HOW HIP-HOP INTRODUCED ME TO HIGH FASHION
by Jeremy Danté
before kanye was name dropping polo, before puff rocked the shiny suit & long before mary j. blige was hailed as new york’s best dressed- a little female from brooklyn glided down an escalator in black fur & taught me to never have time for fake ones. from that point on, i learned more & more about the finer things- the gabbana girls rolling in a mercedes e-class, glasses of cristal, buttered leathers & chanel; lil’ kim kicked the door in, upon arrival in 1995. image for rap in the 90’s became more lavish than ever before & lil’ kim was of that standard. as a part of the east coast rap sector, kimberly jones was one of few that took to rap to spit about high priced whips, bad bitches & sexual repertoire that broke barriers. for female rap, for black women & for history in general- i had never seen anything like lil’ kim. i was too young & knew well enough that i wasn’t allowed to have, or even consider, asking my mom for kim’s double platinum 1994 LP, “hard core”. that said, my cousin angelo played the album so often that i didn’t need a copy of my own. in lieu of the albums release, he even had kim’s infamous hard core promo poster- which caused a stir at my grandma’s house. kim appeared clad in a silk leopard print set with gold jewlery & a matching silk negligée with feathers, her legs spread open- groundbreaking. kim’s approach was in your face & revolutionary for female rap at the time. “i used to wear moschino, but every bitch got it- now i rock colorful minks, because my pockets stay knotted…”, lines that still, to this day, bring an insane sense of nostalgia to me. when looking back at the subject matter, the sexually driven lyrics of kim didn’t phase me- it became the norm & almost desensitized the culture. it was very clear with myself & others around me that the game had truly changed at that point. it wasn’t the character of sexual provocation, nor was i interested in the rebellious nature of kim’s flow. kim was the first rapper i took an active interest in, being that she represented & embodied all elements of glamour that i had always been infatuated with. she spun these glamorized visuals into sonic silk, lyrically & visually, she combined the hard edge of the streets with illustrious dreams of money, high end shit & unfathomable income brackets. as lil’ as she is, kim was a rap fantasy come to life & she shook the ground beneath me.
that approach to style & how it was translated to music video imagery- that attracted me to kim. the fact that she was poised to be rap’s marilyn monroe & that she was able to kick an ill 16 bars along with some of rap’s heaviest male figures struck a cord with me. fast forward to now, those same elements of interest are still mirrored in things i love & dedicate time to. whether supermodels defying industry odds & collecting checks, women in entertainment defying the odds has always fascinated me. throughout high school, i was always looking for ways to represent my own interest in ways that were a bit unsuspecting. perhaps i was much more clever than other students, in my ability to mask things that seemed irrelevant, somehow finding ways to tie my love to academic curriculum. in my government/economic class, my senior year in high school, we were asked to bring items that were ‘distinctively’ american in to class. my own perception & easy judgement of the individuals i was with, at that time- i knew that the other students would bring in ford logos, mcdonald’s french fry cartons & other miscellaneous bullshit, in half assed attempts to complete the assignment- you know, obvious shit. our teacher, the illest of my high school experience, mrs. collier, said that all items brought in for the project would go onto the wall. now let me tell you, when it comes to the opportunity to have individualized spotlight, believe i will stretch beyond myself to stand out. which is what i had intended to do even with this minor assignment. it was one of those classes that all of us cool kids had together, which basically meant that every move counted, it was a pack of alpha-high school-socialites. as suspected, i arrived to class that day; checking for items that other kids brought with them- the ford emblem made it’s cameo, as did the the mcdonald’s fries carton. typical. the order went around the room & each said why their piece was ‘distinctively american’. i sat prepping my words before it came time for me to speak. when it came to my turn, “jeremy, what did you bring that is distinctively american?” (pause, all eyes on me) “i brought this cover of vibe magazine, which is the first national magazine to represent urban entertainment & hip-hop culture; hip-hop started in the bronx, which is in new york, which is in america”. the class sat there for a few seconds, seemingly stunned; mrs. collier agreed saying, “you’re absolutely right, hip-hop did start in america”. the eyes of some of the jocks were glossed over as some of their faces dropped as i could see the look of, “why didn’t i think of that”. as a prime example, it was moments like that which separated me from others in my circle during that time. which is why i’ve decided to take every opportunity to let you, as the readers, know- this whole thing im doing; it’s not some falsification or front, this is who i am. this isn’t some phase, it’s about a clarified representation of how & who i am through my interests & artistic tendencies.
my interests, my topics of discussion here; have been greatly influenced by a number of elements over the years. as a necessary subject for me to discuss with you, in this new phase of my literary expression; let me make very clear that hip-hop has played the largest role in my level of taste, my expectation of quality & my balance of contrast in taking the hood & combining it with the haute. lines like “so i look sick, in my 6 with my christian lacroix” led me to later learn about christian’s incredible career of couture & french history. from kim name dropping exotic vacation spots, international shopping locales, lavish interior designs- all that was interlaced into kim’s flow from the mid-90’s to the present & opened an entire world up to me. styled during the 90’s by misa hylton, whom was a member of the bad boy camp under sean “p.diddy” combs, kim blazed many trails for women in urban music & rap, with style. she took the level of showmanship beyond any expectation before nicki minaj, lady gaga & katy perry- colored wigs, crazy outfits, moments where you were thinking, “what the fuck is she wearing?” – that was kim, first. while the industry politics of kim’s image in the present & where her career is now will be left undiscussed, look to another blog for that- i wanted to take an extended moment to pay homage to a woman who taught me, immensely, about of style, glamour & fantasy. as the first rap bitch to rock chanel- no one exaggerated style like kim. for introducing me to a world of designer labels, outrageous verses & larger than life beauty, lil kim will always be a queen to me; for what she represents for women. fearlessness.