Rapper T.I. is a man of many hats, clothing designer among them. In a recent interview with Hypebeast surrounding the 5th anniversary of his AKOO brand, Tip touched on many things about his brand but one question leaves room for conversation.
When asked about higher end brands neglecting association with hip hop culture, but still borrowing inspiration form its aesthetic he had this to say, “I think they will do it as long as we allow them to. As long as we continue to promote their shit. As long as we continue to buy their shit. The power of the urban market is in the dollar.”
This leads to the heated debate of hip hop supporting high-end brands. In the present state of hip hop’s subject matter, many rappers are quick to name drop brands like Versace, Balenciaga, Margiela and so on. Fine fashion is everywhere, mentioned in songs on the radio, draped on the backs of rappers, and seen on blogs in the classic “who wore what?” posts.
At its core, hip hop culture came from the underground and has now transformed into the most influential music genre around. The masses want to know what the next big thing is, and more often than not it comes from the streets.
Youth and adults alike hear their favorite spitter drop a brand with a name they can’t pronounce and do their research, next thing you know they’re spending $500 on some coke-white leather high tops. The urban community then adopts this new brand under their identity, and the suburban population emulates the urban market. It comes to a point where people who don’t even listen to rap music are unknowingly wearing a brand because they saw Kanye West wear it.
Is there an end to this cycle? Tip thinks so. “They look away and disrespect our contributions to their bottom line, the only way we will receive that respect is if we enforce our power, here in the dollar. ‘Alright cool, so if you don’t want to rock with us, guess what we going to do, we’ll stop buying.’ But until we do that they will continue to manipulate us and continue to take us for granted.”
Tip is right for demanding a boycott, but it takes more than one man’s cry to move a population. Hip hop is the center of style influence, but you can’t get every emcee to stop rapping about his new $5,000
dress “t-shirt.” Money is power in this world, and by giving your hard earned dollar to snobby designers who don’t give a shit about you the power is lost.
High fashion might be ignoring hip hop, but hip hop is certainly not ignoring high fashion.