The Art of Androgyny

Staff Writer: Ian Clark

Over the course of a few years, rap has become increasingly more controversial. From its explicit lyrics and outlandish live performances, to the bizarre fashion of the industry. But it seems as if the way rappers dress consistently attracts itself to pretentious fashion buffs and ignorant hip-hop enthusiasts alike.

Atlanta-sourced rapper and peer-proclaimed trendsetter Young Thug has always pushed the boundaries. Since his rise, Thug has prided himself in being different. Even without delving into his clothing taste, the star has an extremely subjective discography alone. He slurs his (extremely explicit) lyrics together in almost all his songs, and if he isn’t doing that, he’s yelling, or spitting rapid-fire staccato triplet flows. These off-kilter styles of rap translate directly to his taste in high fashion.

In his 2015 music video for his viral song “Power”, he’s seen wearing multiple outfits: all of which incorporate womenswear pieces. Despite this being towards the beginning of his career, it kickstarted a long future of this “not a care in the world” attitude. In his Calvin Klein campaign, Thug gives a nod to his critics who claim he can’t be a rapper wearing women’s clothes.

“There is no such thing as gender. In my world, of course, it [doesn’t] matter. You could be a gangster with a dress, or you could be a gangster with baggy pants.” He is seen in the some of the advertisements wearing full womenswear looks, all of which were paired with the campaign’s tagline, completed with Thug’s phrase of choice: “I let live in #mycalvins” and “I disobey in #mycalvins.”

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Young Thug in his 2016 Calvin Klein campaign.

It was no surprise that Thugs choice of clothing stirred controversy in the community. However, at some point, hip-hop fans must question if this judgement is validated, prejudiced, or biased. If the culture questions Young Thug, artists like Andre 3000 and Prince also have to be considered.

Andre 3000 of Outkast (also from Atlanta) was wearing outfits that defined “flamboyant” years before Young Thugs of the new generation were even born. For every bizarre outfit that Thug has worn, there’s hundreds that Andre has worn. He’s done everything: from vibrant wigs, to disco inspired high-waisted flared trousers. If you can name it, there’s almost a guarantee that he’s been pictured in it, and that he’s worn it with more exuberance and glamour than anyone else could have. In recent years, 3000 has even voiced his respect for Young Thug. In a 2017 profile with Complex, Andre says “He’s exciting. There’s no box. He’s all over the place…It’s saying, don’t get too comfortable with me. That’s one of my mottos: Don’t let people get too comfortable with what you’re doing.’

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Andre 3000 shot by Richard Burbridge. Courtesy of GQ Magazine UK.

Enough has been said: “Young Thug dresses crazy, but Andre 3000 did it before him.” Despite this, there’s still someone very essential to be considered.

Prince was on a different level of fashion. Despite him saying “I wear what I want because I don’t really like clothes,” according to the Guardian: he practically gave mainstream androgyny a new definition: performing in glittery pantsuits (some of which exposed his backside), high black platforms, and dark eyeliner. Of course, none of this stunted his musical success.

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Prince performing in a black crop-top. Photo by Rob Verhorst. Courtesy of Pitchfork.

At the time of his peak, this was the pinnacle of the culture. Standing out, being loud, and not caring. The problem only comes when people who idolized Prince as a fashion icon, criticize artists like Young Thug and other genre contemporaries of his (such as Philidelphia native Lil Uzi Vert, who has also been censured for his clothing choices.)

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Although Lil Uzi Vert is on the less extravagant end of androgyny, he is known for his refusal to stick to the status quo of mainstream fashion. Photo by Tommaso Boddi. Courtesy of The Fader.

Although rappers like Uzi may be on the more muted end of androgyny, artists on the female end of the spectrum are loud and in charge. Rico Nasty broke into the scene in late 2017 with music videos like “Key Lime OG” with a style that was unmatched by any rapper, let alone female rapper, at the time. She exceeded any genre or style that any of her observers could describe her as. Although her wardrobe at the time was considerably less ostentatious, it preceded the next two years of wild card looks. Regarding her off-putting visual, she told The Fader, “Women are on this pedestal of how we’re supposed to look and smell…Well I’m breaking that standard and the window on [them.]” The long neon green hair, tight pants, and 2-inch platform skate shoes sported in the aforementioned music video later eventually evolved into a tall spiked mohawk (reminiscent of someone who may have been a sex pistols fanatic in the mid-70s), baggy pants draped in heavy metal chains, and silver 5-inch platform cyberpunk-esque boots.

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Punk-rap icon Rico Nasty shot by Ben Taylor for The Fader.

Young Thug, Rico Nasty, and Andre 3000 are the perfect example of exceeding standards. People want artists to express themselves, but who made it a rule that it should be limited to the music? The youth are simply utilizing the path that was paved for them, and they’re making the act of doing so an avant-garde artform.

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