Hip-Hop Aesthetics

Materialism or Self-Expression?

By Marcus McAlpin


Visual appeal has always played a major role in the hip-hop machine, but now it seems the aesthetically pleasing aspects of an individual can surpass their musical talent. Airy synthesizers, auto tune, hypnotizing melodies, $1500 jeans, dyed hair, gold teeth, drug addiction, Caucasian women—these elements, among many others, have become an industry standard aesthetic for a new wave of artists. The balance in this new sub-genre has been altered from the previous norms, while the idea of what is and isn’t talent is slowly becoming a blurry debate.

Ian Connors has been coined “the modern day Renaissance man.” At 22, he’s a controversial stylist and homie to stars such as Kanye West and Asap Rocky. The general consensus is that once you’re taken under this young man’s wing, you blow up over night. Enter new artist, Playboi Carti, with his slow flow and immense fashion sense. He has known Ian for quite some time, so a collaboration was inevitable. Playboi recorded in Atlanta among the Awful Records crew, but with Ian Connor’s new management came great change. The visuals he began to incorporate were beautiful. Whether the bizarre scenes in the video for “Broke Boi,” or the premeditated fashion choices for the Icytwat remix of the “Talk” music video, it’s blatant Carti has found a solid identity in this new aesthetic scene.

With rappers like Playboi Carti and Lil Yachty getting comfortable at their crafts, the notions have bent on what it takes to become a game-changer in the current industry. New faces surface every day via the Internet. From World Star to Noisey, one finds themselves weaving through new musicians. But it’s finding out the essence of this new scene that proves harder than stated. Calling some of these guys rappers just doesn’t fit the profile. Not because they aren’t impressive with their musicality, but rather, the music just flat out doesn’t sound like ordinary rap. Take Madeintyo for example, an Atlanta up and comer whose short bursts of flow encompass a new way to express oneself, or flex, rather. While not extremely intricate, the feelings in his songs still give off magnetic vibes to the subculture of pure youth. In his simplicity, the listeners uncover analogies and metaphors that seem to define current pop culture points left and right.

Father and his Awful Records camp from Atlanta, Georgia, Goth Money from Washington, D.C., Divine Council from Richmond, Virginia—all these groups have somber lyrics and are fully involved in a dark wave. But there’s another side of this new movement in music where happiness prevails alongside bands of crisp $20 bills. In the recent past it seemed essential for these young (usually black) men to show their strong connections to a street life, to their neighborhoods, and their willingness to commit violence. There are now more artistic facets allowing these individuals to present their expressions thoroughly. It’s through this new element that artists are finding fresh audiences with open ears and open eyes.

Lil Yachty has cherry red braids capped off with beads straight off the head of a 12-year-old girl circa 2002. His songs have been categorized as “bubblegum trap,” while his prominent voice blankets listeners in a narcotics-fueled drawl. Despite his sound, the young man from Georgia claims to not partake in alcohol or drugs. Yachty seems to have blown up over night, at least to the public eye. Formerly known as Lil Boat, Yachty, along with Ian Connor, was front and center in Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 show, modeling for the hip-hop legend’s fashion line. His new found fame is a perfect example of this methodology emerging in hip hop.

Hip hop and rap are growing in almost every aspect. This is simply one example of a guy like Lil Yachty bringing a modern renaissance effect to the table. Diving into enchanting melodies that seem to capture the crux of today’s lost teenagers is proving quite effective. With producers like Burberry Perry and Gold well-established, exploring new avenues of voice projection and vocal effects has become common. Wintertime Zi, Lil Yachty, Spooky Black (Corbin Raps), and sometimes even Post Malone, are all bringing melodic remnants of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Nate Dogg. With these unique, new fashion trends, emerging styles of music are born every day.

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