Express Yourself: The Beginning

What's up World?! Welcome to the world’s most dangerous style column! Allow me to introduce myself. I am known by many names, but you can call me The Fly Guy. I am here to be your guide through the world of all things fly, and to take you on a journey through the minds of some of the most stylishly creative artists of all time.

First of all, let me ask you this: How has style in Hip-Hop affected you or influenced your personal style? What memories do you have of seeing an artist create a trend that the whole world followed? I asked myself these same questions when given the responsibility of bringing you this column. Looking back, I was definitely inspired by what rappers wore, but I was probably most influenced by the attitude that came along with it. It was, and still is, as if every rapper felt as though they were the illest and flyest person on earth.

There was also a sense of rebellion involved. Rappers did what they wanted to do, when and how they wanted to do it, and didn't care whether you liked it or not. They rocked their hat the way they wanted to rock it, wore their sneakers loosely tied with the tongue popped, and bragged about being the first to wear a brand that nobody was up on yet. If you think about it, Hip-Hop has always been kind of like a style contest. That would probably explain why such a large percentage of lyrical content in Hip-Hop, overall, is dedicated to how fly rappers are. Because of this fact, we like to call style the fifth element of Hip-Hop - unofficially, of course.

When I think of any particular era in Hip-Hop, it's just as easy to remember the clothes, sneakers, hairstyles, and jewelry that were popular, as it is to remember the most popular music of that time. Style in Hip-Hop and in the urban community in general has always come from an inspirational point of view. This means, basically coming from nothing, and wanting things that you really can’t afford. Whether it was that thick rope chain, those designer shades, that $200 pair of sneakers, or that $500 sweater. Rappers were among the few types of people in the hood that could afford the wear these expensive items. This caused everybody to want to be like them, dress like them and live like them.

With their flashy appearance, and braggadocios rhymes, Hip-Hop artists quickly became the ultimate standard of "cool" and the ambassadors of style for the youth around the world. They would drop the names of these expensive brands in their rhymes that nobody had ever heard of, and caused everybody to want to wear that brand too. I remember B.I.G. saying "I stay Coogi down to the socks" and not knowing what the hell he was talking about. That was in, like, '95. It wasn't until the resurgence of Coogi, in about 2000, that I actually dropped $500 on my first sweater (with the hat to match).

Because of their iconic status, rappers have been responsible for setting countless trends in fashion over the last 30 years. Another interesting thing to mention is the (sometimes quick) rise and fall of trends in the Hip-Hop culture. Because of each rapper's quest to be the flyest rapper ever, there is always another trend or brand mention that attempts to outshine the last one. With that being said, most trends in Hip-Hop experience glorious high points as everyone embraces them, and, ultimately, embarrassing low points as everyone disses them…hard. Whether being praised or dissed, though, being stylish in the Hip-Hop community is about doing you - wearing what you feel like, when and how you feel like it, and not caring whether anyone likes it or not.

Over the years, the over saturation of "urban brands" has taken hold. I personally feel like we, the Hip-Hop generation, have lost it. It seems as if we have lost our individuality, our personal sense of style, and our pursuit to be the flyest person on earth. It seems that now we all dress alike. We all wear the same brands, the same sneakers, the same type of hat, etc. Even those of us that claim to be the flyest are just the mirror images of other people who think they are the flyest too.