Rap & Fashion: a reciprocal influence as undeniable as it is historical

Rap & Mode : une influence réciproque aussi indéniable qu’historique

Recently, Hamza rapped in the sounds Murder and Tsunami, from his latest album Sincerely released on February 17, “With me la noche est dolce comme Gabbana” or even “I arrive in LV clean, Prada clean, Fashion week”. These references to luxury brands have, moreover, become ordinary and habitual in the musical genre . For good reason , it is not risky to assure today that fashion and music, more particularly rap, are closely linked artistically. If this comes from mutual influence, at the moment both sectors really need each other.

Rappers now exercise an image profession. They surround themselves with stylists and adopt ever more cutting-edge looks, seeking to build a remarkable visual and artistic identity and differentiate themselves from the crowd. For their part, brands use the notoriety of these artists to reach a larger audience. These, in addition to engaging in collaborations with luxury brands, are literally becoming the new stars of Fashion Weeks. We find them as models parading on the Catwalk, or as guests directly in the front row. In truth, to understand this cohesion, it is important to return to the common past of the two industries.

A common story that starts on the street

Rap, whether French or English, has in reality always been linked to fashion. It was in the Bronx, New York, in the United States, and from the early 1970s, that hip hop culture was born. With precarity reigning, rap was mixed with drugs and gang wars. Thus, the fact for rappers to appear in their music videos and on their album covers with luxury brands, watches or prestigious jewelry proved their success and the survival of their environment. This ostentatious success was also a way of imposing their credibility and power. In this way, they start talking about fashion brands in their respective sounds.

At the end of the nineties, certain artists revealed themselves to be true trendsetters. This is the case of Notorious BIG who already wore Versace shirts, the iconic Jesus Piece on his gold chains, or of course the very colorful Coogi sweatshirts. We can also mention Puff Daddy and his eternal diamonds in his ears, subscriber to grillz, designer suits, large sunglasses and oversize. Finally, how can we forget Tupac Shakur's workwear style with Baggy jeans and flocked Carhartt or Dickies overalls, leather jackets and bandanas.

Strongly shaking the world of fashion, these rappers have concretely strengthened this link between luxury and rap. So much so that the simple fact of them appearing with a specific piece or talking about it in their sounds could cause its sales to explode. We think for example of the group IAM, who sang in 1993 in their song Je danse le Mia “I remember the evenings where the atmosphere was hot and the guys were bringing in Stan Smith on their feet”. This allowed Adidas to see sales of the pair triple.

A current influence found with English and French rap

The actors of American rap, to this day, are no longer content just to make odes to luxury in their sounds, but are now founding their own brand. A$AP Rocky , a true fashion icon and interpreter of Fashion Killa where he cites countless luxury brands, has now founded AWGE (Asap Worldwide Global Enterprise), a collective of creators, some of whom are fashion designers. The same goes for Travis Scott with his label Cactus Jack. Other rappers also have their own brand, including Tyler the Creator with Golf le Fleur or Drake with OVO (October's Very Own).

More than rappers, they prove to be influencers dictating the trends to follow and even more, our ways of dressing. In this way, Young Thug largely deflected stereotypes and advocated unisex by appearing in dresses. At the moment, UK drill and in particular the rapper Central Cee are having a huge impact on the youth wardrobe by propagating a whole new style. Pieces such as balaclavas, hats, down jackets, bags and brands such as Kalenji , Quechua or Trapstar are taking center stage, far from mainstream luxury.

Jacquemus also called on Central cee by collaborating with him for its fall-winter 2022-2023 collection. The brand revealed on its Instagram a series of photos of the artist wearing the new upcoming items, photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch. This is precisely why many brands have had rappers as their muse or have surrounded themselves with rappers since the 2010s. A$AP Rocky became a Dior muse in 2016 and subsequently worked with JW Anderson and Gucci. Travis Scott became Saint Laurent's in 2018. Recently , Kanye West opened Balenciaga's spring-summer 2023 fashion show, in addition to his collaboration with Adidas for Yeezy, which was recently broken .

 

In France, it's the same thing. We can talk about JoeyStarr who founded the COM8 brand in 1998 or Booba who founded Ünkut in 2004. Style in French rap is something extremely important. Take a Mic, rapper always on top of the latest clothing trends with looks combining strong pieces and good taste. SCH, constantly ultra-dressed, a “chameleon” style and attention paid to its impeccable image. Shay, a look with matrix influences, very recognizable and inimitable. These are all proof that the urban music industry in France knows the value and influence of fashion on its art.

The brands also collaborate with French rappers. In 2019, S.Pri Noir became the face of Cartier, after working with Adidas and Kenzo, Shay became that of Burberry, and the same year, the PNL group wore an Off-White jacket specially designed for them in its Au DD music video. Finally, Koba la D paraded for Casablanca in 2022.

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A trend that has been reversed

Initially, luxury brands did not want to be associated with the rap world, with this “ghetto” culture and personalities. These same rappers from whom they tried to distance themselves represent their best allies today. While Lacoste did not appreciate the cover of the album Few drops are enough by the group Ärsenik released in 1998 where the members proudly wore the visible crocodile, she will collaborate with the artists Moha La Squale and Roméo Elvis in 2018 and 2019.

The same goes for Timberland. The boot was worn by all the hip hop icons of the 1990s. This is how the brand stayed away from the groups Boot Camp Clik, Wu-tang clan and Mobb deep and from Notorious BIG and Nas to whom it owed however the success of his peers. She will subsequently work with Suprême and Nas. This year, a special edition is even planned for the 50th anniversary of hip hop: hip hop royalty boots.

These reversals of situation can be explained by a single observation. Rap is the #1 genre listened to in the world. Also, the objective of brands being above all to reach a larger audience, rap listeners are the perfect target.

Ultimately, the relationship between fashion and rap is solid and lasting and our relationship to rap necessarily influences our relationship to fashion and vice versa. Our purchases of pieces are, in some way, due to their democratization by influential artists, who themselves continue to stand out with ever more elaborate looks.

Written by @jade_moniz.

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