THE TOP FALL 2015 MENSWEAR COLLECTIONS

serving fashion and function is no easy task, and being in new york has reshaped my idea of function. in the concept of convertible, or multi-weather dressing, i have mostly sat in observation since my landing here in the fall. i’ve been humbled in this experience to know that, i don’t dress as bad as i think i do. typical of style, one must first understand coordination and ones own body. for my menswear collection picks of the season, a new eye was revealed. looking more toward function, with style becoming secondary; menswear adds a greater deal of ease, as it is standardized for us dudes. while greater creative concepts have began to enter into menswear, with the globalization of fashion and street style on the internet; this season’s picks are among my strongest point of views since the establishment of this space in 2008. as an adult and real consumer of fashion, one who understands style beyond price point- style is that of an enjoyment. from london to paris, off to milan and settling here in new york, these are my top menswear collections for the fall 2015 season. in alphabetical order, my most personal seasonal selections yet, based on personal taste.

COACH while the brand has long been the punchline for its mass produced, logo frenzied designs; coach is one of the strongest american brands to date. with a new creative director in place, and the refinement of design growing more visible, this collection is strong. shot as a look book as oppose to runway, the collection hosts a number of accessories, a staple for the brand, and an army of outerwear, appropriately for fall. while it may feel a bit too early to forecast any increases in sales; there is a noticeable effort in the menswear collections, which i appreciate. most big luxury houses focus widely on their women divisions with no particular interest in creating a balance of effort for their men’s collections. in america, in particular, the style conscious male is alive and well. call it a new generation reformation; but the internet with it’s pockets of influence have street wear and real person celebrity dripping from every pixel. there was a subtle use of animal print, which i also appreciated; and think necessary for an exemplary choice for men’s design. creative director, stuart ververs cites inspiration of his teenage years. in looking to appeal to a younger, more style conscious demographic, this approach is much needed for a brand like coach. for men, in particular, i am excited for what is to further develop for the brand as a whole. with the brands heritage being heavily based, if not entirely based, on leather goods, there is a gang of leather, and i would like to see the ways that is expanded upon and done so in much more innovative ways. a strong menswear collection for coach, who otherwise remains a bit more quiet on the men’s design scene. my attention was focused on the pants and footwear, particularly, and i loved the development in those areas.

DRIES VAN NOTEN often cited as psychological design, dries van noten is a label that serves experiences beyond simple style, or what one would consider clothing. stories through cut, scenarios through each seam; the collection was described as muted. but to me, spoke very loudly and ever clearly. i really love dries, in that, represented are some real style nods. it’s style in this everyday way, but it has this air of luxury that drips from it’s simplicity. it’s difficult to put into words, as i believe that luxury is a feel. it’s an energy. it’s about things feeling expensive, feeling luxe- above average and exclusive. rather inarticulately but no less poignant, it makes the designs special. there is a very unique and intelligent way that dries does print. the botanical prints reminded me of a new, fresh interpretation of camouflage. not a fan of print, the use of it in his collections is a regularity that is almost expected. but the expectation of such use is super subtle. that’s how genius it is. there’s heavy textures, and the clothes feel moody. it’s effortless, it’s masculine while incorporating these feminine elements. layered to perfection for the fall, the collection in motion is among the most inspiring of the season. when it comes to fashion, i often get my own feel for what i see; i look at the sourced inspiration, but all in all- it’s about what looks great, from what feels great. and clothes, as our armor should make us feel protected. protected in ways that represent polish, and who we are, internally. that’s what i love about dries; the runway show really transported you. look after look, you wondered; who is this guy? this guy that lives in these collections, what is his story. among my most favorite of the season, and ideally who i’d like to become, in representing a new dimension of self, through maturation of style. beyond what i can tell you, beyond what can be captured in images. this is the collection you need to see, for it’s elegance, effortlessness and ease. style is easy, and should be. it’s thoughtful.

DSQUARED² among the fashion labels that serve casual style, in many cases, i’ve bitched that the collections were too one dimensional. but in looking at the ways that i relate to designer collections, in a real way, as an actual consumer- there is an undeniable energy to the clothes. what did bother me about the casting for the show was the inclusion of womenswear pieces. i think it’s already tough enough as it is for men to find their own space in high fashion, and the women only distracted with dominance during the runway show. there was also a visible lack of diversity in the collection, which is surprising because dean and dan canten have showed collections with a full cast of males of color. while the use of denim, fur and western or american design concepts was great. the casting, i found, to be distracting. there should be a streamlined process of diversity, in every show. instead of parading models of color around as a fad, or passing trend. the color of our skin is not in for a season, it’s permanent. much like the use of denim in a DSQUARED² collection. malgosia bela opened the show, which gave the collection a distracted feel from menswear. mary j. blige also performed at the shows close. a fan of blige myself, this still felt out of place, or just extra. expectations fulfilled by what was presented, in design; the usual formula was well represented. lack of diversity, and unnecessary involvement of female models. but, you know- i liked a lot of the looks, and came away with ideas for use of fur, and layering concepts.

HAIDER ACKERMANN much of standardization in menswear is tied to tailoring standards, creases in certain spots and a age-old expectation of formality. a proper windsor for your tie, certain do’s and don’ts for matching of patterns, depending, and certain textiles depending on the season. but in this day in age, much of personal style can be seen in style defiance. going against the rules, while displaying an understanding while directly looking to break those rules. in the vein of dries van noten, while being mindful of men’s formal standards exists haider ackermann. pronounced, high-derr ack-ur-men; the designer elevates sensuality of formal wear in the world of high fashion. his use of satins and calculated moments of ‘lax appeal are unrivaled in the world of high fashion. leather and velvet were among the highlights of this collection, and while i’m guessing that the collection is much better in person, the dark images give it that haider feel. it’s romantic, and rebellious, and almost seasonally defiant as well. there are loose ascots, silk scarves and beautiful use of knitwear. ackermann has this ability to create strong looks that almost go beyond the thought of masculine and feminine. masculinity being that of strength, and femininity being that of softness, in most cases described in a fashion dialogue; the collection remains true to the ackermann aesthetic and was presented off runway. the womenswear collection was baited as well, as one womenswear look managed to surface in the set. overall, a usually and expectedly strong showing. but nothing else to be expected from haider. as great as he is, there shows lack of mindfulness in model casting, as it related to diversity; a major blow to any designer, truly looking to defend their ability to translate a vision, in my opinion.

LOUIS VUITTON in asia, the number one brand for visibility is louis vuitton. the largest percentage of that visibility is seen in the brands own accessories and leather goods market. for the world of menswear, we’ve seen many developments in the last five years. amongst those developments has been greater use of creative concepts, and feminization of styling approach. using feminization as form of flexibility, and lending to it an air of greater freedom to evoke style; the louis vuitton collections are known for their strength in accessories. in fact, the appointment of nicholas ghesquiere, following his departure from the house of balenciaga was brought to life with the hopes that a greater set of balance would be achieved, in refining the houses fashion design credibility with actual clothes. with areas of china and india showing an accelerated interest in luxury goods, spiking something like 86 percent between 2008 and 2013. with a profit margin of 40%, vuitton defends their use of strength in accessories, but more interestingly for men this season. gucci and vuitton are among the leaders for logo-frenzy design, and while the name of the style game these days is minimalism, you still have those new-money-moments of bougie on every marble flooring section at the luxury department stores. the cross body bags adorned in the classic monogram were a standout, and visibly so, creative director kim jones layered models with these bags- you couldn’t help but notice them. not a fan of print, and in this collection, i was reminded of my dislike. but who gives a fuck, when you have all these accessories options for men at vuitton. the monogram design and warm browns are completely timeless, and was well paired and styled with the strong collection looks. whats unusually impressive about the vuitton menswear division is it’s strong sets of looks. kim jones is definitely a G in this game, and the menswear collections he puts out are evidence of that. it’s the right move with the accessories, especially since the pricing on vuitton bags went up a reported 12%. at least gas prices are down.

