Rap has always been at the forefront of society due to its numerous somewhat negative and controversial headline making lyrics. In fact, just a few months ago, Tyler the Creator was banned for three to five years from entering the United Kingdom due to controversial lyrics from 2009.
But instead of rap gracing the headlines for all the misdemeanors that follow the genre, 2015 saw a re-birth of rap to a broad spectrum with wide reaching stories such as N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton”, a headline grabbing war of words between Drake and Meek Mill as well as a heap of mixtapes and albums that captured the interest of new and old rap fans alike.
One of the major points of 2015 was that there were not less albums that were all major hits, but instead multiple good albums with the occasional outstanding hit.
Drake kicked off the year with If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, which did go platinum and has proven to be a nice stand in while fans await his release of Views From The 6, which will release on April 29. Kendrick Lamar followed up Section.80 with To Pimp a Butterfly that was an album that had fans split, but in this writers opinion, one of the most influential albums of this decade. The summer gave us the arrival of A$AP Rocky’s sophomore album in At.Long.Last.A$AP as well as upcoming sensation Vince Staple’s debut album Summertime 06.
Those were just the big hits of the year. There were plenty of more big albums. To name a few of the remaining albums, in no particular order, Tyler the Creator released Cherry Bomb, Travi$ Scott released Rodeo, Big Sean released Dark Sky Paradise, Wale released The Album About Nothing, Joey Bada$$ put his name out there with his debut album in B4.DA.$$, Earl Sweatshirt put out I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside, Action Bronson released Mr. Wonderful, Meek Mill released Dreams Worth More Than Money, and Future released Dirty Sprite 2 while also collaborating with Drake on What a Time To Be Alive.
Rap has returned to its prominent stature.
While rap has always been an engaging music scene, this past year was a non-stop roller coaster of releases, which had been nothing short of great. When Gucci Mane is releasing four mixtapes in Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert, and just about every star in rap has a scheduled released various mixtapes, albums, EPs, and/or singles, you know the year has been a success.
While this begs the question as to whether or not 2016 can post such the tremendous amount of content that 2015 has been providing, my motto is to live in the present. Thus far we have received The Life of Pablo (Kanye West), Khalifa (Wiz Khalifa), Untitled Unmastered (Kendrick Lamar), and various other albums. On top of physical albums, we have gotten confirmation of Drake’s highly anticipated Views From The Six.
As of right now, the genre making the moves to fuse sports, fashion, and music together is rap.
Through minimally putting together the intricacies of costume design that preached modern day minimalism in the hit movie “Straight Outta Compton“, Skepta promoting Supreme New York’s Fall/Winter ’15 line, and Off-White designer Virgil Abloh releasing a 30-minute grime mix and designing blue collar collections for his fashion house, rap has cultivated itself from just being music to being a broad generalization for street culture as it’s most exposable layer.
Just this past summer, Kith founder and creative director Ronnie Fieg collaborated with the New York Yankees on a NewEra 59Fitted hat in which he promoted it through utilizing New York’s most popular figures. Amongst them were hip-hop artists Joey Bada$$, and Action Bronson, as well as Victor Cruz, while also further utilizing the connection to sports to open up a pop-up store to sell the hats at Yankee Stadium.
Designers such as Kith have bridged the gap in 2015, which has only strengthened the foundation of the bridges between the three core aspects of pop culture; fashion, sports, music.
As an artist, Drake, heavily affiliated with the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Toronto Raptors through his label, Octobers Very Own (OVO), made strides in the sports scene with the work he did this summer in his feud with Meek Mill, utilizing Joe Carter, a former, and likely forgotten, Toronto Blue Jay as the cover art for his diss track Back to Back. The Raptors and OVO also collaborated for Drake Night on November 25, where, during their game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, fans in attendance received exclusive OVO themed Raptors t-shirts.
Athleisure has proven to be its own subculture with brands such as Nike, whom in the past, outside of Air Jordans, wouldn’t even look to break into the industry, galvanize an ever growing community with athletic wear basics. That stretches out to brands such as Reigning Champ, who make a living off of that market, solely.
Perhaps the greatest link of hip-hop and fashion can be found in one of the genre’s most polarizing and enigmatic figures in Kanye West. Hosting his Yeezy Season 3 show at Madison Square Garden, West debuted the entirety of The Life of Pablo, through which he exhibited models showing off of the seasons latest trends.
Sports fit hand in hand with fashion, and fashion is now synonymous with hip-hop. The three are overlapping features whether you see athletes wearing the latest pair of Yeezys, or hip-hop artists collaborating with brands or sitting court side at Madison Square Garden.
Those are the three pillars that categorize street culture at the moment and clearly the most influential is in the form of music. Without music, sports and fashion would exist as two unique entities but with the strides made in rap in 2015, all three fall under the same roof and strive on the success of one another.
Rap in 2015 has not only proved to be standout and at the forefront of culture from a musical perspective, but also from a fashion and sports oriented perspective where it has elevated street culture to new heights where the success of all three pillars dictate the success of the emerging street culture trend both in the United States and in the United Kingdom.