The marriage between hip hop and fashion began in the late 1980s. Run DMC made Adidas trendy and landed a deal with the brand. LL Cool J rocked the bucket Kangol hat for much of his early career.
With the 50th anniversary of hip hop approaching this August, we wanted to pay homage to the genre's role in Black fashion—and fashion as a whole. From Lil Kim to Jay-Z, they've all influenced the masses to buy from specific brands and to rock certain styles over the years.
EBONY chopped it up with a few Black fashion insiders to share how hip hop inspired their love for luxury fashion.
Zerina Akers, Stylist
Song: "No Matter What People Say" by Lil Kim
"I’ve always had a love for fashion and style, but the way Lil Kim boasted about the labels she was wearing gave me a silent confidence and taught me the power of wearing luxury labels," Akers says. "Not to mention, Misa Hylton did a stunning job styling the video that really catapulted Kim into being an icon. That video is timeless and will always serve as a reference."
Edvin Thompson, Designer, Theophilio
Song: "Can't Tell Me Nothing" by Kanye West
"So if the devil wears Prada, Adam Eve wear Nada, I'm somewhere in between, but way more fresher" - Kanye West rhyme, "Can't Tell Me Nothing."
"I always look to Prada for innovation and excellence," Thompson shares. "Just as I look to Kanye West for innovation, opulence and excellence within his artistry."
Blake Newby, Fashion and Beauty Expert
Song: "I Know What You Want" by Busta Rhymes Ft. Mariah Carey
"Ya lookin’ good in that Gucci bikini, 38 carats ya ring lookin’ freezy" - Busta Rhymes
"I was too young to be wearing Gucci bikinis, but I certainly would recite this line like I was," Newby admits. "Growing up during the Tom Ford and Gucci era, the bamboo moment will always have a place in my heart. My mom and aunts still have all the items they purchased during that time, and it's been incredible to see how in-demand those looks are yet again. That said, when it comes to Gucci, I still veer towards the same appeal that drew me to the brand in the first place."
Brandon Blackwood, Accessories Designer and Founder of Brandon Blackwood
Song: "Fashion Killa" by A$AP Rocky
"I love that he included so many brands that don’t usually get highlighted in songs, and he mentioned all the greats. I see you Jil Sanders, Oliver People's Costume National and Ann Demeulemeester—I love it."
Aaron C. Campbell, Men's Fashion Editor
Song: "Oh Yeah" by Foxy Brown
"In the song, Foxy Brown mentions being a Christian Dior poster girl (or in my case, boy). I love this lyric, especially because Christian Dior is one of my favorite fashion houses," Campbell dishes. "Starting with the "new look" for women in 1947 created by Dior himself, all the way up to the unique collections Kim Jones is currently designing for Dior's menswear line, I have always been fascinated by the brand's ability to reinvent itself, staying on the cutting edge of fashion while also remaining true to its history. I personally think that Dior produces some of the best menswear in the market right now, and I am currently eyeing a piece from their recent collaboration with California-based brand, Erl."
Alexis Bennett, Commerce Writer, Vogue
Song: "Fancy" by The Dream
"There are so many hip hop songs that made me fall in love with fashion; from Biggie’s legendary line, “Every cutie with a booty bought a Coogie,” to Jay-Z’s "Change Clothes" music video. Do you remember Naomi Campbell in the music video? Iconic! But my all-time favorite song that truly articulates my love for fashion is The Dream’s "Fancy." Those lyrics speak to my soul to this day, especially when he says, "They say you can’t buy love. Man, they lying. If Christian Lacroix brings a smile, I’ll buy it."
Kia Desiree Goosby, Fashion Editor, Vanity Fair
Song: "Fallin'" by Foxy Brown
"The connection between hip hop, R&B and fashion is a pairing that you can’t deny. So, when I think of a song, none other comes to mind than the ultimate rap queen and fashion girlie, Foxy Brown. The way she delivers the verse, “Like Prada, Jacob, Fendi boots C. Dior, Chloe, suits…” it’s an energy and feeling that is quite indescribable and made me want to be the woman that Foxy represented for fashion and music. It was such a good time for music."
Amber McGloster, Publicist
Song: "Run This Town" by Jay-Z ft. Kanye West and Rihanna
"And ain't nobody fresher, I'm in Mason Martin Margiela, on the tape we're screamin' f$#@ the other side, they jealous." - Jay-Z
"The Margiela name-drop in "Ni$$as in Paris" forever was and will be an iconic brand," McGloster says. "It was one of the first luxury brands I spent money on!"
Antoine Manning, Accessories Designer for Homage Year
Song: "Last Call" by Kanye West
"The song mentions Louis Vuitton, the brand that has inspired my love for fashion beyond its hold on the Black community, for its tasteful designs, pop-culture status, appointment of the late Virgil Abloh and its overall story. It's a story of perseverance that the original founder and designer, Louis Vuitton, endured to make what is now Louis V, Louis V," Manning explains.
"Vuitton grew up poor, his parents died when he was young, and he traveled 292-miles to Paris, alone. He worked his way up from a lowly life. Now, 169 years later, he's a staple in our community, but many of us don't know the story. However, the story speaks to me, and shows that it is more than possible for Homage Year. Fashion is bigger than putting on the flyest thing to me. It's a grand opportunity to tell a story, a story of our vast experiences and the crossroads within life that bring us together."
Greg Emmanuel, Model, Fashion and Beauty Editor
Song: "03 Bonnie & Clyde" by Beyoncé and Jay-Z
"Jay-Z mentions a few brands in one line—including Hermes. For me, as someone who was always interested in style before even really getting into fashion, that stuck out because I knew what Timberlands were, but it made me curious about what Manolo Timberlands were. The mentioning of the aviator glasses also allowed me to understand exactly what that style was called, thanks to the video. Overall, I would say that song was one of my first introductions to the language of fashion."
