Currently, the imagery I've been collecting to inspire my new work has all been connected to hip hop in some way. I have been totally intrigued by the stylings of Trinidad James and the gold chains A$AP Ferg rocks in his video for "Shabba Ranks." The over-the-top layering and costume-like feel of this style of adornment has me thinking about the thread between identity, history, culture, and style.
But you can't look at these distinctive looks without taking it back to some of the originals in hip hop culture. So I've been pulling images of Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and of course Slick Rick (to name a few). As the researching and collecting continues I'm curious to learn more about the origins. Does it go back even further? Is there a connection to the ornamentation that we see throughout countries in Africa? I've heard this theory before but the monologue by Pimp C at the beginning of Jay-Z's "F*ckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt" has me thinking about it a little more in the context of these personal projects:
"A little over a year ago I was in bondage, and now I'm back out here reaping the blessings and getting the benefits that go along with it, everything that's out here for kings like us. The reason why we like this, this jewelry and this diamonds and stuff, they don't understand is, because we really from Africa, and that's where all this stuff come from. And we originated from kings, you know what I'm saying? So don't look down on the youngsters because they wanna have shiny things. It's in our genes, know what I'm saying? We just don't all know our history, so—"
My friend, Jessica, and I often discuss the concept of ancestral memory and how unexplained habits and attractions span across generations without necessarily being exposed to those things in your lifetime. I'm sure there are many arguments, tons of research to explore and conversations to be had but this all inspires me. These ideas all inform the concept of "identity" which has been the underlying current in all of my work, so I look forward to see how it all comes together.
P.S. I threw Mr. T in the above collage because I've been wondering if he was the first person in our pop culture history to rock the layer gold chains look.