder in Capri Holdings and according to her, Versace will remain a luxury brand.

What is concerning, though, is Kors’ plans to increases Versace’s revenue by adding more stores. Exclusivity is an important element of luxury. But this is still only a minor issue as going from 200 storefronts to 300 is hardly the nose dive from caviar to McDonald’s that Twitter is pretending it is.

Hip-hop is a different story. Accepting that shift is understandably harder because, for now at least, it’s more evident. The vague and divisive term “mumble rap” has become a bane for hip-hop heads, icons such as Kanye aren’t who they used to be and rappers have lost their sociopolitical voice.

It’s clear that the genre has changed into something very different and arguably more careless. However, that change can also be viewed as growth. Maybe mumble is just a subgenre of hip-hop– maybe it’s not. Maybe this really is a completely different phase in hip-hop’s evaluation.

Either way, ignoring (or fighting) it is probably a bad idea. At some point, being a purist makes your viewpoint obsolete if you’re completely unwilling to accept change. Yes, we’d all love for monumental names like “Versace” to maintain their grandeur and yes, we’d all love for hip-hop to always sound the way it did that summer we fell in love with it, but those things could only happen in a perfect world.

In the real world, things change and from the standpoint of a cultural critic, those changes are worth embracing and exploring. Finding the balance between appreciating how things were and appreciating how things are is just something we’re going to have to learn to do or soon we’ll turn into our parents, regularly reminding anyone following what’s popular that “things just aren’t how they used to be,” and honestly, no wants to hear that.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

In Defense of J. Cole Fans

As you probably know by now, J. Cole dropped an album entitled “KOD” on April 20, 2018, and if you know me then you know that there are few things that I get more excited about than a J. Cole album. My love for Cole began when I was in the seventh grade and now I’m in college, so it goes without saying that my feelings for the Fayetteville rapper are pretty serious.

As I listened to “KOD” for the first time last Friday “lost in a cloud of marijuana, a young Carolina nigga,” just as Cole described himself, I found myself thinking about how his music had grown with me. The parallels in subject matter and mindset between my life and whatever music he released at the time have been consistent for such a long and significant time in my life. From 12 to 20, a period in life where you really mold who you’re going to be, I was able to evolve alongside my favorite rapper.

Feeling that kind of connection to your favorite artist is honestly an amazing feeling that I’ve heard few others say they’ve experienced. However, even when you don’t consider the personal connection, I’d argue that it’s still understandable why Cole fans are so serious about his work.

Even many who aren’t fans of his regularly admit that the man is talented. His way of manipulating the English language to write stories you can’t help but relate to, even if you’ve never been through something similar personally, is something worth applauding. The emphasis he places on the lyrics, as well as production, create an entire experience that other artists simply aren’t creating.

This is why in my younger years I genuinely believed that anyone who didn’t enjoy listening to Cole simply wasn’t intelligent enough to do so. Obviously, I and other fans have matured to understand that taste in music and intelligence don’t necessarily coincide, which is why many of us retired the borderline religious tweets, but let’s stop pretending that the logic behind proclamations with that sentiment is absolutely absurd.

At this point, even most Cole fans say such things jokingly anyway because we’re able to acknowledge that we sounded somewhat silly. However, if you don’t get the joke, maybe we were right and you really are simply too dense to get it. In any case, any musician who can grow with me as a person, consistently employ an artistic use of words and genuinely stand for the people the way that J. Cole does deserves respect. If we as fans didn’t get a little passionate in discussions from time to time we’d honestly be being disrespectful.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

State of the Zeitgeist

2017 was interesting, to say the least. All things considered, I’d say that the one word that sums up this year would have to be “hectic.” From culture to historical events, there was simply a lot going on. As we reexamine the past twelve months and promise ourselves to improve over the next twelve, we’ll have a lot to consider.

The fashion industry, particularly, had a year that merits some reflection. The push for diversity and cultural respect has never been stronger; however, the industry has proven to be completely unprepared for this. PR disasters surrounding appropriation and tokenism plagued 2017 as brands attempted to give consumers what they thought they wanted.

The editorial side of fashion also had a pretty unfortunate year. Most notably, the Terry Richardson scandal disrupted many collaborations. In addition, multiple bloggers were vocal about the discrete advertising and bias found in many magazines. What’s worst is that the disconnect between consumers and brands and the unethical journalism were simply icing on a cake of runway shows that many viewed as “boring.”

The hip-hop industry, on the other hand, had a year that was far from boring. Most of the many projects that came out this year found themselves on one end of the spectrum, complete trash or certified hit. The abundance of collaborations and mumble rap generated so much noise that it was easy to miss the lackluster work.

I must admit, though, I am disappointed with just how much lackluster work there was to miss. I, like many others, was hoping that the introduction of the Trump administration would inspire some brilliant music as well as fashion. Instead, all we got was a few powerful protests, but many more empty ones.

My hope is that going into 2018 we’ll find inspiration in both our 2017 failures and successes, creatively and socially. While New Year’s resolutions are a bit cliche, they do help us to be honest with ourselves and seek improvement. So my hope is that every creative and/or activist who comes across this dedicates themselves to contributing to the spirit of the times in a way that is no less than phenomenal in 2018.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

What’s The Verdict on Logomania?

Okay, I get it. Everyone hates people who feel the need to overtly flaunt designer labels. It’s obnoxious and as the cliche saying goes, “fashion is about style, not about designers.” Also, it’s been proven that showing off designer labels is a tactic the lower class uses to attempt to give the appearance of being upper class.

All of that is true, but it does not change how fly you feel when you look in the mirror in a head-to-toe designer look, or even wearing just one attention-grabbing designer piece. This is a one of a kind feeling. It’s definitely not the same feeling you get when you pull together random pieces and make a look; it’s arguably better, depending on your mood.

And in the end, that’s the goal of fashion: to make you feel good. It does not matter what’s in season, it does not matter what’s on the runway in Milan, it does not matter what the magazines are pushing this month. What matters is how you feel when you look in the mirror, and ultimately, logomania undoubtedly gives you an elevated feeling when you look in the mirror.

Moreover, let’s not forget that we loved logomania at some point. It’s been a while, but when Lil Kim brought the trend to the hip-hop world, we couldn’t get enough of it. Seeing your favorite rapper in an entirely Gucci or Louis outfit was basically a reminder of exactly why you thought they were the coolest thing on the planet. Of course, countless trends (many of which we can all agree to never speak of again) have come and gone since that time, but our love for labels has only toned down, not died.

I know it’s corny, I know it’s obnoxious, I know it’s more stylish to put together devastating looks without the help of designers and I know that it’s not what Bill Gates does (even though we really shouldn’t be modeling ourselves after rich white men), but the allure of showing off labels is undeniable. I’m not saying you should only wear pieces that have graced a runway, because you should definitely still create your own style. However, I am saying that if you should ever feel the occasional need to step out completely covered in your favorite designer and make sure everyone is aware of it, do not let anyone make you feel bad about it.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

Hip-Hop Needs New Style Icons

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.