PUBLIC SCHOOL public school has created a niche market in high end, luxury – adding to the already rapidly developing world of high streetwear. but this season; it seems that their usually powerful punch was off. while there were a few strong, dark looks- which are a part of the brand’s own normal flavoring, the inclusion of more mass, commercially acceptable pieces, from what it seems, broke continuity in a way that was confusing. unnecessarily so, the collection included shots of pale pinks and pastels; which was like drinking unsweetened iced team when you were expecting sweetened. staying true to the theme of lacking taste, I’m wondering if the downtown feel is all that the label has to their credit. the collection did present a range of layering ideas, and there seemed to be a focus on lengthening of garments, which i really loved and understood being in the midst of my first winter here on the east coast. i feel as though the use of color, could have been influenced by anna wintour. she is known for her distaste for all black, and as the winners of the CFDA fashion fund award, i could easily see her lending such feedback at a pre-fashion show review of the collection. that said, with regard to wintour; public school needs to retain that depth in palette. there is this washed out, inauthentic feel about the design duo doing anything else. while not as strong as past seasons they’ve had, still much stronger than other labels. i found it odd that there were missed steps in their fall collections, because they’ve exemplified strength in their outerwear designs. i loved the use of red, and of course- I’m all for the grey and navy.

RAG & BONE another defender of downtown style, as a true reflection of american style, as it relates to new york city. rag & bone held the best menswear presentation in new york this season. each look was posted on  headless, wooden mannequins, which gave the presentational aspects much more edge than what was to be normally expected. the collection look book images feature dancer lil buck and ballet icon, mikhail baryshnikov. the creative duo behind the label, marcus wainwright and david neville explained that their choices always reflect range in opposition. while lil buck is more from the era and grade of street dancing, baryshnikov is of classical training. both are fitting representers of their respective sectors of dance, and for the label- this season; they represent opposites. the duo of rag & bone are a combined force themselves, being a british-american duo. while i loved the collection and the presentation presented here in new york, the look book images for me fell flat. that is, until i seen the study of movement short film that was shot for the collection. featuring again, both dancers buck and baryshnikov; the short could not have been more well balanced and the collection, though secondary to the movements reminds you that the persona of each man featured is about the full scope. with a twist of each ankle or a jolt of a torso, you find yourself looking at the wool coats, or remixed dress pants. there is a marriage of athleticism and luxury that menswear is doing expertly well. in an interesting twist, this collection felt more like public school to me, than public school. strong collection, but feels as though concepts and aesthetics are being traded. either that or shaded. bloop.

VALENTINO the collections i select each season often drift throughout the spectrum, i’ve developed my favorites but from season to season you find yourself dissapointed, you find yourself surprised other seasons. it’s fashion, it’s ever changing. but with the house of valentino, their menswear collections are always among my favorite picks and are often a source of aspiration though inspiration. from the tailoring, to the concept, it’s all very well done. this season there was color blocked patchwork that made it’s way into the usually streamlined use of color. there was a tribal and bird-likeness in the patterns, and placement of pockets and zippers in a fresh way. interesting range of palette used throughout and while the same silhouettes were shown, they were given a facelift for the new season. appropriately, there was a focus on accessories; a division within the brand that has been amped since the retirement of valentino himself. the valentino brand brings this high end appeal to otherwise urban elements. they are to credit for the resurgence of camo- which was included in these collections again, and pairing of sneakers with formal wear, which was also continued here. this season, they expand upon that focus with a range of leather backpacks. leather coats were also seen in the collection, and while i didn’t enjoy the use of baby blue, i appreciate the renewed approach as oppose to just continuity of what has worked before. there were butterfly, constellation and hybrid use of print, blending birds/camo. i loved the use of navy, as i do for any fall collection. near the close of the collection brought a use of valentino red- a staple for the label since it’s creation in rome in 1959. the final looks brought about a new, fresh take on green print, which i loved- surprisingly, as i am not often impressed or interested in the use of print. the collection overall, was very strong and presented a bold approach to men’s style that challenges personality and choice for all the male consumers out there. a really great evolution from last season to now, mindful of what works while always leaning to new concepts.

VERSACE the house of versace is to credit for many style movements that have lasted since the 90’s. some of those elements were presented in the collection, like the classic gold versace hardware, and just the sleek appeal, which is very handsome. since donatella took over following gainnni’s passing in 1996, the house was refined in a sophisticated way. there was less shock value, and more polish. you can feel the energy of a woman, as oppose to a man, but the reason that versace is so successful and has been, is that there is a common thread of taste. it’s handsome, it’s classic and it’s italian. whether it’s sleek hair, or sleek tailoring, there’s a versace energy. this collection encapsulated that in a powerful way. i didn’t enjoy the wide legged looks, and am very partial to where menswear has evolved, with tailoring. i love the strict use of palette. it was black, navy and brown the entire way through. which makes for beautiful variation in styling, when the clothes are pulled for the editorial circuit. there wasn’t much feedback to give to this collection because the normal, standard versace expectation was fulfilled. the palette in the collection wasn’t the only one my focus shifted to, there was a noticeable absence of men of color for the collection, which is very dissapointing. while there have been escalated efforts last season, with the womenswear side of things, it’s important for those bouts of diversity to be equally represented. the versace man is widely focused upon the hip-hop community, and the house of versace should recognize that and mirror or acknowledge such influence on the runway. after all, it’s those in rap that have allowed for the name of versace to live and thrive. from silk shirts to gold jewelry- it’s all versace, but it’s all rap culture. can’t have one without the other, if you ask me.

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD leave it to dame vivienne westwood to fuck with the psyche of fashion in a smart, stylish and chicly thrased way. that’s exactly what she did here. and it was expertly done. i will say, this collection was a bit more polished than others she had. she went easy on them this season; but the focus and trend that the industry is pushing is print. there were beautiful use of floral and black prints, done- again, so beautifully. the contrast of the florals was done in a clip art way that isolated them on the blazer and jackets in the collection near the close. i loved the styling, and again, as i always say with westwood- you have to look at the collection in pieces, not as full looks in order to digest the message. interesting use of the currency print, though I’m not a big fan of matching sets, i do understand that there is a market for them; and if you’re going to do a full print look, what say ‘i got money’ more than a currency print from head to toe? exactly. represnting london, I’m always amazed when looking at a vivienne westwood collection; her eye remains forever youthful and always fun. seriously fashionable in the real fashion circles- there is a way to fuck it up, and to do that in a way that makes people proud to be a fan, this is honest work, and it’s the intention of great design, to re-evalutate and re-landscape the ways that people see everyday function, and how they represented themselves by what they choose to wear. it’s all about choices, and viv knows that best.

visit style.com for full collection coverage of the FW15 season
click image to view collection gallery

