Monday, 31 January 2011

Thugged out since cub scout.

Over the quarter of a century that it’s been around, hip-hop has taken on and spawned many new sub-genres - some incredible, some ball-shatteringly terrible (crunkcore anyone?) - and even proved itself to be the number one choice for actors who want to make the unholy transition in to music. Fortunately for us, each progression brings with it a whole new way for white guys to try and dress like black guys, so I'll run you through all those movements. All these dates are pretty rough and open to dispute by the way - I’m ready for the inevitable backlash of hip hop history mastermind contestants and internet rap ambassadors.   

Not even hip hop (1973 - 1977)
DJ Kool Herc (the father of hip-hop) and other Bronx DJs in the early 70s used to tap in to the power lines and put on huge MC battles, only they weren’t called MCs back then. The whole deal was basically an adaption of Jamaican toasting (boastful poetry) over whatever beat the DJ felt like spinning. Obviously because it hadn’t been labelled as a genre yet there wasn’t really a strict stress-code that you had to adhere to, however Kool Herc was way ahead of the game with his denim jackets and wide brimmed sailor hats. Run DMC started ripping his style ten years later, but he was the originator.  

‘Proper’ hip-hop (1978 - 1981)
On to the late 70s, when people still called it disco rap, and it had progressed to a bunch of soul and funk guys with some records, getting radical about the state of their neighbourhood. Hood-style still clearly didn’t seem to be an issue; Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five looked like they were permanently on their way to a leather daddy bar, and that one guy from The Sugarhill Gang dressed like a nerdier version of Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite. I guess none of that stopped them from being right on and getting loads of pussy though. If only modern rappers didn’t see bright yellow pleather jumpsuits and studded arm-bands as a hinderance - that way there would be no more beef because they’d all be too preoccupied with their outfits.

Sampling hip-hop (1982 - 1984)
By the early 80s hip-hop was pretty much fully formed - the fans kept it pretty low key, but the performers were still totally out there; Afrika Bambaataa and the Sonic Soul Force's sartorial choices were like some sort of neon hybrid of Gwar and The Village People. It was also around that time that DJs stopped using disco as backing tracks and started to produce their own jams, sampling electronic acts of the time, which is probably where the whole futuristic, space-age style came from. According to wikipedia it was also around that time that gangs got in to rap, graffiti and b-boying to get their street-rep up. I highly doubt the gangs were rocking feather head-pieces while they were break-dancing though.   

Dress up hip hop (1984 - 1992)
The mid 80s was the stomping ground of Kangol, Adidas, huge gold chains and the jheri curl - so basically the sort of stuff people will wear if they’re going to Tarquin Merriweather - Jones’ hip hop themed 21st. This era was also when hip-hop started blowing up and all the new sub-genres started to work their way out of the woodwork, so I’ll deal with those now.  
Fresh Prince hip hop (1985 - 1989)
Technically this wasn't exactly a sub-genre, it was just Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (and arguably Kid 'n Play) releasing family friendly tunes, kick-starting the high fade revolution, doing a great service to a huge assortment of turtle necks and inspiring the majority of clothes that Cassette Playa have released. And after my little quip earlier, Will Smith actually went from this to becoming a global movie-star with a kick-ass family of actors and miniature musicians, who woulda thought it? 

Gangsta rap (1986 - )
Gangsta gets a bad rap (see what I did there?) - these guys were just attempting to tell the truth about life in deprived inner city areas, and as soon as they got some recognition Tipper Gore gets all up in their faces, slapping parental advisory stickers on their CDs. Mind you, that was possibly the smartest marketing ploy ever accidentally constructed. Look at how badass and gangster they all look, dressed head to toe in black and white; it's like Spike Lee's version of The Lost Boys, only Spike's been quoted before comparing the genre to black minstrel shows, so I guess he's not the biggest fan. Area affiliation is big in gangsta rap as you may have noticed from the lyrics - and the clothes reflected that - it was all starter jackets with Compton embroidered on the back, or baseball caps emblazoned with local team's logos.       

Alternative hip hop (1988 - 1992)
These guys were like the kids at university who get in to jazz and environmentalism, but they made it look cool by fusing all that socially conscious stuff together with hip hop, rather than dreadlocks and self-assured rants about how 'like, BP are worse than napalm man, they just ruin shit and don't even care.' The west coast guys like Jurassic 5, The Roots and The Pharcyde kept it pretty average dress-wise; they were perhaps a bit beardier than their southern peers (Goodie Mob, Outkast etc) but as a whole, alternative hip hop was the most inoffensive style to date - polo-necks, slogan t shirts and bucket hats were about as mad as it got.        

