Artist Spotlight: Frank Ocean

In the late 2000s, a small collective of hip-hop artists created a group known as Odd Future. The group was known for being extremely eccentric, having beats and lyrics that were far from mainstream. The group was headed by Tyler, the Creator, who is notorious for doing some pretty ridiculous things, such as eating a cockroach for a music video. The group offered something different from the mainstream hip-hop of the time, which is why it appealed to the younger generations. It was a group of misfits, making music for misfits.

Frank Ocean was one of the members who specifically didn’t seem like the rest. His specialty was smooth vocals, as opposed to being able to flow quickly or add catchy lyrics. In 2012, Frank Ocean released his debut album Channel Orange, which was widely popular for his hit song “Thinking Bout You,” which offered a refreshing change of pace. It later became known that Frank was actually bisexual, which led to an interesting turn of events in the hip-hop community. Ultimately, Ocean was very much excepted, and even appreciated for being courageous enough to stand up for himself in an industry dominated by heterosexual males. However, it was a lot for Ocean to deal with. Ocean took a break from releasing music until 2016, where he released his second album, Blonde.

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Upon the release of his second album, Ocean had become a superstar within the hip-hop community. He was collaborating with artists such as Kanye West, Calvin Harris and Jay-Z. Ocean’s influence is due in part to the fact that he offered something that no one else could: an emotional perspective. While artists like Drake and The Weeknd manage to portray emotion in their lyrics, the way Ocean does it is more than lyrical—he is a singer, not a rapper. He has the power to control the emotion in his voice and offer experimental sounds on tracks that have not existed until now. He rarely plays concerts, but when he does, they are something theatrical. Ocean has also tuned in to his creative side to go beyond music, and created a magazine titled ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ which features images curated by Ocean that have influenced him in his life and his music. He is also a modern day style icon, as he is one of the most uniquely appreciated artists. After wearing a shirt at a concert which read, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic when you could just be quiet?” the shirt went on to sell out in a matter of minutes.

Ocean’s uniqueness, passion and emotional connection to his music has changed the future of the hip-hop industry to come. We see more rappers being comfortable being themselves, such as the up and coming group BROCKHAMPTON, whose leader raps about being gay and discrimination he has faced on many tracks. Ocean has opened the door for many who are both artists and listeners in hip-hop, and the future of the industry will never be the same thanks to his courageous efforts.

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Three Current Trends We Hate

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Image via Instagram @elliotavianne

With success comes money, and one way to spend that money is on things you couldn’t afford as a kid, but have always wanted. Hip-hop is currently the largest music genre, as it consists of almost 25 percent of all music consumed. With those numbers, it’s no question that the artists have money to spare on their extravagant wardrobes. While the jewelry is shiny and the outfits are expensive, when is it enough? Here are our top three current trends that we think should stop. Asap.

  1. Too Much Gold. In all honesty, I’m still trying to figure out why this ever became a thing. Obviously, jewelry is a sign of wealth, which can relate to influence and credibility in the industry, but since when did wearing all of your jewelry at once become acceptable?
  1. Chunky Designer Sneakers. Balenciaga reaffirmed that this trend is here to stay with their release of the Triple-S Trainer. However, ugly sneakers have been around for a while, as the Adidas x Raf Simons Ozweego is in it’s third model. This trend became much more noticeable after Kanye West dropped the Yeezy 700, which is his own take at chunky/ugly/dad sneakers. For more on this, see our blog post on the dad shoe.
  1. Looking like a walking billboard. This isn’t just specific to hip-hop artists—athletes are just as bad at this. While it’s cool to show off a few exclusive pieces that the public can’t get their hands on, it’s not cool to wear the same brand head-to-toe. It shows lack of creativity, unoriginality, and overall just corny.

With great influence comes great responsibility. While it’s evident that you hip-hop artists have more money than us, it’s also that some of you are in need of a personal stylist.

The Evolution of Hip-Hop Culture

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Image via Complex Magazine

“When Kanye dropped, it was polos and backpacks.” – Drake, Know Yourself

Since it’s inception in the late 1900s, hip-hop has undergone various changes, both within the style of music, and the culture that artists pursue. From love songs to gangster rap, there is an evident point in where modern day hip-hop shifted for good.

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Image via Getty Images

The 2000s were an interesting phase for hip-hop, as there were dramatic shifts in what rappers would say, and how they were dressed. Starting off the decade were artists like Eminem and Nelly, who were almost polar opposites in their styles, but both at the top of the charts. At this point in time, the most popular songs in hip-hop were songs about love dominating the top charts. Additionally, the image that these rappers sought was one of big muscles and slick styles. In 2003, rapper 50 Cent released his first studio album, which earned him instant fame and popularity. His style is defined as ‘gangster rap,’ or music that is characterized by lyrics and themes that are about the gangster lifestyle. While this style was first seen in N.W.A. and Dr. Dre, 50 Cent made it into something that the average person would enjoy to listen to, regardless of gang status. Getting shot nine times and living only propelled 50 Cent to more fame. The wardrobe of this era’s hip-hop artists was dominated by sports jerseys, oddly, fitting pants, fitted baseball hats, and Jordan basketball shoes. Why? Does anyone know?