YEEZY SEASON 1 • KANYE WEST

a post apocalyptic wardrobe showing, without a doubt. in that a symbolization of an end, as well as a beginning. kanye west, as a style icon, has spawned legions of followers across the globe. clamoring for satin bomber jackets or bidding on his limited edition sneaker collaborations with nike; all of those elements combined seem to make up the long awaited collaboration between west and adidas. the brands collaborations with designers like yohji yamamoto and stella mccartney have been amongst the most innovative, and successful as far as design aesthetic. for the brands adidas originals collections, they’ve secured and sold collaborative efforts with designer jeremy scott, while also teaming with musical artist pharrell, and roc nation’s rita ora. of all past collaborations, west is the biggest star. in speaking to the rise of urban luxury, i dove into the trenches of what athleticism and glamourizing of such would mean coming into the near future. no doubt, my own predictions are now coming to fruition right before our very eyes; but that’s not to say we didn’t see this coming. while the creative work as a designer for kanye west are nothing new, the unlikely partnership between him and adidas is where the real surprise lies. in speaking to the defiance and marketability of bigger brands to push presence, west’s collection collaboration has little to no adidas branding. an  odd, but understandable move for the brand, who enticed west with creative freedom for the collection. proudly, west thanks the athletic super brand for their belief in his creativity as a long hauled publicity campaign has ensued in the social media stratosphere. a powerhouse front row secured such a feat as, alexander wang, rihanna, cassie ventura- girlfriend of p. diddy whom she sat next to; was seated by jay-z, beyoncé alongside kim kardashian-west, north west and editor-in-chief of american vogue, anna wintour. with a front row of power players, the press coverage has been in full swing. fashion kids in the forums are quickly spewing criticism of the collection citing stolen concepts from brands like helmut lang, and rick owens. and while the influence references thrown about are visible in the collection; the recycled inspiration is nothing new to the world of fashion as we commonly see archived works by the house of balenciaga and givenchy being used by different labels, each season. if you strip away all the bullshit a clear voice was indicated here. a movement in his own right, from album to street style, to the works of his design collaborations, kanye west is among the most visible on the scene for his bravery. misunderstood at moments, and underrated for his abilities, the collection presents the beginning of his creative endeavors with the brand, as his first pair of shoes with the brand, called the “yeezy boost”, the first of many releases is already unavailable for reservation.

 

styled by kanye west, images shot by jackie nickerson
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THE TOP FIVE PRE-FALL 2015 COLLECTIONS

new year, new clothes. fashion sleeps for no one, and the show season gently begins with wheels turning courtesy of the pre-season collections. in structuring collection reviews, i’ve looked to incorporate ways that strengthen content and reduce verbal static. that means, only speaking on the very best. in no particular order, the collections selected all represent my own preferred style direction. minimal, clean, american by influence by international through it’s sharply executed sense of cut. being in new york city re-shapes your thinking of functionality through style, especially in the winter time. suddenly, one coat is not enough. finding the perfect boot becomes more pivotal than ever. with a renewed sense of style, in balancing function and fashion, i select my an intimate count of my five favorite collection for the 2015 pre-season, all american.

BOSS hugo boss as a company moves to further develop their footing in womenswear. last year they installed jason wu at the label for the BOSS womenswear collections. represented in the clean lines and structured silhouettes, wu brings a youthful sophistication to the collection with precision. while the collection does border considerably close to wu’s own namesake collections, the effort is extended and visible in concept. overall, the collection hosts a dope color story of deep greens that are well contrasted with shots of black. it’s classic, in this clean and modern way. true to wu’s own aesthetic. it’s always interesting to see what way differentiation is flexed and this collection has more similarities than differences. i felt it necessary to include this collection for my pre-season picks as wu’s development as an artist of design has become more sophisticated, after each season. i am excited to see how boss will manage wu’s presence at their label, and considering that these are very american design ideals, i will definitely be watching the evolution of this on-going, contracted collaboration.i loved the focus on the magnified houndstooth. and while this is only a pre-season design collection, i have even higher hopes for what is to come for the fall show season in february. an outstanding job for wu and his team at boss. though a valiant effort, i will say that i am expecting greater amounts of differentiation from wu’s own work. and since boss is still under developed as far as design signatures, this should be an interesting focus to draw upon for the next several seasons.

JASON WU having developed his aesthetic through additional collaborative work with other brands; wu is stronger than ever as a designer. quickly becoming one of my absolute favorites to watch on the new york style scene, this pre-fall collection packs about as much punch as a runway debuted set, in design. there is a design clarity that i feel for the wu collections. there’s a uniformity and cleanliness about wu that is distinctively american. very different from minimalism seen in europe, mostly because of it’s ease and function, i feel. streamlined in black and khaki with a few shots of emerald green and cobalt blue, the collection is a strong showing, even for the pre-season. with his work as boss now well underway, wu’s own aesthetic signature is, which had it’s first major break on the back of michelle obama, at the beginning of the obama administration; has developed into a well round fashion house, representing the clean lines of america, as we near the end of that two term administration. among my favorite designers, strong effort with beautiful use in control of palette. I’m always interested in seeing how aspects of pre-fall collections borrow from past collections, while including new concepts found in the following collection, presented at runway. wu has held pretty strictly to a direction, so I’m excited for what he does this fall on the runways of new york fashion week. i am continually taken by surprise at how jason wu raises the bar for sophistication in ways that are fresh and new, this pre-season collection is one of those gentle reminders, while I’m hoping to see more drama and a lasting effort on the catwalk.

PROENZA SCHOULER pattern is the name of the game for the pre-season, and that was clear at proenza. while they’ve created collections that weren’t exactly on my top list of favorites for a few seasons now, i decided to include them in my pre-season rankings this go ’round. matronly lines cooked in a downtown stew is what this collection felt like. with my love for tighter silhouettes and stronger design concepts, there was a true battle of my two loves. while the choice in patterns was interesting, for sure. i can’t say that this is one of my all-time faves from the design duo; but there is a strong sense of concept here, which i can admire. i think, styled in a way that is purposeful can change or alter the feel of the collection even further. as full looks are considered faux pas in today’s world of style; i can see the potential of a few key pieces, though i would go replicating the complete collection. true as it may be, proenza’s downtown edge, combined with thoughtful american cleanliness still has them a cut above the rest. excited for their fall collection, and will admirably take this pre-season set of looks as the appetizer, while i save my appetite for runway. love what was done with cable knit in this collection for those few looks. walking the line of weirdly cool for the past few seasons, i am hoping that this fall will showcase something more undeniably cool. i can appreciate an angle of ‘interesting’ but lean more towards labels who understand the sense of purified prettiness, if that makes any sense at all. I’m talking refined femininity, and strong shapes. in this collection we see almost a resistance to that sense of beauty. do i think it makes for good dialogue, of course, but why shift perception when you can do your part to accentuate. all things considered, it’s interesting to see the ways that labels borrow influences, or the market and consumers alter certain style demands. all in the business of making trends and redefining the selling of beauty and style. [show footage here]

ALEXANDER WANG often residing between luxury and street; wang further develops his aesthetic in a much more adult, contemporary set of design this pre-season. seemingly influenced through his work at balenciaga, there is a re-introduction being made with wang, for me. his global presence, successful collections at both balenciaga, and the wildly popular H&M collaboration of the last year now cemented, wang is unstoppable. the trickle of influence from one project to the next is undeniable. wang’s award winning instincts have proven to be the true arbiter of american cool. so much so, they had to pluck him from here in the states to continue that cool at balenciaga. this pre-season collection preserves that cool even further. from soft nudes to goth-esque tones of ox blood, wang is out to kill. the usual inclusion of leather was seen while interesting use of fishnet mesh and plaid was included as well. military influenced utilitarianism was seen while sleek, street minimalist was flexed upon as well. all in all, the collection hosted a range of looks to properly secure sales at retail. silhouettes across the board, and everything hard and soft that we’ve come to expect from wang. much like the work of his peers, right here in new york city, wang has continued to raise the bar. expanding his own design dominance in ways that extend beyond style, but speak more largely to that of presence. as designers, these minds change the landscape of individual presence for all who choose to put these designs on their bodies and wear.

