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Black Bourgeois

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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It amuses me how much, as a culture, we’re obsessed with jewelry. Not content enough to wear an understated necklace or Cartier watch, instead we choose to either wear as many chains as humanly possible or just go for broke and get the most extravagant and decadent piece of bling out there.

Like the kid who got into mommy’s makeup we’re not content with being nuanced or subtle, we’re gonna put on everything we can. Is it really necessary to have a diamond encrusted replica of yourself around your neck? No. Did you really need 50 chains, 30 bracelets, 10 watches and a ring on each finger? No –but it’s hot right?

Far be it from me to harp on anyone’s unique take on style. I feel like everyone should do what feels right for them, but at the same time, there is a such thing as overkill. One thing that the post hip-hop landscape has brought into the social conscience is the marriage of decadence and ignorance with the idea of “normal” in modern society. In a nutshell, we live in a world where you can take that cashmere burberry sweater and maybe rock a chain or two with it–some may hate it and some may love it but the point is, it’s a thing to do.

Bling, like everything else, is best when done in moderation; you know, a gaudy ring or two here and there or the flashy bracelet from time to time. Too much extravagance seems to come off as attention-seeking to me. It’s always best to stand out without seeming like you’re trying to stand out; that’s why you never put on too much cologne and that’s why you never wear any clothing that distracts from you the person. But maybe I’m just sleep on the matter, maybe a diamond-studded four finger ring is the perfect accessory to match a suit. I’ll have to take that into consideration next time I’m online shopping my last bit of money away.

I hated shoes growing up— Well, to be more accurate I hated the shoe culture growing up. I hated a lot of things growing up, but I really hated shoes— sneakers especially. As a kid, I wanted the hottest pair of Jordans coming out at any given time but my parents couldn’t afford it; and unlike most people, they actually let the fact that they couldn’t afford it stop them from purchasing it. (I know right!!) Truth be told my parents probably could afford it, they were just insanely cheap and couldn’t justify getting them (I was broke as the worst kind of joke at the time so I wasn’t going to get them either). No big deal I guess, I mean they were just shoes after all; but alas, they’re weren’t just shoes, they’re never just shoes, they’re always what you “just have to have” in order to gain any type of acceptance— so naturally, me not having them meant constant ridicule and taunts of being thought of as poor.
Thus begins the vicious cycle I endured through for most of adolescence. I was laughed at for not having the right sneakers, I was mocked for not knowing what the right sneakers were, I almost got into fights for even daring to come too close to scuffing someone’s sneakers; I found the whole subset incredibly elitist and ignorant but really I was jealous because they got to be a part of a culture I was kept out of. Over time, that jealousy became vitriol. I watched and studied people, like I tend to do always; I watched the extreme lengths they would take to protect their shoes from any bit of dirt or grime— toothbrushes, paper bags, slippers to wear outside until they could get indoors, the whole nine. I didn’t get it. The purpose for shoes, in my mind, was to keep your feet and the ground separated and these extremities done to take care of them showed borderline psychotic behavior.
Right around 14 was when I started my pretentious phase— reading higher grade level books, upping the vernacular and scoffing at everything that was beneath me (which was everything). It was around this time that I began to appreciate shoes or, at least what I considered, real shoes. Reading my dad’s GQ subscriptions for the latest on boat shoes, mocassins and oxfords. In my own mind, I turned the tide on sneakerheads, considering their affinity for “basketball shoes” immature and idiotic. I watched news stories about murder over these shoes and looked down on the whole culture for championing death in exchange for shoes you only wore once. More and more each day I hated all sneakers. I hated them with a passion that I let be known— I didn’t care about your cement 4s, I didn’t care about the color scheme of your pippens, I didn’t give a fuck that you “copped those questions joints” and I thought your mids were stupid. I hate everything about the sneaker game.
That is until I got to college and met “the intelligent sneakerhead”. When I got to college I got to meet with some of the most brightest and most insightful people, something I was far from used to. They were thoughtful, challenging and refined— and a lot of them happened to be the biggest sneaker fiends ever. They didn’t just buy them to say they bought them; they knew about them. They knew the history of these shoes, they knew the value of them; the quality and the aesthetics of them. They frequented the sneaker forums to find out release dates and compare their collection to that of others. They were my shoe professors. The ones who taught me why they matter until I was ready to jump on my desk and rejoice, “oh captain, my captain!”. I always knew the game but these guys thought me to respect it and, slowly but surely, love it. All those years of anger disappeared and I again regressed to being a child, wishing I was a member of the secret society.
I’ll never be a sneakerhead (you damn near have to be born into that world), but, like all cultures I didn’t get to be a part of, I became a student of it. I got caught up in the world and began to understand why it mattered. There are still things I hate about it, but there are things to hate about anything; what was important was I finally found the merit in sneakers and footwear as a whole. I had to understand that the outfit is the sum of the whole— not just the shirt but everything together mixed with your own persona to bring it to life. I will forever love the day I became a fan of “those basketball shoes” I once decried. That being said, I sure hope I can get my hands on these Ewings that are dropping soon.

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