Reginald Christian, Men's Market Manager for Saks Fifth Avenue
Song: "So Fresh, So Clean," by Outkast
"From the moment I first heard "So Fresh, So Clean" by Outkast—before I even saw the legendary music video—I knew it was special. The Atlanta duo including André "3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton created brilliant and dynamic sounds inspired by electro, soul, and hip hop music. They are also widely lauded for their fashion sensibility," Christian shares.
"The song always gave me confidence and feel-good vibes, encouraging me to start each day with my best foot and outfit forward. Outkast provided me with a sense of empowerment through my speakers and made me believe I could look my best every day and share that same energy with others through fashion."
"The lyrics, 'Ain't nobody dope as me; I'm just so fresh, so clean,' reflect how great fashion can make you feel," he adds. "Nicholas Daley designs his collections through the lens of fashion and music. This jacket in particular exemplifies a fresh and clean style."
Ryan Gale, Fashion Stylist
Song: "Supa Dupa Fly" by Missy Elliott
I drew a lot of my fashion inspiration from hip hop and R&B. I could never forget Missy Elliott's iconic all-black bubble fit from the 'The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)' music video. When I saw that hooded cape from Save the Duck, I knew I had to have it!"
Ah-Niyah Gold, Founder, Agold Consulting
Song: "Oh Yeah" by Foxy Brown
"'I’m the most critically acclaimed, rap bitch in the game, coast to coast, stash the gat in holster girl Dark skinned, Christian Dior poster girl Mo’ rockin Timbs bitch, and the Gucci loafers girl,' I mean the line is self-explanatory," recalls Gold. "I’ve always looked up to Foxy as a fashion muse, and seeing her become the muse of Dior as a Black woman was nothing short of inspiring. She was extremely versatile in her looks and being a New York girl, we switch it up. One day it’s Dior pumps; the next I’m pulling out a pair of Timbs. It’s a lifestyle."
Shelton Boyd-Griffith; Fashion and Beauty Editor
Song: "Run This Town" by Jay-Z
"The year was 2009, and this casual mention of Margiela sent me into a fashion spiral," shares Boyd-Griffith. "I wanted to know everything about Margiela, and became obsessed with the anonymity of the designer, the white lab coats, the deconstruction meets construction, and those four little stitches on the label. It’s a lifelong affair that’s carried into today."
Julian Mack, Fashion Stylist
Song: "Oceans" by Jay-Z and Frank Ocean
"For one, this is just a feel-good record. My favorite line is, 'I hope my Black skin don't dirt this white tuxedo before the Basquiat show and if so…' The mood of this song expresses how I feel when I get dressed or dress my clients in a luxury brand," shares Mack. "It feels like an arrival, an audacity to be Black and feel expensive. Style has always been the cornerstone of Black culture and music. To have the privilege to wear luxury is an indescribable joy."
Taylor Dixon, Designer, Sunni Sunni
Song: "Paris, Tokyo" by Lupe Fiasco
"It wasn’t the first song I heard Goyard and Chuck Taylor mentioned in rap, but it brings me back to the 2000s imagination of a luxurious lifestyle and fashion," reminisces Dixon. "Especially in that era, I was a “lover boy” and often daydreamed about a couple's vacation to either of my favorite cities, Paris or Tokyo. I’ve been wearing oversized capri style denim like I’m going to a Hawthorne Heights show and couldn’t be happier. I think these are a great update from my vintage pair. "
Tchesmeni Leonard, Senior Fashion Editor
Song: "Get Money" by Notorious B.I.G., Lil Kim, Junior M.A.F.I.A.
"I immediately think of Lil Kim's lyrics, 'Now you wanna buy me diamonds and Armani suits, Adrienne Vittadini and Chanel 9 boots,'" says Leonard. "Growing up, Kim was a style icon for me, beyond her confidence that exuded through her lyrics. She was able to hold her own in an industry dominated by men and did so while looking unapologetically fabulous. I remember hearing these lyrics and thinking I want to be this bad and bougie. Kim served lyrics and looks. Even today, her looks—specifically the coats from the 'Crush on You' video—are still a style reference for me. "
Jeremiah Morse, Publicist
Song: "Upgrade U" by Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z
"Beyoncé said, 'Audemars Piguet watch, dimples in ya necktie, Hermès briefcase, Cartier tie clips. Silk-lined blazers, diamond-creamed facials VVS cuff-links, six-star pent suites.' She clearly knew the formula to make you a better man, so I was looking into whatever she was prescribing," Morse jokingly explains.
Pia Davis and Autumn Randolph, Designers, NoSesso
Songs: "Get Money" by Biggie ft. Lil Kim and "Oh Yeah" by Foxy Brown
"Lil Kim and Foxy Brown ruled '90s hip hop for women," the designers share. "We still listen to their songs today. Their style will always be a huge inspiration as they set so many trends and were truly ahead of their time."
"People till this day still rock their style from 20 years ago. The lyrics inspired our love for fashion because it was iconic to hear fab ultra, high-fem rap chicks talking about luxury designers, especially when those [designer] brands did not show many Black models in campaigns or runway shows," Davis and Randolph add.
"Kim and Foxy influenced high fashion designers to make entire collections inspired by them, which set the tone for what an "It girl" looks like. The way they empowered women to show skin and be free is so liberating and genius—especially when it was often frowned upon. They are in our top 10 most influential people in music and fashion."
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