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.CONTINUE READING