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Image via i-D Magazine

On Sept 11, 2007, hip-hop changed for good. No longer were people listening to rappers discuss selling drugs and shooting guns. Kanye West released his third studio album, Graduation, which was an instant success, and detrimental to the future of gangster rap, and 50 Cent’s career. His album contained many songs, such as ‘Stronger,’ which sampled various other genres, allowing it to appeal to a wider base. As Mr. West’s music style started taking over hip-hop, his fashion style also started to influence the way other rappers dressed. Part of his fame was not fitting in. While other rappers were wearing clothes two sizes too big, he was proudly wearing his pink Ralph Lauren Polo. His work with Louis Vuitton truly pioneers a new wave in the hip-hop community.

Present day hip-hop is almost synonymous with high-end designer brands. In October 2013, hip-hop trio Migos released their debut single, titled ‘Versace,’ which consisted of them rapping about how their wardrobe consisted of very expensive articles of clothing. Four years later, it is RARE to hear a song from a hip-hop artist not name drop name brands like Raf Simons or Alexander Wang.

As the style of hip-hop music shifted greatly in the mid 2000s, so did the way artists dressed. From gangster to Gucci, hip-hop and fashion are a complete package in this current moment.

Top 5 Fashion Influencers in Hip-hop

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A$AP Rocky (Image via highsnobiety)

Every rapper and hip-hop artist nowadays uses social media to show just how fashion forward and up to date they are. While a lot of content is typically oversaturated or unoriginal, there are a few accounts that seem to get it right. These are the top five fashion-forward hip-hop artists to follow.

  1. Kanye West (@kanyewest, n/a). Did you really expect anyone else to be number one? This is strange, however, because West’s account is constantly in limbo. One day, he’ll be posting hundreds of pictures of his upcoming line or of famous celebrity couples, and the next day the entire account will be missing. Regardless, there is no dispute to West being at the top of the charts, as every corny sneaker Instagramer and fashion influencer is using West’s shoes for clout–and follows.
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    (Image via GUESS?, Inc.)
  2. A$AP Rocky (@asaprocky, 7M followers). This one is a personal choice, mainly because I feel as though Rocky is one of the pioneers of the new high-fashion and hip-hop trend. He has always been about the clothes, even before he became world famous. We must also mention the fact that he has put many brands and influencers, such as GUESS? and fashion mogul Ian Connor, into the spotlight.
  3. Drake (@champagnepapi, 40.2M followers). While Drake may have the most followers on this entire list, I wouldn’t call him the most fashion forward icon. He still deserves credit for having such a large following, creating his own streetwear brand, having a few signature shoes with Jordan Brand, and a collaboration with Canada Goose. Drake is huge hip-hop icon, and while he may not be as trendy as others, he still deserves credit for the work he has put in to the industry.
  4. Travis Scott (@travisscott, 8.1M followers). Scott has consistently been at the cutting edge of what’s cool in streetwear. While his style did get a bit oversaturated in the Supreme movement at the beginning of his career, he managed to find a bit of originality, especially with the recent release of his custom Nike Air Force One. I would argue that Scott is a big influence to the younger generation, and an icon that many streetwear fans look up to.
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    No, My Name Is Jeffery Album Cover (Image via Garfield Larmond)
  5. Young Thug (@thuggerthugger1, 4.9M followers). Growing up in the projects of Atlanta, Young Thug was often ostracized for his effeminate style. He rebuked those claims, showing he genuinely doesn’t care what others think, by wearing a purple dress on the cover of his mixtape No, My Name Is Jeffery. Young Thug’s style is eccentric and original, making him a trendsetter for streetwear and other hip-hop artists.

Some might disagree with this list, but after several years of following both hip-hop and streetwear, I am confident that when combining influence and originality, these five are currently at the top of the charts. I must also note that none of these hip-hop artists have stylists that tell them what to wear.

3 Reasons Why Instagram Is Better Than Snapchat

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On February 21, influencer and reality tv star Kylie Jenner tweeted out, “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… Ugh this is so sad.” That same day, Snap, Inc. stock, the parent company of Snapchat, closed down 6%, which translates to $1.3 billion in market value. Many are also upset over the latest update, as over 1.2 million users have signed a petition to revert the app back to the previous format. But did Kylie Jenner kill Snapchat? No. However, the decline of the app has been due for a while, thanks to similar features and the popularity of Instagram. Here are three reasons why Instagram is the superior platform for influencers and average users.

