By: Jonathan Barratt
Being one of the most popular types of music and types of pop culture, rap music presents a great advertising opportunity. Designer clothing brands have expertly stepped in and now rap music has a large influence on the designer clothing industry and advertising.
As of 2019, according to BuzzAngle Music, (company that works on the US Music Industry Report), rap music is the most popular genre of music in the United States. Rap music accounted for 21.7% of music album consumption in the US. It is on track to continue to be the top genre of music. Being the most consumed genre of music in the United States, rap music also has a very large influence on mainstream culture.
One thing that is common in rap music is flaunting wealth and building a persona as a rapper. Rappers do this by wearing expensive clothing, driving expensive cars, living a luxurious life, and rapping about it all. Rappers many times will shout out clothing brands in songs. This can be because they have an endorsement deal, or they simply like the brand. According to Rolling Stone, “Gucci” has been mentioned 3,000 times in English rap lyrics (Gayomali, GQ). It is the most named brand in rap in the last 15 years according to GQ and Genius.
Brands have used raps mainstream popularity and artists to advertise their products. They send artists free clothing items to wear, sign endorsement deals where they feature artists in ads, and use rappers in runway fashion shows. This recent and quickly growing trend has included notable rappers such as Migos and Gucci Mane. Gucci Mane did a full ad campaign for Gucci(pictured).
Migos have also done a lot with designer brands. This picture shows them wearing clothing from Versace on the red carpet.
Rap and fashion have grown even closer. Rapper Kanye West, a long-time fashion icon in rap, has become a lead designer at Adidas and created his own clothing brand under Adidas called Yeezy. The crazy part about Yeezy is that Kanye never did anything in fashion originally. Kanye had such a following from his rap music that people wanted to start dressing like him. One thing lead to another and now if Kanye wears any article of clothing from any brand it instantly sells out from all stores. This was shown in 2015 when his Yeezy line sold out immediately upon its first release (Weisman, Business Insider). His influence goes so deep that his decisions outside of the music industry affect the purchasing decisions of others. People like his music so much they want to be like him and brands have recognized this and started to capitalize.
Rappers have gotten endorsements with brands like Drake with Nike or Run DMC with Adidas (Wang, Rolling Stone). Louis Vuitton hired Virgil Abloh as their creative director in 2018 (Wang, Rolling Stone). Prior, he worked closely with Fendi and Kanye West. He also started his own brand called Off White. This brand is extremely popular amongst rappers and made Virgil popular with rappers. Abloh also designed an album cover and clothing release for rapper Westside Gunn. Now Abloh works with rappers and makes clothing for Louis Vuitton that fit the culture they represent (Salamone, NSS Magazine).
Virgil Abloh designed clothing for Louis Vuitton(pictured below left) and album cover for Westside Gun(pictured below right).
Overall, the fashion industry has leaned heavily on the rap industry for mainstream exposure, but also inspiration. This has happened through product placement, advertisements, signature clothing lines, and mentions in rap music.
Gayomali, Chris. “A Statistical Analysis of the Most Popular Fashion Designers in Rap.” GQ, GQ, 9 Mar. 2017, www.gq.com/story/statistical-analysis-of-rap-and-fashion-designers
“How Hip-Hop Fashion Went from the Streets to High Fashion.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 27 Jan. 2018, www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-ms-ig-hip-hop-fashion-streets-couture-20180125-htmlstory.html
Levinas, Talia. “Rap and Fashion.” VCU Scholars Compass, www.scholarscompass.vcu.edu/uresposters/111/
“Modern Hip-Hop’s Favorite Fashion Brands, By The Numbers.” Genius, www.genius.com/a/modern-hip-hops-favorite-fashion-brands-by-the-numbers
Salamone, Lorenzo. “All Album Covers Designed by Virgil Abloh.” Nss Magazine, Nss Magazine, 18 June 2020, www.nssmag.com/en/art-design/22790/album-cover-virgil-abloh/image:257257
Wang, Amy X. “Rap’s Ascent Is Bringing a Whole New Money Stream to Music.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 3 Aug. 2018, www.rollingstone.com/pro/features/raps-ascent-is-bringing-a-whole-new-money-stream-to-music-699972/
Watson, Amy. “Music Album Consumption in the U.S. by Genre 2018.” Statista, 24 Sept. 2020, www.statista.com/statistics/310746/share-music-album-sales-us-genre/
Weisman, Aly. “People Are Going Nuts after Kanye West’s New Adidas Sneaker Line Immediately Sells Out.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 24 Aug. 2015, www.businessinsider.com/kanye-west-adidas-yeezy-boosts-sold-out-ebay-2015-8
(Kanye West Yeezy show zoomed out photo): The Atlantic, 2016, cdn.theatlantic.com/thumbor/VxmktvNl-sl4Spxin3p7OAyo9sc=/0x483:1489×1321/720×405/media/img/mt/2016/02/IMG_5177/original.jpg
(Kanye West Yeezy show close up): Brooke, Randy. High Snobiety, 2020, static.highsnobiety.com/thumbor/EmEjd16hkMgClJ3FRJ_xR0tYK5Q=/1200×720/static.highsnobiety.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/02191858/yeezy-season-8-live-stream-feature.jpg.
(Westside Gun, Pray for Paris album artwork photo): Genius, 2020, genius.com/albums/Westside-gunn/Pray-for-paris
(Gucci Mane in bathtub photo): HypeBeast, 2019, image-cdn.hypb.st/https%3A%2F%2Fhypebeast.com%2Fimage%2F2019%2F09%2Fgucci-mane-gucci-cruise-collaboration-album-cover-announcement-4-0.jpg?quality=95&w=1170&cbr=1&q=90&fit=max.
(Migos at Met Gala photo): Page Six, 2018, pagesix.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/09/migos-met-gala-2018.jpg?quality=80&strip=all.
(Louis Vuitton denim and backpack photo): Wonderland Magazine, Wonderland Magazine, 2020, media.wonderlandmagazine.com/uploads/2020/06/N40380_PM1_Worn-view.jpg.