While OG purists still side-eye hip-hop’s lust for skinny pants and Vans, today’s stadium status rappers are comfortably stunting in feminine getups and remixing the rules of style
When Lil Wayne grabbed a crotch-full of cheetah print jeggings during his 2011 MTV VMA performance, slander ensued. A disparaging Jim Jones tweeted: “Real men don’t wear spandex,” the Twitter account @Waynes_Jeggings hatched and blogs mocked the Young Money captain’s “gay” jeans x leggings. Seven days later, when Tha Carter IV debuted with 964,000 copies, it was Weezy and his tighties that had the last laugh. Chuckling right beside him are his gender-bending peers like Kanye West and Lil B, artists locked on dismantling hip-hop style norms in the name of artistic expression. But will they ever be allowed to play dress up in peace?
While their antics may not sway staunch traditionalists, seeing influential rappers abandoning the Timbs and triple-XL dress code is already opening minds—skinny’s the new baggy. Long before the best rapper alive was squeezing into lady pants, Pharrell was converting rap fans from drooping denims to Japanese hipster couturiers. Outkast’s eccentric half, Andre 3000 shamelessly flaunted wigs and high-waist gauchos, and Cee-Lo was man enough to pose in four wedding dresses in Gnarls Barkley’s Odd Couple promos. Yeezy upped the men-in-skirts count earlier this year, stunning fans every night of his and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne tour by sporting a knee-length Givenchy kilt. Prior, the hip-haute clotheshorse closed last year’s Coachella Festival modeling an Italian women’s blouse. Both ensembles made blog headlines, but it was Kanye’s praised performance that made the lasting impression, proving that talent trumps a flowy shirt any day.
It’s no coincidence that the main tide-changers are primarily oddball artists whose tastes can be justified as “costumes” befitting their weirdo tendencies. But it’s an audacity that’s gradually being normalized. With artists like Lady Gaga and Ke$ha being applauded for flirting with androgyny, there’s no better time for their male counterparts to push the sartorial limit. More telling, however, is Lil Wayne and company’s impact on future male style daredevils. Shock-a-holic Lil B has openly declared an agenda to convert hip-hop’s narrow-minded—who knows if the Based God would be comfortable rocking lower-than-low V-necks and chandelier earrings if it weren’t for Yeezy’s rebellious streak? On a smaller scale, 19-year-old Dallas rap newbie DPhil Spanglishman, is spearheading what he calls the X-Y Movement, wearing floral tights and red lipstick as a salute to his softer side.
In 2010, singer Miguel, known for donning futuristic threads Spock would rock, told VIBE: “I’m unapologetic about anything I’ve ever worn. [But] at the end of the day I can’t say, ‘Pick up harem pants or an iridescent trench coat.” The goal isn’t to transform average fans into walking glow sticks, but to reward male entertainers with creative license and ultimately, accept difference. No “no homo.” —Tracy Garraud