3.1 PHILLIP LIM all representing a clean set of design and an american sensibility, lim took expected style standards and remixed their facing. whether it was a deconstructed pea coat, a color blocked shift dress, or a fringed baby doll number, lim defnitely extended himself conceptually for the pre-season. while the blouses in the collection fell flat for me, almost being contrived in design; what i loved most were the coats in this collection. the fall/winter season is always about a statement coat, and this collection hosted the strongest outerwear of my pre-season selection. while bringing out the guns for the outerwear fared well for lim for my picks this time; the lacking wardrobe components of the other collections pieces left his collection with an overall dulled impact in comparison. collections, i feel, should host an equal sense of checks and balances. drama on the outwear calls for clean lines on the accent pieces. drama with accessories calls for scaling it back with other elements. there’s a sense of organization, of story and intention that needs to be felt. it should feel like a collection, and this one- even in the pre-season, felt like scattered thoughts in some moments. that being said, this was one of my favorites for pre-season. i am hoping lim will showcase a much more, well-rounded set of design while continuing the strong suit of outerwear seen in this collection for the runways of new york fashion week. my expectations of strength aside, i do review pre-season with a wandering eye. remaining hopeful that the appetizer of style leads only to stronger courses amidst runway. all importance considered; i much rather take a gander of continuity of strength, regardless of the season, pre-post-whatever. pre-season is the warm-up.

visit style.com for full collection coverage of the FW15 pre-season
click image to view collection gallery

BEYOND BELIEF

the reason i came to new york; my inspiration, a dream realized and a blessing on arrival. there are cosmic forces that push us in directions that we wouldn’t have taken otherwise. there are shifts in energy, and life has this way of uplifting through expectations in a way that is felt through a sense of delay. it’s about timing, it’s about being ready; about balancing surrender and consciousness. through the depths of darkness that have surrounded my life in love, and every other relationship, came this beautiful light. almost like the end, in this heroic montage of memories that blazed through the summer and shot through each of those nights we shared. providing solace in a time of tragedy and abuse. forgotten, unrecognized and unidentified in value.

locked away in my thoughts, in phrases of wishful thinking through the years. wishes for beauty of the heart, clarity of psyche, talent of voice, power through performance, strength in character and poise in potential; all in this refined packaging of confidence that understands one’s own worth and ability to transcend. so undeniable, that, the only fitting label is that of a star. my reason to turn the page, and closing of the now forgotten chapter, in the book of my life. a true blessing from the hands and heart of god, just as i had hoped, after all of those years from my vision and imagination; so much so that it’s real. and standing in front of me.

gratitude can’t even begin to explain, as i write the story of my now new life. with new challenges, new reasons to smile, and hidden strengths to uncover. with all blessings calls the importance to show gratitude in earning the permanence of such, through determination, dedication and belief. beyond that, there are now two hearts that seek to beat as one, while struggling to beat match like a DJ just learning how to spin on dual turntables. there lies a desire, with obstacles of doubt, but a purity and ease so fluid that it’s, in fact, hard to believe as even being real. intentionally abstract for the greater intent to shield privately, what is spoken here in prose so publicly shown, seeks only to document a feeling of love in a way that creates further manifestation of what is possible for two beings. in the vein of we and us, abandoning the challenges of the self identified “i“, which we’ve both leaned to, as default. veins running to the heart that will now beat for us, thriving as a source of unlimited loyalty, undying respect and boundless dedication to the strength that it takes to sustain such a love, that seeks to move beyond the limitations that have restricted us in the past.

for you today, and us tomorrow, leading to the we that awaits for our future; a confession more like a declaration, moving to further clarify whatever doubts may be clouding your heart. and beyond those clouds, is only the sunlight of my love. that burns so bright that it has burned others too weak from the past; but to you, in all your strength it is only a warmth that you lean to in comfort. the most important part of the story; the beginning and middle, that finds no end. these simple words are only a mere reflection of the depths of my love. in the ways that your voice reaches my heart, let these words forever remind you of my willingness and dedication to the fight that will forever protect the world we’ve yet to create.

 

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A TIME TO KILL

thematic patterns of darkness often play out in the writing seen here. whether you’re looking at an image i’ve self-shot on instagram, or even a video i edited from youtube- darkness lingers. there’s a wonder, often an unspoken emotion that is seen or felt. so i’ve been told. there is a dedication to perfection. i’ve said it enough times in this space, regular readers should be aware; i am the eldest of three. that aspect of myself has been the leading influence in my life. the expectation to lead is sourced from this position. the need to execute at a higher level, to be first, to be ahead and to not only do it, but to do it well and beyond that, with ease.

the attraction to darkness comes from the ability to walk into those spaces with a face of bravery, to stand in the face of adversity with strength. the spare-no-fucks type of attitude was culminated, crafted and etched into the ways that things are done because the bravery i have developed was not built through strength; but through failure, fear and gripping realities of inadequacy. the strength, or the bravery- that is all a side effect. you don’t plan to be brave, you don’t plan to do certain things. that’s just the resurfacing of fate. there lies the foundation of faith. knowing, through past fears, that once faced a greater, stronger era lies ahead.

speaking of killing. there are no human deaths. this phrase, in this new year, represents the killing of negative energies. represented are the killings of fear, misunderstanding and avoidance. abandoned are the doubts of capabilities, leaving only the possibilities that stretch far beyond the world that you have dreamt in your imagination. there is love there, there is success in this space. you hear of resolutions, you hear of aims and sparkling in the distance are goals- but let’s speak about commitment. dedication to separate killings from the living; in a way that reforms what is at the foundation of lessons learned and love earned. now is the time, because in the present lies the gift of the future. take the time to execute and kill all that is harming you and leave those harms in the past, where they will remain trapped, unable to affect you today, and forever.

TOP TWENTY COVERS OF TWENTY-FOURTEEN

magazine covers are at the forefront of culture and act as the face of what we’ve done, are doing and where we are going. in gloss, we see our human history through entertainment playing out in front of our very eyes. with last years count in mind; there has been a concentrated focus on diversification. with regard to mainstream media and television, actress kerry washington’s role in the ABC television political drama, scandal, sparked a wildfire for what television actors of color were able to book. directly visible in covers of the last two years, kerry herself graced the covers of vanity fair and elle, as a result. last years surprise release by beyonce also sparked trends in music which filtered into this year. the center focus of content here is driven by music, fashion and film; all of which are highlighted and seen in this year’s selection. each cover has been selected for it’s cultural impact and reflection of style. whether it was #1 singles, top billing motion pictures or fashion domination; transformation and diversity ruled the year in glossies.

2020. PHARRELL FOR BRITISH GQ, OCTOBER through the lens of hunter & gatti, solo artist of the year, per gentlemen’s quarterly UK; pharrell kick starts this years top 20 countdown. one of two covers in a series shared with kim kardashian, the cover was styled by carlyne cerf de dudzeele, with hair and make-up by serge normant and jeanine lobell; production of the shoot was handled by bo zhang. released during the fourth quarter of 2013, “happy” was produced, written and performed by williams for the despicable me 2 soundtrack. by the first quarter of 2014, “happy” reached the top of the US billboard hot 100. no stranger to hot hits on the charts, this was a particularly special recording for pharrell as this was his first solo #1 pop single. topping the hot 100 airplay chart, the song and it’s infectiousness became a global mainstay for the rest of 2014. a 24hr music video campaign was conceptualized, shot and debuted which seen the popularity of the song spike further, spawning thousands of tribute videos across the globe. landing 40 #1 chartings around the world and recieving a nomination for the academy awards, “happy” has sold over 12 million copies worldwide and is certified six-times platinum here in the united states. a well deserved cover for pharrell, who has spent more than a decade in the recording industry.