  1. Followers.  On Snapchat, the number of followers is not easily accessible, whereas on Instagram, the number is evident on all profiles for all to see. Users with more followers reach a larger audience, and are likely to be more profitable influencers. Additionally, non-followers can see stories and posts of public accounts, whereas on Snapchat, you must be a follower to see content from users. For a fashion brand or an upcoming hip-hop artist, it is easier to be discovered on Instagram.
  2. Previous Content. Unlike Snapchat, content posted on Instagram does not disappear. Users have the ability to delete or archive posts, but the posts will remain on the profile until those actions are performed. This is good for brands that want to sponsor an influencer, because when a follower clicks on a profile, that content will always be present. 
  3. Detailed Data. Snapchat is now providing celebrities and influencers with detailed data regarding the age, gender and geographic breakdown of who is interacting with their accounts. This allows for brands to find users who can effective get their message to the right target. However, this is something that Instagram has been doing since May of 2016.

Snapchat has revolutionized the way we communicate. Seeing and being able to share picture of what someone is doing creates a closer connection, one that makes users feel more involved in each other’s lives. Geotags and filters have also given Snapchat an entertaining edge. But the battle between platforms is a hard one for Snapchat, as it’s 187 million daily users is no comparison to Instagram, who has twice that number. Influencers will sadly be the deciding factor of which survives, and which becomes the next MySpace.

Polo Ralph Lauren: A Hip-Hop Staple

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Polo Ralph Lauren Snow Beach collection (Image via Vice)

“Horsepower, horsepower, all this Polo on I got horsepower” – 2 Chainz, Mercy

When Polo Ralph Lauren was founded in 1967, the target market was easily identifiable: Americans who feel the need to look presentable, might have a lot of leisure time, and have disposable income. The image of the Polo brand is rooted in the American Dream. However, it didn’t take long for the brand to be a status symbol in the hip-hop world, giving respect and credibility to those who wore it.

In 1988, a group of Polo-obsessed rappers from Brooklyn started a polo boosting group called the Lo-Lifes. Boosting, or shoplifting from department stores, was the only real way to get Polo, as it was simply too expensive. “Every day was a fashion show and a shoplifting spree throughout upstate malls and Manhattan stores,” writes Lo-Life founder Thirstin Howl. Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, even the Polo Mansion. None were safe from boosters. Even boosters weren’t safe. There are several accounts of boosters being killed for the clothes they stole.

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Kanye West and Ralph Lauren (Image via Instagram @ralphlauren)

Why Polo?
Polo was a testament to the success that surrounds the American dream. Wealthy people could afford Polo, and wealthy people are successful in America. It was not made for the lower income communities where many hip-hop artists came from. The high price and preppy styles were not something that you ought to see in the projects, which is why it was so desired. By taking something not made for them, and making it their own, they were able to effectively challenge classism and live their version of the American dream.

The interest brought on by the hip-hop community of New York created lasting success on the brand. While the company was losing money from boosters constantly stealing and reselling clothes, they were gaining publicity and fame in the eyes of fans. Although the brand was fully aware of who the target market was and who was actually buying the clothes, Polo never changed. To increase profits, Polo Ralph Lauren could have easily shifted gears and made clothing that was more fitting for the hip-hop market, like Tommy Hilfiger did. However, they never did, which is why Polo has remained relevant in hip-hop. The brand was desired because it offered something that these communities didn’t have, which was a way for them to express their interest and pursuit of the American dream.

The Dad Shoe

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Balenciaga Triple S (Image via Balenciaga)

If you’re one of the many Instagram users who use the app to keep up with the latest fashion trends and product releases, chances are you have recently scrolled past someone’s picture and said, “what are those hideous shoes!” Dad shoes are the biggest trend in 2017, and many credit the trend to the dad who started it all, Mr. Kanye West.

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Adidas Yeezy Calabasas

On June 4th, West and Adidas revived the Adidas Powerphase tennis shoe from the 80s. The updated version, which is bland in color and reminiscent of something my grandfather used to wear, boasts the word ‘Calabasas’ on the side, which is the exclusive neighborhood in Los Angeles where West resides.

Since the release, the trend has only gotten worse. On August 12th, the duo released the Yeezy 700 Wave Runner, a shoe that is practically an insult to the fashion industry. While being big, bulky and uncoordinated, it was met with raving popularity.

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Adidas Yeezy 700 ‘Wave Runner’

Since the release of these two shoes, many established fashion brands have jumped on the trend. Balenciaga released their version called the Triple S, Dior released their bland and bulky Dior Homme Trainers, and Gucci released their effortless attempt at the trend with the “Rhyton Logo” leather sneaker.

Why is something that is so aesthetically pleasing taking the fashion industry by storm? Part is due to the influence that Kanye West has on the sneaker and fashion industry. It is also due to the drive to present yourself as unique, by wearing something that the average consumer (under the age of 60) wouldn’t wear.