Her Pistol Go: A$AP Rocky, “Fashion Killa” & Female Subjectivity

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By Caitlin White

Feminism isn't relegated to scholarly papers given by fist-pounding women at lecterns, it isn't housed solely in snarky publications like Jezebel, or even confined to riot grrrl rock records. No, positive portrayals of women and subversion of gender norms has been sprouting up in the most unlikely of places—in hip-hop music. For a genre that generally discusses women as disposable objects used to help confirm a rapper's general swag-level or describes women as items rated on a good to bad scale solely based on sex-appeal, finding a track that praises and uplifts women for characteristics other than beauty or sex appeal is a rare feat. Yet, littered with sexual signifiers as it may be, female-affirming elements are not wholly lacking from rap. Every once in a while, a track comes along that feels like it actually makes an effort to understand, describe, and praise women as sentient beings and not just passive receptacles for dicks.

For those of us women who do enjoy listening to hip-hop, who love songs like "F***in Problem" but still take issue with the way femininity is so often equated entirely with sex, the track  "Fashion Killa" comes as a surprising breath of fresh air. It's off A$AP Rocky's debut album Long Live A$AP—a record that has generated enough controversy and coverage in itself—a Village Voice cover story, Pitchfork accolades and a curt SPIN dismissal have marked this album as a divisive force. Hell, it even made it into the hoity-toity pages of The New Yorker. A$AP is reasserting New York's place in the hip-hop world through a unique conglomeration of styles and musical forces, but he is also establishing a new norm for acceptance of themes in the genre that have been traditionally shunned. Aside from this track that reps female subjectivity hard, A$AP has also been very vocal about his support for homosexuality. Due to his strong ties to the fashion world, many of his close friends are gay, and instead of assuming the "don't ask don't tell" mindset Rocky has openly embraced these relationships.

But more than the album and its many controversial talking points, I want to talk about the song on his record in which A$AP name-drops 50+ fashion designers and praises the woman he loves over a dreamy tripped-out Friendzone beat. A$AP clearly is attracted to women and likes having sex with them—a characteristic that believe it or not, both genders share. But so often the praise of sex gets in the way of discussing any other features that a partner might have to offer, something that hip-hop is especially guilty of. However, in this song, A$AP reveals that he's attracted to this woman's mind and personality, and since one of his main modes of communicating is through fashion, he indicates this interest through that medium.

In the same world where Rick Ross flippantly drops a line about drugging his date without her knowing, A$AP has created a song to praise a woman that only mentions sex in veiled references, and never even once addresses her body. It's not that A$AP is some sort of angel or prude, or that he should be, but themes in this track supersede the generalized ways in which a lot of rap songs demean women. Rocky centers the track around various designer brands, and though name-dropping couture brands is something that rappers have been doing forever, he takes his fashion dedication to the next level. When both Kanye and A$AP recently wore skirts, the media had a field day feasting on notions of sexuality, fashion, and modes of dress. Rocky's indulgence in high-fashion is nothing new for the hip-hop scene, but he wields it as a force to embrace homosexuality and pen a respectful love song about a girl, taking the notions of clothing and its cultural impact in hip-hop a step farther.

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  • ah

    Ah yes. What a change of pace to hear a rapper that doesn’t subjugate women. Mind you, this guy also wrote “told that bitch, hop up on my dick, rolled up on her quick, in a six, told her suck a dick, motorboat her tits, I’m the shit…”. His apparent views on women are no different than any other stereotypical rapper. He just happens to be very trendy (which is not bad!), thus making him popular among so many people. He’s another rapper with virtually nothing to say, rapping over sick beats that make people want to dance/party/whatever. Now, I’m a female who enjoys listening to him (as I mentioned, the production of his songs is awesome), but suggesting that he’s “different” than these rappers you criticize is baseless. Obviously, I don’t his personal views, so I could very well be wrong about them… But judging by certain aspects of his songwriting, he’s no feminist hahaha.

  • https://www.facebook.com/jeremyj8 BigJerm

    I dig the feminist perspective here and what you were going for in general, but I find the lack of lyrical citations and analysis to be a little disappointing.

    Fashion Killa has slowly become one of my favorite songs on his CD after many listens (and I don’t really know why), so when I saw the title of this article I got all excited and hopeful that someone took the time to break down the lyrics and content in a meaningful way.

    Don’t get me completely wrong, I’m still psyched that you wrote about feminism, hip-hop and Rocky, I was just hoping for something a little deeper rather than just scratching the surface of the overall theme. Cool read, though & like I said, I dig your perspective :)

  • Jay Thom

    I’ve always been puzzled by his lines “fuck a metrosexual, suck a dick, i’m disrespectful” from ‘Demons’.

    Also, I like the song a lot but have a problem with him getting so much media praise for being into fashion and not just expensive designer names or whatever. There is no ‘curating’ happening here, it’s like he’s just rattling off the Shopbop site index or something. I’m pretty sure people who like fashion don’t just like anything by every designer, all the time.

    I generally like this piece tho!

  • ash

    He may not be objectifying women in this song specifically, but I hear no hint of female empowerment on the track either.

  • Phrrrp

    He likes a woman because of her fashion sense. Is that really less superficial?

  • MG

    > He isn’t choosing her based on her material things, rather her own selection of material things are part of her personality, a part that draws him in.

    What? How is that any less superficial?

    You can’t make ASAP seem like a sensitive dude. One song doesn’t turn around his image of being just another homophobic, misogynistic rapper.

  • CRAMZY

    Wait….he calls her his bitch in this first lines of the song…I’m so lost right now.

  • http://moritatmusic.com Konstantin

    Yo, ASAP Rocky is a talentless clown and a novelty and completely embarrassing as a rapper, lyricist, artist, musician etc. It’s just that he’s on a fashionable wave at the moment. He’s basically the New York faux-hood antipode to Justin Bieber.
    But, the Drum’s remixx of Automatic Lover is FIRE! right now – http://www.moritatmusic.com/news/

    Peace

  • Linda

    Yo, I really enjoyed this. I listen to rap all the time cause I love it, but I am also a feminist so this is problematic.

    ASAP is a lovely example of the changes in our society. Not perfect obviously, but he has some moments where its evident he is very progressive. Like in the purple swag video when he has the close up of the white girl rapping his song while wearing gold teeth, and it switches between him doing exactly the same thing… Idk its just like they equal, she raps and looks hard and he does too, she ain’t just shaking her ass. that said there are other videos fveaturing girls making ot in the shower behind him. He progressive doe. Also he has expressed support for female artists a lto and just seems to be some feminist hope in the hip hop wolrld! He did make the song same bitch doe…

    Write more articles about feminist asap rocky!! Excellent piece