1919. KATE MOSS FOR BRITISH VOGUE, DECEMBER the anti-supermodel who became a supermodel icon. kate moss is a rarity in the fashion industry and has paved the way for models to really be themselves. with the entrance of kate in the fashion industry, it was as if aging became acceptable. suddenly, women became celebrated for who they are not who the media wants them to be. controversy of the past now behind her, kate remains one of the most iconic faces from the 90’s era. groomed alongside naomi campbell, christy turlington and linda evangelista; kate’s dominance is to credit for her outstanding style, business ventures with brands like topshop and her unstoppable booking record. she has remained consistently visible this year, and not just for the brits but for the world, everyone knows that she takes sellability to a whole new level. the cover is also one of my favorites for it’s composition. the blurred image goes against commercial appeal, and the single eye and tousled hair represents a true definitiveness of kate’s allure- which is based on effortlessness. shot by mario testino, kate has become an icon of london style, with her signature bohemian aesthetic.

1818. PHOEBE PHILO FOR T, FEBRUARY true to this years theme of transformation, no one has transformed the ways that we see womenswear more drastically as that of phoebe philo. the genius behind the reinvention of french fashion powerhouse, céline; philo stole the show through subtlety this year when she graced the cover of T, the new york times style magazine. shot by karim sadly, the headline reads: “the woman who knows what women want”, and that could not be any more true. whether she was expanding silhouettes, or lengthening hemlines; philo has completely re-interpreted the ways that women dress and their desires. from winged handbags to turtle necks and camel coats- this year, philo even made birkenstock style sandals en vogue while adding to them fur and metallic straps. her magical method of design and/or re-design are not to go unnoticed and this cover celebrated her beautifully, in an understated way that aligned perfectly with her own design aesthetic. as céline enters china, and the luxury market there becomes more accustomed to minimalism, the brand invites consumers into a world of strict glamour, free from frills or logo mania of the past. one of my personal favorites, for it’s striking simplicity.

1717. THE SUPERMODELS FOR VOGUE ITALIA, SEPTEMBER the lens of steven meisel has made many a star in the fashion industry, and this anniversary cover was a graphic reminder of that. shot in sepia, supermodels of the past and present were involved in this group cast fold out cover which celebrated italian vogue’s 50th anniversary. celebrating it’s 50 years, through photo direction by godon von steiner; adriana lima, amanda murphy, amber valletta, anna ewers, aymeline valade, cameron russell, candice huffine, candice swanepoel, caroline trentini, carolyn murphy, christy turlington, cindy bruna, coco rocha, edie campbell, elise crombez, fei fei sun, guinevere van seenus, hilary rhoda, isabeli fontana, jessica stam, joan smalls, jourdan dunn, julie stegner, karen elson, karlie kloss, linda evangelista, liu wen, miranda kerr, naomi campbell, natalia vodianova, natasha poly, ophelie guillermand, raquel zimmermann, rianne van rompaey, sasha luss, sasha pivovarova, saskia de brauw, stella tennant and vanessa axente were all shot for one cover. unprecedented, undoubtedly; the cast speaks for itself as italian vogue continues to pave the way for conceptual covers and editorial, as a leader in the world of high fashion publication. amazing, all these women together for one cover.

16. ANNA EWERS FOR FRENCH VOGUE, AUGUST there are few covers that stop me in my tracks, but this cover, this year- did just that. it’s that reaction that makes you sit up and say, “who is that girl?” anna ewers sealed her fate as a top model when she graced the august cover of french vogue through the lens of mert + marcus. styled by edward enninful, emmanuelle alt, with hair and make-up by shay ashuai and yadim, the cover is everything that glamour is poraited to be in the world of high fashion. as an august cover, there was no cover that was hotter. the neon masthead, the PVC raincoat- the red lip, the bleached brow. it was perfect. i needed to select one truly high fashion cover for my countdown, as many of my selections are impending on their cultural relevance. high fashion has this way of sitting back, and but this cover erected our posture. it’s pure glamour, high times and felt very fashion. in a way that continues to drive the industry. from model booking, to photographic composition- this is without a doubt the best cover that has come from french vogue, since the appointment of emmanuelle alt, as editor-in-chief. gone are the days when carine roitfeld was burning the newsstands with her covers, but this shit right here shows progress. it’s french vogue, was distinctively american with it’s use of body language, sports cars and yes, neon. in fashion, this is the dopest cover of the year. however, due to it’s confined fashion influence, it’s rank may not appear to reflect such greatness.

1515. MILEY CYRUS FOR W, MARCH as each year passes, i always look for the great transformation cover of the year. miley cyrus, though the lens of mert alas and marcus piggott, styled by edward enninful was the absolute best transformation cover of the year. with hair and make-up by orlando pita and lucia prone, cyrus was seen as a platinum blonde clad only in diamonds and bed sheets. while i won’t cite myself as a fan of miley, particularly; i do recognize her performance as a pop fixture, complete with gimmicks, press headlines and covers like this. beautifully done, cyrus is almost unrecognizable; which is likely my reason for adoring it so much to include it in this years top 20. W has become one of my favorite publications, and through the efforts of edward enninful, the publication has seen drastic creative output, at a level that raises the bar for publications around the globe. miley has managed to create a spot for herself on the music scene, using her dad’s last name to penetrate middle america, while simultaneously commodifying aspects of black culture or hip-hop, such as twerking, to further stake claim as an act who, know doubt, understands the power of acting. with little people, kittens and blow up penises being a part of her tour, this cover stripped it all away and drew everything to pure glamour. as popular as she is, miley booked other covers, but the transformative quality of this make-over was her best.

1414. KATE MOSS FOR PLAYBOY, JANUARY leave it to mert + marcus to elevate the visage of playboy magazine, one of the oldest male publications in the business. supermodel icon, kate moss jump started this year, becoming a playboy bunny on the january cover for the men’s entertainment mag. classically dressed in black and white, against a grey studio backdrop; the cover is a beautiful photograph outside of being a striking cover. it adds sophistication to the most sexual publication of all time. there is a coy, subtle and matured sensibility about this cover. of course, kate moss’ star power is among the brightest in the industry, and this cover could not have been more perfect. it was done tasteful, all while celebrating the 60th anniversary with this special edition. the put, the satin ears, and those heels- it was all crafted and came together magically. a true sense of editorial beauty here. the white masthead perfectly accentuates the white bunny tail and even the white cuffs. kate is an icon of icons, and here, she raised the bar, even for her own level of performance. the beauty of editorial and magazine covers in particular, is that you cannot plan the chemistry of captured moments. you can plan the talent, which were all present here, but the placement of a leg, or a heel, the outifitting of certain looks- this cover is proof of effortlessness beauty that kate moss so greatly, and ambitiously is able to communicate in front of a lens.

1313. NAOMI CAMPBELL FOR VOGUE AUSTRALIA, MAY as the face of fashion, there is no female model more iconic than naomi campbell. this year alone, she booked a staggering 17 magazine covers that were sold internationally. as an industry veteran, she continues to dominate. entering territory of television executive production in the last year, her empire and cultural relevance seems to grow. this feat is almost unimaginable as campbell has remained at the top tier of fashion for over 25 years. the headline, “facing a new era”, couldn’t have been used any better. for this special collectors edition cover, campbell appears fit as ever, defending her title as one of the greatest female models of all time. she has risen through trials and year after year continues to become the most visible of her contemporaries and friends in the industry. walking regularly in runway shows, continuously booking campaigns while remaining no stranger to the world of publication, there is absolutely no other woman like naomi campbell, nor can there ever be before or after her. a living legend, and i love this cover for simple reasons. the red, white and blue colorization of the cover is well balanced against the stoned backdrop. perfectly shot through the lens of emma summerton, i cannot wait to see what lies ahead for naomi in 2015.

