It’s Luxury Rap

I got my Balmain on
Plus my Louis on

I got my Christian on

Boy I get this on

– Swizz Beatz. “Everyday (Coolin).”  Haute Living.  2012

What’s Gucci my nigga?
What’s Louis my killa?

What’s drug my deala?

What’s that jacket, Margiela?

– Kanye West, “Niggas in Paris.” Watch the Throne. 2011

Beamer, Benz or Bentley; Beamer, Benz or Bentley
Beamer, Benz or Bentley; Beamer, Benz or Bentley

Beamer, Benz or Bentley; My jeans are never empty

-Lloyd Banks. “Beamer, Benz or Bentley Remix.” H.F.M. 2 (The Hunger for More 2). 2010

I’m currently working on my Fashion Studies MA thesis, which is exploring the socio-cultural representation of luxury fashion in Hip Hop.   As you can imagine, my research has been nothing short of exciting.  Let’s keep it real, I am required to dedicate hours to listening to some of Hip Hop’s favorite rappers, watching their music videos and deciphering their lyrics (with the help of Rap Genius)  to analyze how fashion, specifically luxury goods play a significant role in Hip Hop’s aesthetic identity.  At first glance, it appears artists are just shouting-out brands, and some would argue foolishly because they become unpaid endorsers, but I believe they are  expressing a foundational Hip Hop ethos of aspiration and distinction a.k.a. the good life – and subsequently redefining the parameters of the  American Dream, through one luxury good at a time.

The most evident example is Jay-Z and Kanye West’s collaborative 2011 album, Watch the Throne, where verse for verse West and Jay-Z drop names of Maison Martin Margiela, Dries Van Notes, Hermes, Audemars Piguet, and Maybach (on ‘bachs, on ‘bachs) to lyrically assert their aesthetic distinctions and pleasures of wealth.  I wonder how many Google hits have been generated for “Hublot” since hearing it in a Hov bar? Not only does this prove the influence of Hip Hop commercially but it also sheds light on the symbolic role of luxury goods to mark one’s exclusivity and cultural knowingnesss.  More of my research will circle back to now mainstream terms like “bling” and “swagger” to unpack what is being expressed about Hip Hop’s taste and style.   In the meantime, I wanted to share a couple of  pieces that probably make my classmates all the more envious about my “research” material.

Check out GQ Magazine’s “A Buyer’s Guide to Watch the Throne

(Courtesy of XXL Mag)

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