The Hip-Hop subculture is a cultural group that turned into a lifestyle due to the popularity of rap music. Originally, the African American community introduced us to the hip hop subculture that started in the poor neighborhoods of Bronx, NY. The hip hop subculture has been expressed in various ways, but generally, it is through fashion, graffiti, music, and slang. Fashion has always been a popular way people, express themselves, and in hip hop, the way artists dress makes a statement. The transformation of hip hop fashion has completely evolved from loose and baggy clothes to very fancy and high-end brands because artists such as A$AP Rocky and Jay Z are setting trends as they get wealthier in the hip hop industry. The essence of hip hop subculture is people who love to listen to rap music and identifying social messages.
The hip hop subculture has been revolved around the youth for a long time. It started as a group of young black adults in the Bronx, New York, but now it is worldwide and one of the most popular music genres. The idea of “Thug music” and “Gangsta Rap” brought negative but also a huge following to the group. A great example is NWA. NWA was a very popular hip hop group from Compton, California, and they brought popularity to gangsta rap. The group consisted of seven black members who rapped about their rich lifestyle and also about social issues. During this period of time, racism was a huge problem. Through their music platform, NWA brought attention to racism in the United States. In 1991, an African American motorist was seriously beaten up by four white Los Angeles policemen during a traffic stop. The rap group NWA, brought attention specifically to this case after the cops were presented innocent in 1992. This was the start of violent riots, looting, and arson in Los Angeles. NWA started making music that spoke resentfully about Police. The group took their musical talents and turned into civil rights activists. Given these details, today, people still use hip hop as a way to identify social issues. This connects back to the thesis because all hip hop songs contain a certain message whether it’s social issues or personal issues.
The outermost layer of the hip hop subculture can be imagined by the young adults of the African American community who rebel against authority, graffiti walls, beatbox, rap, and breakdance. Granting that these are hip hop subculture stereotypes, there is a more refined meaning behind the subculture. For example, fashion. It all started at “block parties,” which where parties hosted for a community or neighborhood. During the block parties, the way people dressed started to become a trend and people of the time set a trend that has evolved tremendously. It all started with groups like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five who wore abnormal costumes. It wasn’t until the new wave of hip hop where fashion started changing because the fans started to correlate with artists’ styles. Newer hip hop groups such as Run-DMC set a trend with their style of big gold chains and name brand sports jackets. This trend became very popular in the 80s and 90s because artists such as DMC would start wearing clothes fans wished they could own. This style of clothing was also worn by females. In the music video of the song “Push It,” by Salt-N-Pepa, it clearly shows three black females wearing bulky jackets and gold chains, which male artists usually wear. This helped eliminate the sexism and stereotypes and brought the group closer together.
Jay Z is a very well known and popular influencer in the hip hop subculture. Jay Z is looked up to by many people due to his powerful actions in the African American community such as actions he took which led to the release of another incarcerated hip hop influencer, Meek Mill. In the fashion industry, however, he is known for his mafia inspired style. You can imagine Jay Z styled like the American gangster Al Capone: dressed in a three-piece suit, fedora hat, and a cigar in his mouth. As stated, Jay Z is dressed exactly in a high-end three-piece suit, a fedora hat, and a cigar in his album cover in 1996 for “Reasonable Doubt,” and in “American Gangster” in 2007. Through his professional and intimidating looks, Jay Z makes a powerful presence by showing his wealth and power in the community. Another icon in the hip hop and fashion industry is A$AP Rocky. A$AP Rocky is a professional American rapper born in Harlem, New York. Rocky was born and raised in New York during a high moment in hip hop. Because of the New York hip hop history, it influenced Rocky to become a fashion portrait. A$AP Rocky’s style can be described as, “Often unpredictable, his style is known to be original, complex and multi-layered to achieve both an eccentric and clean look. One could even argue that he has defined the look of modern hip-hop artists.” Rocky has been an image of fashion because his style is so unique and he has millions of followers that he influences. Rocky first came to fame for his music but now he is a model and a designer for fashion. A great example is his hit single “Raf.” In the song he raps, “ It’s rare Raf when I wear Raf, bare Raf when I wear Raf, might invest into some Raf shares.” Raf Simons is a well known Belgian fashion designer that many artists support and look up to. In his song “Raf,” Rocky isn’t bragging about wearing Raf but he is bragging that he knows Raf Simons, which shows that he is more involved in the fashion industry, rather than just wearing it for the social media. Furthermore, another very popular artist is Travis Scott. Travis Scott has been very popular and trending lately because he has a strong connection with the youth in the hip hop subculture. Travis collaborated with Air Jordan for couple of designs of shoes. Jordan is a very big company that decided to give Travis Scott his own sneakers, which are sold out everywhere. His shoes have sold out and are reselling for a lot more on the market. This makes it clear that the youth are looking up to Travis and are buying out all his released sneakers because they look up to him and want to be like him. The reason these artists have their own fashion style is that it makes them unique and stand out. The artists also state that the better you look, the better you perform because it gives them that extra self-confidence. These artists are using their fan base to make fashion products because the music already brought them the fans, so they are branching out. All in all, popular artists are responsible for the fashion trendsetting in the hip hop subculture because the artists have the money and power.
Even though the hip hop subculture started in the early 1970s by the young African community of the Bronx, it is now a prominent genre while bringing recognition to social issues. Fashion is one of the artifacts associated with hip hop because it is a lifestyle within the subculture. The way artists dress up, says a lot about them and is a way for artists to make themselves unique and stand out from others. The style of clothing worn by people we admire influences us and the community around us.