Hip hop culture has unarguably influenced popular fashion for the better part of three decades, and the depth of that influence has grown by leaps and bounds in the last ten years. While it started with accessible streetwear like Kangols and Adidas - Run DMC even devoted an entire track to the iconic shell toes - hip hop has gone haute couture, bringing awareness of luxury brands to a generation of kids who would otherwise never know them. How many of us, outside of Madison Avenue, had ever heard of Goyard before Kanye West told us he "Goyard so hard that I'm Hugo's Boss?"
While almost every popular rapper has a mention of some high-end clothing brand somewhere in his/her catalog, there are a few big players who have, over their careers, become synonymous with high fashion thanks to their clever shout-outs to luxury brands. So we put our hip hop-loving heads together, queued up a bunch of our favorite records, and made you a list of some of the best fashion mentions in music.
We have to start with Biggie, of course, since we all should know his Steelo. The first single off 1997's Life After Death, "Hypnotize," offered up this gem:
I put hoes in NY onto DKNY/Miami, D.C. prefer Versace/All Philly hoes go with Moschino...
We can go all the way back to 1990 if we want an Around the Way Girl with a Fendi bag and a bad attitude, like LL Cool J was looking for.
Another New York native, Nas, made a metaphor of his rise to fame through brand mentions, going from the ubiquitous ode to Jordans in Street Dreams: I thought Jordans and a gold chain was living it up, to Armani Exchange the Range in "If I Ruled the World."
Nas' longtime nemesis, and arguably the biggest rapper in the game, Jay Z, also likes to use his fashion game as a metaphor for his success: I moved from Levis to Guess to Versace/now it's diamonds like Liberace, from "Coming of Age" off Jay's first album, Reasonable Doubt. On The Neptunes-produced "I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me)," Hov gets more specific: ...me, you and your Chloe glasses/go somewhere private where we can discuss fashion/like, Prada blouse, Gucci bra, Filth Mart jeans, ma take that off. And we can't forget this year's single off Magna Carta Holy Grail: I don't pop molly, I rock Tom Ford. In his verse on Justin Timberlake's "Suit and Tie," Jay mentions Tom Ford again, along with a couple other big names in fashion: This is truffle season/ Tom Ford tuxedos for no reason/ All Saints for my angel/ Alexander Wang too/ ass-tight denim and some Dunks/ I'll show you how to do this, young. Hov also likes to shout out luxury watch designers; on "Otis," he raps: New watch alert: Hublots/Or the big-faced Rollie/I got two of those, and in his verse on "Gotta Have It," also off Watch the Throne, he goes super high-end: Bueller had a Muller but I switched it for a Mille 'cause I'm richer...
Pharrell has long been shouting out the label he partners with, Billionaire Boys Club, and A Bathing Ape (Bape for short) is also one of his favorites. In his verse on Clipse's "Mr. Me Too," he mentions both: Ice Cream sneakers/I signed my first skater/so you can pay three and buy yourself some Bapestas. On that same track, Pusha T also drops a name: Pyrex stirs turned into Cavalli furs...
And on Pharrell's first solo album, 2006's In My Mind, his verse on "Can I Have it Like That" is chock full of fashion mentions: From Louisville to Jimmy Choos he's real/She know the time, she see the Richard Mille/Plat-double skeletal, Tourbillion/It just like her body move, it turns her on.
Jadakiss' "By My Side" off 2009's The Last Kiss shouts out a well-known Belgian fashion house: He such a small fella/to recognize the Maison Martin Margiela/what could I tell her...
We love Fabolous' verse from "You Be Killin' Em," off his mixtape There is No Competition 2:
Louboutin shoes/she got too much pride/her feet are killing her/I call it shoe-icide.
Another catchy Louboutin shout-out belongs to Rick Ross, in his verse on Drake's "I'm on One:" The ones beneath me recognize the red-bottoms I wear...
TI's single verse on Drake's "Fancy" manages to hit more than a half-dozen designers: ...closet full of brand new clothes and handbags/Alexander McQueen, Prada, Gucci, Chanel/ D&G, BCBG, Versace, Louis and BeBe..."
A$AP Rocky does one better, and drops the names of over two dozen designers in his track "Fashion Killa," earning him a spot on our list with lyrics like: 'cause everything designer, her jeans is Helmut Lang/ Shoes is Alexander Wang and her shirt the newest Donna/ Karan, wearing all the Cartier frames/ Jean Paul Gaultiers cause they match with her persona. Or of course, "I gets the freshest Raf Simons, Rick Owens usually what I'm dressed in"
And you know we were saving the best for last, because Kanye has too many clever haute couture references to list...but we have quite a few favorites. The Christian in Christian Dior has never been shy about letting us know that he spent that gas money on clothes with logos, or that Ralph Lauren was boring before I wore him. He made fun of himself on "All Falls Down" with a mispronunciation on pass that Versace, but once he made it, he shop so much that I could speak Italian. His line from "Ni**as in Paris," What's that jacket, Margiela? can be heard out of the mouths of kids who have no idea what Margiela even is. He's even gotten his baby mama, Kim Kardashian, to up her fashion game: Now my chick in that new Phoebe Philo. And on Watch the Throne's "Otis," Ye reminds us that couture-level flow is never going on sale/ Luxury rap, the Hermes of verses.
Let us know if you have any favorites to add in the comments!
More from the Details Style Syndicate:
Style Journal // Menswear Trends with Alexander...
By Danny Chung
ALEXANDRE PLOKHOV, most well known for his striking designs, also consulted Versace menswear and co-created Cloak. His generous use of leather and play on silhouettes is what I love about the aesthetic.