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Tracing rap’s love affair with Raf Simons

A$AP Rocky and Frank Ocean have released a new song dedicated to the designer but where did it begin?

Rappers have been peppering their rhymes with designer and fashion references for years. From Biggie to Jay-Z, they’ve all used it to add flair and give their lines some lqqks. Remember Grandmaster Flash repping his Calvin Klein in ‘Them Jeans’ in 1987? Or that time Kanye West name-checked 21 models in his verse on ‘Christian Dior Denim Flow’. A$AP Rocky has consistently dropped designer bombs in his songs and recently enlisted Frank Ocean, Lil Uzi Vert and Quavo to rep their fave Belgian designer – Raf Simons. Rocky had already teased the song – simply titled “Raf” on Twitter earlier this year with the hashtag #pleasedonttouchmyraf but the song was finally released this week on Ocean’s Beats 1 show “blonded RADIO”. Simons has a squad of rappers (literally) singing his praises, but when did the obsession start and why? 

New Yorker David Casavant who has been collecting the designer’s most coveted items since he was a teen thinks the fanboying is down to the groundbreaking moves Raf has made in his career, “Raf put streetwear in a high fashion context which is now normalised but was more radical at that time,” he told us today, “He was one of the few designers committed to pushing the limits of menswear.” 

The waves he made in fashion naturally caught the interest of Kanye West, whose interest goes all the way back to 2008 when he interviewed Simons for Interview, discussing their struggle as pioneers and rise to fame. Simons also influenced his fourth studio album 808s & Heartbreak and he told the New York Times, “I didn’t realise I was new wave until this project. Thus my connection with Peter Saville, with Raf Simons, with high-end fashion.”

Casavant first starting lending to West in 2014, who came to his apartment in person to look at the archive close up, “We both have a mutual respect for Raf,” he told us today, “We are both menswear nerds and Raf’s pretty much the king of modern menswear as we now know it.” He didn’t even try to shy away from his references after his debut Yeezy Season 1 collection in 2015, telling at the time, “You guys know my fucking influences. You see Raf Simons right there.” If he isn’t in his own designs Simons is a close second and he has been spotted a number of times wearing one of Casavant’s archive bomber jackets from the AW01 ‘Riot! Riot! Riot!’ collection.

A$AP Rocky stanned the designer back in 2013 when he released ‘Fashion Killa’ including him among a slew of others, notably rhyming Ann Demeulemeester with Oliver Peoples. Not to mention recently breaking hearts worldwide and unofficially upping their relationship to bromance status penning a bio for Simons after he was announced as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people for 2017.   

On top of gracing the backs of music’s elite – Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Travis Scott and Rihanna (not a rapper, but does anyone wear it better) – Rocky and Ocean aren’t the only ones dropping the name Raf Simons; Future, Raekwon and Wale are fans too. It goes without saying that rappers and fashion will continue to cross paths in the future. Casavant agrees: “I think artists in hip hop view the idea of their art as beyond just their music and consider the visuals and performance more than other genres of music.”

Whatever the future holds for the two, if ever in doubt, remember: “Please don’t touch my Raf.”

Listen to the full song below