This Black History month, we here at The Rapfest wanted to shed light on the urban culture and how its influence reaches far beyond music and streetwear. The hip-hop culture has long been the go-to platform for prestige champagne like Dom Pérignon and Louis Roederer Cristal Brut; other prestige brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, the NFL, NBA; other brands like Supreme, the list goes on. The cunning #CULTUREVULTURECOMPLEX boils and stirs up, garnering brands millions; like the beginning of days when this country was built off the backs of slaves without reparations, the virus spreads like wild fire and is still a practice til this day.
Taking me back to the time that renowned NBA player, Allen Iverson became a pioneer in inspiring the NBA’s dress code to evolve; fashion brands like Supreme using artists’ clout to build into the brand it is today became heightened.Supreme founder, James Jebbia, born in the United States, grew up in Crawley, in the outskirts of London during the 1970s. During the early 1980s, according to Jebbia, he would find fashion inspiration from i-D magazine along with The Face.
“It was one of the first magazines that mixed high and low; you’d read about Rei Kawakubo or Katharine Hamnett for the first time, next to Chanel, next to a feature about a girl making dresses at Kensington Market. Whether they were talking about music or fashion, they were on it, and you believed it. It was always where I found out about everything; i-D was very important,” said Jebbia before he relocated back to New York City at the age of 19, in 1983.
In April of 1994, a brand by the name of Supreme opened its doors of their flagship shop on Lafayette in downtown Manhattan and became the home of New York City’s skate culture. At its nucleus, it was a group of rebellious New York skaters and artists who became the store’s staff, crew, and its customers.
Supreme grew to be the embodiment of the downtown Manhattan culture, playing an integral role in its constant regeneration. Skaters, punks, hip-hop heads – the younger generation all gravitated towards Supreme. While it grew into a downtown institution, Supreme established itself as a brand known for its quality, style, and authenticity.
Over its twenty-four-year span, Supreme has partnered with some of our generation’s most groundbreaking designers, artists, photographers, and musicians, such as Shawn Stussy, Eddie Pak, Brendon Babenzian, Richard Avedon to Nas, Shaq, Morrissey, Raekwon, RZA, Three 6 Mafia, and Miles Davis, who have all helped continue to define its unique identity, the attitude.
Now, that is the mission statement and Supreme’s public relation’s definition of the brand.
But, in reality, over the last 15 plus years, the company has built its name off of the backs of the hip-hop culture and the African American community. As the brand partnered with music’s favorite acts such as Raekwon, RZA, Three 6 Mafia, Miles Davis, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, and more, Supreme has without a doubt monopolized on urban culture from 2000- present.
In the early 2000s, the brand began to release a line of T-shirts featuring urban music’s biggest names like classic R&B group The Supremes led by the legendary Diana Ross, to Compton, California’s NWA. In 2005, Supreme partnered with Raekwon with a shirt featuring him holding a Tickle Me Elmo doll, standing next to his bodyguard toting a gun. Next, they featured an image of Wu-tang’s RZA’s mugshot on a black T-shirt.
In the spring of 2006, they then constructed a campaign around Harlem’s Dipset members Jim Jones and Juelz Santana. Over the next seven years, they decided to partner with the likes of Three 6 Mafia, Sean “P Diddy” Combs, Prodigy, and Isaac Hayes to name a few, continuing the trend.
With the placement of these extremely relevant Hip Hop acts pushing their ads, it is without a doubt a skillful tactic used to not only expand its reach and increase its profit margins for beyond its original intended targets but to generate a style already owned and call it Supreme.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2017 and 2018; a popular platform by the name of ItsBizkit owned by Derrick Lawerence has been releasing content featuring his alter ego UncleBiz on Instagram, wearing early 2000’s hip-hop style clothing that includes NBA patches on Air Force 1’s and Pelle Pelle style jackets. Supreme had released photos of their upcoming new spring and summer collection on Instagram, picked up by publications such as XXL and HypeBeast, immediately drawing the attention of the Itbizkit Army.
Itbizkit’s supporters started to voice their opinion on the matter of culture vulturing since Supreme had apparently blocked the Unclebiz Instagram.
“It’s Never about a check or some clout. It’s about how hip-hop culture always seems to be a convenient place for corporations to check the pulse of the people, without giving any credit.” -@itsbizkit
Lawrence (ItsBizkit) is not looking for money for the inspiration behind the pieces in Supreme’s new spring and summer line. Just the acknowledgment that their social media marketing team used his market research and reached out to the NBA for their new business collaboration featuring the NBA’s team logos on Nike Air Force 1’s along with the identical reference to Pelle Pelle who sponsors the ItsBizkit platform and the Supreme jackets.
Big names connected to the urban culture making brands like Supreme morally eminent doesn’t begin and end with this brand. Supreme is a privately held company, and so its finances are almost completely unintelligible. James Jebbia’s net worth is said to be in the neighborhood of over $40 million, but the source of income is unclear.
The sprucing up of models to look like ’90s Harlem’ in order to create compelling lookbooks and collections that will go on to sell. For anything connected to hip-hop, from the color and fragrance, that of which is most talked about; whether the drug-user, gunplay narrative or the totally cool fashion vibes only produced by the naturally eclectic style of a black mind, all of which executives approve to sell.
The #CULTUREVULTURECOMPLEX as a severe disease must be cured immediately. It cannot go on like any plague; but just like any plague, it can be stopped.