1212. RIHANNA FOR VOGUE, MARCH american vogue is such a dichotomy. while there exists an excitement for who books the cover. the stiffly political decision to put individuals on that cover seems to cloud the creative potential of such bookings. rihanna is a rarity. a modern pop star who has strong footings in areas of urban popular music as well as hip-hop; her fashion portfolio continues to grow as her styling choices appear more iconic year by year. styled by mel ottenberg, rihanna is a style icon. she can transform high end looks and re-claim them with streetwear in this american way. american in the way of combined influences, all while she maintains her signature island girl realness. her takeaway from the islands is really about showcasing a carefree attitude that can be defined as nothing but pure confidence. that confidence reads through every cover she books, and is likely the reasoning for this years march american vogue cover to be her third for the publication.  shot by david sims, the cover appears to be a throwback to editor-in-chief, anna wintour’s debut cover for the mag, november 1988. the high end top matched with casual denim- the look of this cover, mirrored in wintour’s debut; a likely calculated move, through styling by american editor, tonne goodman. it’s fresh, and clean- direct and effective. discussing her influence in the editorial article accompanying the cover, rihanna is a star among stars. this years countdown is evidence of her importance to women, not just in music, but in entertainment and style all together.

1111. BEYONCE FOR CR FASHION BOOK, ISSUE 5 the industry will forever hold their breath waiting on the next move of megastar beyoncé knowles-carter. while other individuals on the list hold influence, and forecast light onto the culture; no one does so as powerfully as beyoncé. a personification of beyond, as a female she breaks all barriers and is still, criminally underrated. as a performer she is unstoppable. she magnifies simplicity in a way that makes you rethink what it means to be a woman in america, she seemingly blurs color lines while transcending to a higher playing field of what it means to be beautiful. her industry reputation of grace, poise and kindness go unquestioned, while her musical catalog and creative potential seem boundless. covering carine roitfeld’s CR fashion book, the megastar mother and wife of rap tycoon jay-z appeared in this really quiet form of glamour. under the art direction of stephen gan, and through the lens of pierre debusschere; beyoncé has found an individualized place in the spotlight of fame, transforming glamour into this attainable thing, that makes us all dream. within those dreams, we find possibility not difficulty. there is an inner shine that beyonce resonates totally, and thats what this cover represented to me, this year. the decesion to put her on the cover was a surprise to all, as her year was a trail blazed by her album, which she released by surprise last year.

1010. NAOMI CAMPBELL FOR INTERVIEW, SEPTEMBER an international symbol of beauty, naomi campbell is a woman of great importance not just to people of color, but all those who seek to define beauty. her face? completely timeless, one that is regarded for it’s existence in number of years in an unforgiving industry that, for her, found room to forgive. her persona in business? almost as unrelenting are her voice that speaks out about discrimination against models of color. the concept of facing challenges is one that has been discussed in campbell’s previous cover. she has seemingly resurfaced, while never really leaving the forefront, but in a way that her value seems to be more greatly recognized in our digital age. shot perfectly by mert + marcus, naomi appears as beautiful as ever, representing what black beauty is in the world of high fashion. campbell is the one and only icon in fashion that will live forever. while other names are forgotten, there are none as powerful as that of naomi campbell. as the new year approaches, her bookings are already lined up, as she prepares yet another year where the power of her presence shall be proven. rounding out the top 10 of this years top 20 magazine covers of the year; every single person of color on this list has naomi campbell to thank for receiving such high end visibility. it has been her work that has paved the way for each and every one of them. for as long as she is alive and booking covers, naomi campbell will always have a place of top rank among any and every countdown in this space.

99. RIHANNA FOR W, SEPTEMBER transformation is not a challenge for rihanna. she has successfully shape shifted into multiple dimensions with each album era she has dedicated her artistry to. the industry as a whole have finally taken a greater understanding of such skill. this year’s september issues took on a different spin. there seemed to lack a focus, almost meaning or representing this transition of a year. as a mid-level stage of a full stage change coming in the future. september is when publications pull out all the stops, and this cover was among the most brave. it was theatrical, and tribal in a way that showcased rihanna as a true transformer. beautiful make-up and stunningly tribal aesthetics took publication to a new height of cosmetics and thematic development. one of rhianna’s strongest covers to date, this cover showed how in love the world of style is with rihanna. as a performer, she is utilized by creatives and used as a canvas for an array of visions, ideas and power. with hair and make-up by yusef and kabuki, set design was handled by gerard santos, while mert + marcus shot the images expertly styled by edward enninful. I’m all for a strong concept, and there were very few covers, this year that pushed limitations that much further. the creative team considered, there could not have been as successful a cover without rihanna, a testament to her star power as someone who influences how we see beauty.

88. KANYE WEST FOR GQ, AUGUST among men, kanye west is a god. among women, kanye west is a god. with his yeezus album, marriage to american entrepeneur, kim kardashian and birth of his first child all happening in the last two years, all eyes focused on the creative superstar in a way that was unlike years past. as a lover of style in any form digestible or creative; kanye was in it. his life was the center of the article that accompanied his cover, and the accompanying editorial was pixel perfect. shot by patrick demarchelier, the editorial was printed proof of ye’s style consciousness. his style of dress, in particular, has spawned legions of fans and imitators. concerning the digital landscape, sites like tumblr and instagram are littered with images of kanye’s street style. of my countdown, this cover is among the more simple. handsome and without theatrics or special effects; it showcased kanye as the man that his is today. the man that he has evolved into. an accomplished performer, and among hip-hop’s most awarded; kanye graduated into a greater sensibility as a man. building a family and settling down in a way that felt necessary, following a few rough years following the passing of his mother, dr. donda west. a truly enjoyable experience it has been, and that of great inspiration to see what he has built for himself.

77. JOAN SMALLS & LIL BUCK FOR WSJ, NOVEMBER as a model who’s career into the supermodel stratosphere has been closely chronicled here, joan smalls and dancer lil buck for wall street journal magazine’s innovator issue was perhaps the most poetic cover of the year. added poetry to joan’s statuesque beauty, was lil buck’s mid air leg lift. as the fashion industry embraced technology more than ever before in the past year, publications really looked to video production as an aspect of greater development. born charles riley, lil buck began to appear for vogue’s youtube channel when i first began seeing him early this year on the scene. lil buck is a los angeles/las vegas based dancer, who is originally from memphis. catching heat after director spike jonze posted a youtube video of his dance work alongside yo-yo ma, buck began to reach superstardom and greater recognition on the fashion scene and creative industry. the cover, shot by daniel jackson, with styling by george cortina; is truly a magical blend of fashion and dance. joan has become one of the new supers, and is really an icon for international beauty, representing women of color around the world in just about every campaign imaginable. love this cover for it’s fusing of culture further. beautiful photographic composition, perfect positioning and outstanding representation of motion. buck is to credit for allowing a mainstream spotlight on the style of dance referred to as, jooking. in celebration of the issue, lil buck accompanied joan smalls to the wall street journal’s innovators awards, being awarded in the category of performing arts.

