“In these times, you can’t get a job as an executive unless you have the educational background and the opportunity. Now, the fact you don’t have a job as an executive is merely because of the social standing of life.”
Pause. You know what? Hip-hop’s pretty gay. I’m not talking the rumours of green-eyed producers, musclebound ladies men, middle finger issuers and hypemen. The Furious 5 and company’s attire could be dismissed as fruity, but they seemed to be dressing akin to Rick James at the time. Rick’s attire on the front of ‘Street Songs’ is flamboyant, but he’s just paralleling the Prince approach of being so swaggeringly hetro, one can dress like they’re some kind of future-loverman. Nah. As hip-hop veers between curiously conservative and utterly audacious, 2010 is the year it seems to have opted to get even gayer. It even goes beyond Lil ‘B’s ‘Pretty Bitch’ – eccentric as it was, Brandon’s boasts felt as ultra-straight as Prince Rogers Nelson’s self-adulation. It’s in the behaviour that social media is fueling.
Can any other musical form boast an audience this desperate for gossip? Jeezy alludes to Rawse and the entire hip-hop nation gets all theatrically, “Oh no he didn’t!” Even the mildest verses are being scrutinised in the search for the “shots” and joy in perceived slights. Jeezy’s right when he laments that, “Twitter is a muthafucka, by the way.” That hunger for drama is insatiable. Rappers face the camera to address any rumour, scowling soul mates of the Britney meme man. Just as so many gay fashionistas are opting for extreme ink, that neck of thorns is just as likely to be shared by the next southern phenomenon. Amplified levels of toplessness in any press shots up the flamboyance. The quest to give that ink an outing is outing emcees.
Yet even more oddly, hip-hop culture gets even more homophobic and insecure. Cam’Ron and company opened the gates for a retraction after each sentence, but now we’re pausing our way through stop-start conversations. It’s fun, but again, it’s pretty gay. Kanye’s never shied away from the finer things in life, and his current besuited persona, driving the Twitterverse to the point of mania is some executive styling. This can only have ramifications. Just as his big shoe movement and a slimmer denim style had the biters geared up in mismatching, borderline feminine attire, Mr. West is bringing back the suit. Cue Rapidshare rappers everywhere breaking out their big-shouldered funeral suits. Everyone’s the CEO of their label now too. There’s plenty of folk playing at being shot collars on a business level. The mere notion of realness as a sham that revelations of Rick Ross’s past revealed, built on who makes the most mixtapes and has the best ear for a beat, isn’t too far away from the notion of ‘Realness’ espoused in the classic 1990 documentary, ‘Paris is Burning’.
Rap’s rarely been rooted in reality. There’s always been performance, but for a former CO to play kingpin and be as accepted as Armin Tamzarian ultimately was in his Skinner role is the ultimate reinforcement that hip-hop is about that theatrical facade of Realness. Realness in the ball circuit was about convincingly passing as someone else – for example, hardrock posturing, trying to pass as straight. There’s definite parallels. Truth be told, as long as the records are hot, it’s all good, but as the members of the House of Chanel and House of St. Laurent proved, it’s about the escapism of that fakery. Even the designer name fixation that Kanye’s blown up to the point where Jadakiss talks Margiela and Rawse talks Rick Owens bears similarities to their flamboyant theatre of competition.
The best moment in Jennie Livingston’s masterpiece is the notion of ‘Executive Realness’ where suited participants compete in a walk-off, trying to look as powerful and business-like as possible. Opening a briefcase to reveal paperwork elicits rapturous applause. It’s a momentary attempt to defy the social standing participants have found themselves in, and total role play. At least they’re honest about the performance aspect. The CEO stance and power-tailoring is pure hip-hop. Taz, ‘Ye and Cudi took the look to Paris last year for their infamous, ultra-fly group shot. In fact, ‘Style Wars’ and ‘Paris Is Burning’ are as essential as each other in documenting 1980s New York. There’s a grit to them and that same determination to rise above that occasionally seems utterly doomed. Shit, ‘Paris Is Burning’ is even laden with designer clothing boosts. Again, what’s more hip-hop than that? And what’s more punk rock than CAP or Pepper LaBeija?
Now every blogger’s a fashion guru and 8 out of 10 twats are claiming stylist status, maybe that notion of ‘Executive Realness’ spills beyond the rap realm to other cultures tainted by perpetrators. But that’s a whole other post…