Horrorcore (1991 - )
Talking of dreadlocks...These guys were just about the lamest thing that's ever happened to hip hop, and that includes J Casanova. When Insane Clown Posse, Necro and Mars are the most revered artists from a sub-genre, you know that genre ain't got game. Obviously there are loads of fans out there (because otherwise the artists would have all gone the way of Ice T) and they push the envelope out further than the performers; ICP's fans call themselves juggalos and dress like the lovechild of Marilyn Manson, a bunch of circus performers and Kevin Federline.      

Ghetto fabulous hip hop (1992 - 
The term ghetto-fabulous has been whittled away so much since its inception that it's now normally applied to any black woman with a half decent weave and an ample amount of junk in her trunk, however it was originally pioneered by P Diddy (or Puff Daddy as he was known then) to represent the east coast major league players like himself and biggie. Sometimes the musical scene as a whole is referred to as mafioso rap because they all chatted about organised crime, weapons and the luxurious products they could afford, but I personally don't think that's applicable, they dressed far better than the mafia (I'm using Paulie from The Sopranos as a reference point here btw).         

The best hip hop (?) (1992 - 
Everyone with half a brain knows that this scene (Wu Tang Clan, Sunz of Man, Gravediggaz etc etc) was the pinnacle for both the music and the dress-sense right? Lol, I'm just kidding - Flo Rida is the most talented MC of all time obviously, but this era's simple, lo-fi textured beats harking back to the original 'alternative hip hop,' but with an entirely new lyrical flow over the top, all presented to you by the raddest looking guys in the history of style comes in a close second. I don't think anyone else could actually pull off the clothes they're wearing in thisthis or any other video you'll find on youtube. Putting my blatant guy crush aside for a moment, these guys made baggy look good and continue to maintain an awesome style that far surpasses any other contemporary rappers.    

Chicano rap (1993 - 2001)
For chicano rap think any film with Mexican gangsters in it, ever. That's what most of these guys look like; moustache, wrap-around black shades, chinos, white vest, plaid shirt and bandana. I hate to play up to the stereotype but there's really not much else to say sartorially about these hip hop hombres. This sub genre wins hands down on names though; Juan Gotti, Lighter Shade of Brown and South Park Mexican rank among my personal favourites.

Rap Metal/ Nu metal (1995 - 2003)
I'm not going to pretend I didn't like this when it came out, I did - and I still know all the words to the whole Chocolate Starfish album, I bet you do too if you're between 19 & 22, but even that deep seated secret love for the music doesn't excuse the performers for their wardrobe choices. Limp Bizkit looked like pudgy frat boys and gave a completely unnecessary amount of exposure to the goatee, and Linkin Park (even when they were collaborating with legit hip hop superstars) fared no better, in fact they fared worse - sporting tattoos that looked like designs from ‘No Fear‘ t-shirts.

Own brand clothes (1998 - )
Around the late nineties and onwards, rappers started to capitalise on their success, putting their name to anything they could (50 Cent's endorsement deal and eventual release of grape flavoured vitamin water for example). Since then we've been bombarded with Wu Wear, Sean John, Rocawear, Phat Farm, G-Unit clothing, and a host of other brands that, in retrospect, really were the first viable routes for suburban white teenagers to dress like they came from the projects.

Crunk/ Buck (2003 - )
The popularity of oversized gold and diamond jewellery had waned up until this point. In fact hip hop sales generally took a bit of a fall from 2000 onwards, but the mid noughties revitalised the whole scene and rappers started earning bucks again, which they promptly blew on necklaces, watches, bracelets and, most importantly, grills.

Crunkcore (2006 - 2007)
Remember when I said that horrorcore was the worst thing to happen to hip hop? I take that back. Crunkcore is solely the most unlistenable and offensive type of sonic experimentation ever created. Just putting 'core after an existing genre shouldn't give you the license to completely destroy any progressions that have been made by making that pig noise over a crunk beat. I won't go in to the style, but you can see from this picture that it was basically a horrible approximation of screamo, european jocks and H&M.

Resurgence of alternative hip hop (2004 - )
I'd like to think it was MF DOOM who spearheaded the musical return to alternative hip hop with his Danger Doom album, but more likely than not it was Pharrell and his band of pseudo skateboarders. The styles since then are far too varied to point a finger at; Kanye's rocking couture, Gucci Mane is going for the 'I'm clinically insane but ok with it' approach, and look, here's Wiz Khalifa getting high with Rick Ross, looking like the drummer from a pop-punk band.

If you want to keep tabs on the freshest garms in the hip hop world at this very moment, I recommend this site for a self-styled 'lookbook' approach, or this site for 'everything hip hop,' except for the music of course. 

No comments:

Post a Comment