66. LAVERNE COX FOR TIME, JUNE trangendered and on the cover of time magazine. laverne cox broke barriers for those transitioning and those transitioned, essentially allowing for all of america to participate in a transition of it’s very own. representing transformation unlike any other cover that i’ve ever included in my countdown. this years count is directly reflective of culture, and delves into those pockets of truth exposing so much more beauty than that of what is seen in fashion. as one of the leading stars on the netflix series, “orange is the new black”; cox plays a transgendered female who is housed at an all-female prison. gripping and emotionally riveting, this role has earned her a spot in mainstream media, where transgendered individuals stand to be more comfortably received by those unexposed to the LGBT community, here in america. now a part of the female panel, on ‘the view’, laverne continues to defy the odds, representing the transgendered community in a way that is transformative of the ways that the american public views them. there is a bout of normalcy and reliability to her, thus creating a new wave of understanding for those who are faced with the transformative needs often called upon by those who find themselves born in the crosshairs of female and masculine anatomic form and psychology. a first of many;the efforts and public poise of laverne cox considered, ms. cox- we salute you.

55. LUPITA NYONG’O FOR PEOPLE, APRIL when lupita nyong’o stood in acceptance of the 2014 academy award for her role as patsy in the steve mcqueen film, “12 years a slave”. she tearfully championed, “your dreams are valid”. sending a message of transcendence that shattered color lines and revealed a new depth of beauty that changed the ways that audiences of film viewed women of color. in the film, her role as patsy was violently physical, as well as emotional; in interviews, nyong’o gave tearful accounts of her method acting process. often bringing a sense of humanity to her role, understanding that african-american’s of that time did not have the choice to be ‘out of character’ as she did. she cited that she will always carry with her, the role of patsy. her tearful victory at the 86th academy awards sparked glimmers in the eyes of many across just about every industry built on creativity. she was revealed as the most beautiful person by people magazine, a media milestone that launches the careers of many even further. she soon became revealed as the contract face for lancome cosmetics, and was also featured for a miu mii campaign, comfortably being seated front row at shows across the globe, most notably at the house of prada. what lupita did for women of color in the past year is honorable, she challenged the expectations of beauty; showcasing beauty that was distinctively african, while gently encouraging through grace, that the american public recognize it and feature it, as it has many other forms of commercial glamour in years past. this cover was a major move of PR that was well deserved and well played. lupita re-centered public acknowledgment of beauty from the inner, accentuated by an exterior of grace.

44. KANYE WEST FOR INTERVIEW, FEBRUARY conceptually representing the  performance persona of kanye west, his cover shot by steven klein for the february issue of interview represented in opposition, his GQ cover that would come later in the year. with his album, yeezus, came many comparisons, talks and representations to jesus christ. this cover represented crucifixion, or persecution in this appropriate way. kanye west, the artist is among the geniuses of our time and generation. his awareness of such character and creative abilities leaves many intimidated. the fire face, grill fronted cover shot further altered the ways that covers could be shot. in being mindful of transformation, as well as conceptual worth, this cover was a full force fulfillment of both categories. interview magazine, much like the work of kanye west, go on to challenge the pre-existing. both further alter the expectations of audiences in areas of style, aesthetic and theme. as we reach closer to the top spot, the covers that will follow challenge reaction from the public, are reflective of media and their biggest stars, and none have shined brighter than kanye west, since he beginnings in music. a start to a powerful year for him, this cover came as a pre-face for kanye’s wedding as he was more strongly positioned as, yes, one of our musical, style and creative generations great geniuses. his contributions to raising the bar for creativity have only just begun; in design, touring concepts and planning kanye west is just beginning.

33. KIM KARDASHIAN-WEST FOR PAPER, FW14 the magazine cover that broke the internet; kim kardashian has been the butt of many jokes since she burst onto the scene with her sex tape. since then, she has successfully managed to turn that negative press into an entrepreneurial compound that is fiercly guarded by her family, and mother, who manages all of the business. since the birth of her first child, and marriage to kanye west, the lead kardashian has elevated her visibility on the scene, becoming a serious fashion star, inspiring many by style of dress and showing more of herself in the process. the key to the success of the kardashian’s is that they own whatever flaws they are a part of in the public eye. this means, poking fun at aspects of exploitation, hollywood media speculation and not taking themselves to seriously. shot for paper magazine, jean paul goude has a way of taking turning extremes  into art forms. and so was the case when he called for kim to be oiled down and give the world exactly what they want- some ass. the armenian-american entrepenurial mega-star relished in the attention, especially after maintaining her physical goals post-baby. kim is a superstar of media, providing to have the midas touch, nothing can stop her- not in the world of fashion or business, or even on this year’s  countdown. her influence is undisputed.

22. THE WESTS FOR VOGUE, APRIL the only couple to receive a double feature, of a stand alone piece and a feature on this year’s countdown was the cover of kim kardashian and kanye west. shot by annie lebovitz, the world’s most talked about couple landed the most influential cover of all covers this year, appearing on the cover of the coveted american vogue. the epitome of influence in the global fashion community, this represented the first couple to grace the cover of the magazine, the first interracial couple to do so, and kanye west became the first rapper to land the cover, while kim became the first reality tv star to book such a feat. the cover represents a true glimpse at american diversification, directly altering the ways that we are represented as people. with her dominating television series, “keeping up with the kardashian’s”, and it’s many spin-offs; kim has spun off into the world of retail, designing collections for sears, expanding the family’s ‘dash’ boutiques across america, while landing cover after cover, more and more each year. kanye, the most valuable player in music today, represents even more success; most of which needs no introduction to readers here. both have a marvelously matched level of success in their own respective corners of the industry, and both run together in this marriage of sorts. this all happened before they wed in italy this year. they’re at every single runway show, they appear at every award show and are almost inescapable figures of the public. this cover was a mere reflection of their influence and frankly, was long overdue. well deserved, most relevant.

11. RIHANNA FOR LUI, the cover that got her banned from instagram. the ultimate music rebel, rihanna appeared on the cover of lui, as an exclusive through the lens of mario sorrenti. booking 11 covers for the calendar year, rihanna is the only individual on this years countdown to be featured three times- a testament to her success and relevance as well as her popularity in music and fashion. she was the face of balmain, in addition to being shot for additional ad campaigns for viva MAC cosmetics campaigns, there is no bigger star than rihanna in the music business. her transformative tendencies from album to album and campaign to campaign have earned her a top spot on this years countdown. her contribution to fearlessness for women in entertainment have been hailed and matched, by single sales as rihanna is the most downloaded musical artist in history. she has become even more successful with design collaborations, which have sold out in a matter of minutes and in 2015, she will be creative director of her own collections with sportswear label, puma. with word of a new album coming in the next few months, as well as her philanthropic efforts in hosting the diamond ball, which supports, improvement of quality of life in areas of health, education, arts and yes, culture. in working with rihanna’s founded, clara lionel foundation, named after her grandmother, rihanna grows each year, by album chart statistics, sales and cultural sensitivity to the world around her. awarded with the fashion icon achievement award from the council of fashion designers of america, this year no one proved to be more fearless than rihanna. while this cover is just one rank while she sits atop the charts and countdowns of many. a beautiful image, that again re-adjusts the way that women of color are seen in media. while daring, the image is not to be scoffed at for it’s nudity, rather praised for it’s bravery. a stunning cover and one of the most eye catching of the year. rihanna rounds out this year’s countdown as number one, for more than just this cover but for what she has done and will continue to do for women. through fearlessness, business know-how and by daring to be different through strength.

click here to view the top 20 covers of 2013
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STYLE VS. SOUND: NICKI MINAJ

minaj

she is the animated female rap bitch who got a million off a mixtape. today, onika maraj is rap’s undisputed queen, following the reign of rap icon, kimberly jones. the sexual revolution of the 90’s female rap scene had female rappers spitting hardcore lyrics that often times were too gutsy for the mainstream radio airwaves. as the need to compete with such sexually explicit lyrics grew to a head, female rap seemingly fizzled into thin air. one by one, female rappers disappeared. the male rap scene thrived without interruption, while lyrical content in hip-hop as a whole began to deprecate. the mixtape circuit, more infamously known to industry heads and those on the come up, found a new home with the explosion of the internet. no music was safe, following the phenomena of napster in the late 90’s which only further dominated into the 2000’s. these incidences became further obstacles in the world of, not only hip-hop, but music all around. markets plummeted, while sales stats sunk and today, these sales numbers are still at an all-time low with very few being awarded platinum plaques like days of old. it seems music was like a murder zone. it was every man for himself, over time, in a short span of five years, the music industry seemed to be in a creative drought.

