The [New] Home of Hip Hop

When the lights dimmed on Kanye West’s Adidas x YEEZY  debut fashion show, the only thing more noteworthy than the first season collaboration was the front row of guests.

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From left: Alexander Wang, Rihanna, Cassie, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jay Z, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian West, Anna Wintour.

It was an eclectic mix of people- royalty in their own right. Sean “Diddy” Combs, Beyonce, Jay Z, and Rihanna all shared space with large names in the fashion industry such as Anna Wintour and Alexander Wang. Kim Kardashian West seemed to be the link to bring both sides together; her entry into hip hop’s elite group through Kanye reflects his entry into fashion through her. His front row of guests demonstrates the changing tides of the world- hip hop has transcended its place as a musical platform and become synonymous with a pop culture landscape where anything is possible.

Hip Hop grounds itself in the movement of the people- it was an aspect of black communities used to demonstrate their dance (breakdancing), music (DJing and rapping), and art (graffiti). At its essence it is about humanity, and later the struggle of black lives. While keeping its roots alive, it has now grown into so much more than lyrics and beats. Jay Z has moved on from rapping about the hustle that created him, to the opulence and luxury that surround him. Kendrick Lamar still keeps it real by making the political personal, as noted most dramatically on To Pimp a Butterfly. The most notable way in which these artists are using their craft is through a time tested element- the relevancy of their subjects.

Beyonce during her MTV VMAs performance.
Beyonce during her MTV VMAs performance.
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Kanye West on the cover of TIME.

When Beyonce, or Queen B as she is known by her Beyhive, dropped her self-titled album without a moment’s notice, the world immediately began talking about her messages of feminism. Her music helped to give further credibility to an already strong movement, and became chart toppers and club bangers in their own time. The [in]famous Kanye West was named one of TIME magazine’s most influential people, categorized with the likes of Barack Obama, and Narendra Modi. With elevated visions of artistry, there is not a moment when Kanye hasn’t been relevant in his career. Anticipation of his newest album only strengthens the pull that hip hop has on the people. Kanye and Beyonce prove that hip hop encompasses a broader category of thought- it is becoming a defining force on the global landscape.

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4 thoughts on “The [New] Home of Hip Hop

  1. I beg to differ with the statement that Kim Kardashian West is the link. Over the past years fashion designers are beginning to realizing the impact of hip hop ‘royalties’ as influencers, which is the reason we are seeing their increasing appearance on the covers of major fashion magazines.
    On the other hand, I agree that hip hop is expanding beyond it’s boundaries and is having an increasing impact on the global landscape. But, even with this increase I do find that there are instances where hip hop doesn’t get the recognition that it should. Case in point the major awards shows that were held earlier this year. There was somewhat a lack of hip hop representation, if my memory serves me correct the last award show the best hip hop song/album winner was in my estimation NOT hip hop.

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    1. Hi Ali,

      Thank you for eliciting discussion based on this post! I wouldn’t say Kim is the only link, but I disagree with the statement that she isn’t a link. Hip Hop royalty are heralds of new fashion as muses and models, but this does not mean that they are producing those fashions. Kanye talks about how hard entering into the fashion world was on his album Yeezus, and I daresay Kim is a help in some sense. The anger on his album due to what he considered unfair treatment leads me to your next point.

      The Grammys are a hotbed for cultural ignorance and appropriation- there, I said it. Votes come from the voting members of the award show who tend to be on the older side- they aren’t the demographic responding and listening to hip hop. The issue I believe you speak about is Macklemore beating out crown prince Kendrick, who undoubtedly deserved album of the year. Macklemore brought something fresh to the stage however, that Eminem couldn’t entirely bring- whiteness that mattered to other white people (in this frame, consider our older Grammy voting members). Macklemore talked about things that hip hop listeners hadn’t been talking about- thrift shops and homosexuality. This is much more relatable (and safe) than Eminem who deals with issues of poverty, drugs, family and so much more, like so many other black artists. An entire group of people who never listened to hip hop then all of a sudden considered Macklemore and his “real rap” as a heavy contender in a category they formerly cared nothing about. Voters are given the chance to vote in 9 out of 31 categories dealing with Grammy nominations- when rap all of a sudden mattered to specific people, they decided to vote. Kendrick’s GKMC with themes of black struggle isn’t something that voters would consider as a revolutionary work. Heck, when the MTV awards was held in gentrified Brooklyn, blackness was a minstrel show. Even Kanye argued that he was held back in the fashion world because of racism; “they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself”.

      Of course, as Macklemore brings pop and hip hop together, one can hope that artists like Kendrick garner more respect from the mainstream. This does not mean catering to a privileged crowd, but does mean hopefully teaching them something about checking that privilege as they listen to what many would consider real hip hop. It also gives hip hop purists a chance to listen to artists like Macklemore- I don’t always agree with his music but I for one will not deny that he has incredible flow. As artists like Kanye begin to compete on a global stage, we can hopefully reach a point where hip hop recognition caters to those who should truly be recognized.

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  2. I agree that Hip Hop has a global influence now and that its broken all global barriers. Even in Bollywood influence of hip hop is seen and accepted. The fact that they have broken all the global boundaries can be stated as that this music does not lack recognition Ali.

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    1. Thanks for the discussion Yadnesh! I love hip hop and Bollywood mashups, and Bollywood rappers are all the rage on Indian music scenes. I think that the thing we do need to consider is that rap and hip hop are still very stereotyped, even though it is a such a globalized music phenomenon. Hopefully as it grows as a category of influence, we will see less prejudice in rap, and more Bollywood collaborations as well! 🙂

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