Black Bourgeois: On Luxury Rap & Brand Overdose

After spending the past weekend totally legitimately sampling the soon-to-be released G.O.O.D music album “Cruel Summer”, (review of which will be up soon) I realized a few things. Other than the fact that I’m still not entirely sure what Cyphi Da Prince’s role in G.O.O.D is and the constant hope that ‘Ye fooled us all and the real album hasn’t been leaked yet, I have to admit that I just don’t particularly care for luxury rap.
For those of you not in the know, luxury rap is like a good deal of other rap records; in that they rap about having and buying things, only this time it’s about elegance with your decadence. So instead of laying down a 16 about white tees and fitted caps, you would rap about the fine wines, french designers and that hermes bag you just had to get. To quote Mr. West, it’s “sophisticated ignorance”; which is fine enough, I’m sure my high school self would approve of this. (Anything to get the other black kids to stop being assholes to him for not wearing baggy clothes.)
For me though, I’m not particularly enthralled by the whole thing. It’s essentially a sequel to the “shiny suit” era-only a helluva lot more expensive-which was fun at times and undermined the violence in the hip-hop scene, which was pertinent but it was all so empty and crass and was all about selling shit and turning yourself into a billboard.
I guess this is where my real issue with most popular rap music lies (well one of the problems): the constant brand abuse.
Rap music, more than any other, is pretty damn guilty of brand abuse. The abuse that shit like it’s nothing; to the point where brands should get their own Sarah Mcgloughlin-scored commercial. Chances are if your product holds any water, a rapper has rapped about having it. Now, for a lot of brands this isn’t a big deal, most of them welcome the attention. The thing about luxury rap is that it’s all about bragging about things that pride itself on exclusivity. When you brag about having polo sock, polo shirts and polo draws it devalues the brand because it inspires everyone to get the same thing and erases the exclusivity you wanted from it in the first place. (Mind you we could also discuss the bullshit in things being exclusive, but that’s a whole other issue.) By extension, too much branding also devalues yourself. When you walk along the streets of your city whereing that Givenchy shirt you saw Rick Ross where and decided to spend your whole paycheck on, are people who see it on you reacting to you or the shirt? Thus getting back to you just being a billboard instead of being stylish. I’ve often said that the hip-hop scene is full of kids who are trendy but not necessarily stylish. Anyone can wear what’s popular so where’s your identity? I do my best to dress in a way that let’s someone know that my style is my own–as best you can with only so many things to wear and ways to wear them. (No humblebrag.) But even I fall for the occasional Maison Martin Margiela shoes or HUF panel hat when I see someone rocking it well. I’m not about judging, I’m just about suggesting–suggesting that maybe we can cool it on turning ourselves into ad space and rapping about extravagant items purely for the sake of doing it. Then again, if I wasn’t a broke engineer-by-day, writer-by-night, I’d probably be all for it.

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