Using Rap Genius' new ‘Rap Stats’ tool, Katherine Bernard charts music's lyrical intersections with fashion
The most frequently mentioned high fashion brand in the history of rap is Gucci. But since 2008, Gucci's seen a 23 per cent decline in lyric presence. In the same time, Louis Vuitton mentions have dipped the same. Back when David LaChapelle photographed Lil Kim painted with little LVs in 1999 — and even earlier when Dapper Dan created original looks covered in luxury logos in 80's Harlem — taking a mental tally of L's Vs and G's quickly proved that you had X amount of money.
At the time, it was an unrequited enthusiasm. Nowadays, the celebrities sitting front row at shows are rappers, and the designers laid out in lyrics represent a different kind of luxury, coded aesthetics that boast fashion insider-ship more than money. It's a new kind of cultural currency. Tom Ford — the former Gucci designer whose name was a track title on Jay Z's Magna Carta album — was name-dropped 23 per cent more in 2013 than it was in 2008 (its first mention in a rap song was 2006). Givenchy (appearing in 08', which Ricardo Tisci was appointed head of Givenchy menswear) spiked 95 per cent, coming to the forefront of rap's fashion consciousness.
"The celebrities sitting front row at shows are rappers, and the designers laid out in lyrics represent a different kind of luxury"
So, what does this say, aside from the fact that Rap Genius' new Rap Stats tool is fun? I won't deny that I made a graph plotting references to Ass, Booty, and Butt and then Bounce, Lick, and Grind in the midst of my fashion research. But in a year when Jay Z staged Picasso Baby at Pace Gallery in New York, Kanye West's Bound 2 video looking more like a piece of video art than a music video, Angel Haze rapped about Phillip Lim, Rag & Bone and claimed "I was wearing it first," in her single Echelon, and A$AP Rocky rapped a litany of 27 fashion brands in Fashion Killa, some of which he brought into the genre for the first time, some of which were womenswear-only, it's clear rap's reigning as a space for the avant garde.
The labels that newly come through in lyrics only emphasize that. In 2013, Margiela, Balenciaga, Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester — came into play. Donatella Versace even played Migos' Versace over her show finale for SS14. So, for the future, will subtle Tom Ford trousers and Givenchy rottweilers be the new logos? Or will this year give way to a new season of 90's throwbacks? Miley Cyrus and Rihanna (not rappers, just to be clear) have been bringing back vintage Chanel and Versace bling of late, are we ready to see locked C's and Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele flash coming back into play? Take a look at our graphs and make your predictions.