Is Kanye West and Jay-Z's brand-obsessed 'luxury rap' the moment hip-hop lost touch with its roots? The Financial Times posed this question in a recent article, and it seems pretty relevant both in terms of our culture right now and the fashion industry. The good old days of gangster rap, which seemed to talk mostly about guns and drugs has changed big time. Now rappers are toting Birkin bags, sitting in the front row of Fashion Week and name dropping Givenchy and Anna Wintour in their songs. That's a pretty far cry from gang violence.
Excerpts from the article are definitely interesting to say the least: "Kanye West describes Watch the Throne as “luxury rap.” Ostentation and rap have a long history, going back to the first emcees flaunting their gold chains in the 1980s. Yet Watch the Throne takes the swagger to unprecedented levels. Scarcely a track goes by without its creators boasting about their elite lifestyle, from West relaxing on his private jet (“Sorry I’m in pyjamas but I just got off the pj”) to Jay-Z’s high-fashion shopping tips (“I dress in Dries [Van Noten] and other boutique stores in Paris”). The roll call of brands – Gucci, Rolls-Royce, Hublot, Porsche – is relentless. The cover of the album, devised by Givenchy fashion designer Riccardo Tisci, is embossed with gold metallic patterns."
"There’s a surreal disconnection between the gilded values that Jay-Z and West project and the daily struggle faced by many of their fans. Rap prides itself on being street smart, on keeping it real. Does Watch the Throne mark the moment that it sold its soul?"
"West’s claim to be “the voice of this generation” is egotistical – but not totally delusional. When he brags about his “rock star lifestyle” in Watch the Throne, he makes a provoking comparison. The decadence in which he revels (“Coke on her black skin/Make a stripe like a zebra”) is no different from Led Zeppelin doing infamous things with mud sharks and groupies or the Rolling Stones setting up court in the south of France as tax exiles. Rock stars are allowed to get away with behaving like louche sex-crazed plutocrats; indeed it used to be part of the job description."