few spaces for new talent became available, as the only spaces left were those occupied by icons. even they had to compete for sales numbers, having to create new ways, develop new formulas and struggle through trial and error at the face of marketing, promotion and even music video production. the rise of digital music wiped out an on-slaught of opportunities. artists coming into the game were expected to be pre-packaged, with little to no involvement of artistic development being tended to. the artists with developed audiences, who managed through independent distribution of music began to garner the bigger deals. and then came the birth of the 360 record deal. this deal changed the game further, guaranteeing greater pay offs and secured promises from big budget labels to front costs of promotion, touring, merchandise and all around marketing monsters. it’s a new day in music. formats of marketing of the past no longer apply. buzz singles, flop albums, dethroned, months go by without artists seeing a platinum certification; whereas days of old seen these certifications happening at time of release.

now the world of female rap, especially in the 90’s has grew past evolution of salt-n-pepa, roxanne shanté and MC lyte. female rap in the 90’s became high brow, designer labels were expected, make-up artists, hairstylists, wardrobe- the whole nine. every rap bitch on the scene needed to be three times as fresh as their male counterparts, and needed to spit bars five times more explicit in order to be taken seriously. you were almost required to come into the game with a male rap icon co-sign in order to stay afloat. kim co-signed by B.I.G. while being a member of junior mafia, foxy co-signed by acts like jay-z while also being a member of ‘the firm’ with nas and AZ. there were other acts of the time, like mia X, who was brought up under the no limit crew with master P or even rah digga who was a part of busta rhymes’ flipmode squad. the most notable act of the times, though too multi-dimensional to only be considered a rapper, was missy elliott. but to her credit, she was already developed as a massively successful songwriter/producer. rap showed it’s female face in little glimmers. but there was no real face of the art form that was in your face and proclaimed the title as the top rapptress, as to be expected by the true femcee of hip-hop. contribution from all of these females acts seemed to polish the runway, and prep the course. there was a format that proved successful for rappers, and errors that were seen in the female format.

insert onika maraj, a pretty faced trini from the borough of southside jamaica queens. she burst onto the scene first on the mixtape circuit. quickly earning a following and reputation for her first grimy new york flow, her rap persona quickly evolved over a series of three mixtapes. the first, “playtime is over” was released in 2007. rapidly followed up by, “sucka free” the following year. nicki developed a slick flow that was relentless, first, on classic hip-hop beats. her third and final mixtape sealed her fate as a rap star rising; “beam me up scotty” seen minaj take on conceptual dress and was her first public showing of more costume wardrobing. clad in metallic, minaj appeared on the mixtape cover dressed as wonder woman. minaj rapidly developed an image very early on, sporting pink extensions and expressive facial expressions.

following her mixtape domination, her fans, the barbz began to gather. i remember when i first started coming to new york, i would go straight to the DJ booth in manhattan and request nicki minaj; the DJ’s would look puzzled. wrong borough at the time for such requests, i guess. “beam me up” was dropped in 2009, and was ultimately the mixtape that introduced nicki to the music audience which still supports her to this day. on that mixtape, nicki got personal and also began combining singing along with her rap lyrical prowess. when i first heard “beam me up scott” i immediately began to ask who this new girl was. the flow was infectious, the lyrics were ridiculous and minaj spit shit talking about, “if you see a itty bitty piggy in the market, give that bitch a quarter and a car- tell her park it. i don’t fuck with pigs like as-salamu alaykum, i put ’em in a field; i let oscar myer bake ’em”. her rap flow quickly got attention, and that same lyrical approach as well as the costume gimmicks followed her, and fashion opened up to her.

there was a proper balance of lyrical seriousness and rap humor that culminated over the course of the last three years of minaj’s career. I’m gonna give you a musical recap so that we can cut away to the cultural shit, because as important as the music is- it’s reactant interfacing with such is where the true importance lies. to her credit, minaj has a cumulative discography of three studio albums, involvement with three compilation albums, sixty-six singles, seventy-one music videos, as mentioned the three mixtapes and twelve promo singles. following her exit from the mixtape scene, came the year of 2010. after her triple platinum feature on young money’s, ‘bedrock’. came one of the most high profile single features, by the graces of mariah carey. following that feature came twelve others that same year.

those twelve singles penetrated mainstream radio, surfacing minaj to the forefront of not only rap music, but pop music. the music industry is seemingly built on the staging of powerful singles. it’s all about positioning, and minaj’s career has seen some of the greatest positioning in the history of music. in 2011, followed eight more features. 2012, followed six more features. 2013, seen ten features- as minaj has fast become the go-to for mainstream pop relevance. a long way since her days on the mixtape circuit. with her three studio albums under her belt, minaj made a platinum debut while those sales have slowed since then. providing, that even the most popular female rapper has to stay on her game to compete and stay on top. minaj’s entry into music has widened the gateways for hip-hop in a way that raises the bar for what is expected of such artists. minaj made history at the top of december, trailing the release of her third studio album, “the pinkprint” earning her 58th career hot 100 hit. nicki is the only female rapper to do so, in the 56 year chart history.  on youtube alone, minaj’s views are currently set to 2,550,739,568- and will likely grow by the minute.

amidst charting greatness, headline favoritism and even unstoppable visibility, minaj represents the furthering of females in rap music. most important to hip-hop is that of the music. equalling importance in the music is the message. often times arrogant, in your face and unapologetic, the visage of rap music is often what distracts consumers who do not support the art form. the magic is in the lyrics, and the birthing of a voice. what nicki has done for females was re-defined their voice. in borrowing elements utilized by pop marketing, nicki has surpassed all other females in the music industry because, as a female in the rap game, she absolutely stands alone. without forgetting all the females that have come before her, nicki encapsulates the fierce flow of salt-n-pepa or roxanne shante, while also representing the mass commercial cross marketability of queen latifah. she took notes from the lil kim formula, but paid very close attention to the errors of that formula, understanding when to show restraint to penetrate the pop market. there is a gutter, ride for my dude till i die type of attitude that reminds us of foxy, while her wild style seemingly takes notes from the missy elliott formula. with her latest release, “the pinkprint” available now, there is a return to rap lyricism, in a serious, relatable way. this new album is for all who feel, have loved and love.

whether she was talking shit or being disrespectful to mariah on idol, or that she’s stolen a few moves from lil kim with her image, no one can dispute the lyrics. and therein lies the true heart of rap music, at the core of hip-hop. minaj has represented an awareness of bigger business, which has all aided her in this new era of what music is. there is a need for balance, for relativity and reliability to create emotional connections with fans, which nicki has done marvelously. with her entrance into films, her unabashed approach to personality, she represents a true comfort in the spotlight. utilizing her love of acting, minaj understands how to shift from role to role, wearing a number of hats in business, music and performance. long from now, the influence of nicki minaj will be seen in the predecessors that follow in her foot steps. she has reclaimed the pathway for women in music, in a way that has not been done before. the cultural impact she has made and continues to make will survive her forever. her contribution as stated will not be ignored.

 

support female rap by purchasing “the pinkprint” now available on itunes
this is an installment of the sound vs. style music feature series
click here to view past artists featured