A Look Into Hip-Hop’s Ever-Tightening Vicegrip on Culture

Esketit. Yeezys. YOLO. Twerk. Absolutely none of these phrases, and many more, would’ve made any tidbit of sense 20 years ago. Whether it be Lil Pump, Kanye West, Drake, or multiple other artists, hip hop has begun to encompass more and more of our language, interactions, and views on the world. This trend doesn’t seem to be halting anytime soon either. Neilsen Music reports that Hip Hop / R&B has surpassed rock as the most dominant genre in the U.S. and is projected to continue pulling away from the rest of the genres. Because of this, Hip Hop, in turn, will seize a tighter grip on our culture than it already does. With this reality in mind, it is worth looking at the main areas hip hop does and will continue to influence, politics and fashion.


Hip Hop has always been about being brash and countering the mainstream culture. Since the lambasting of the police by the N.W.A. and Public Enemy to preaching for gender equality by Lauryn Hill, hip hop has given an opportunity for views that would usually be taboo to be brought to the public forefront. This almost reckless approach to music is displayed most clearly through lines like Ice Cube’s opening line in Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.,

“F**k the police, coming straight from the underground

A young ni**a got it bad, ’cause I’m brown”

The success of the film Straight Outta Compton, for example, portrays society’s recognition of this reality. It topped the box office for 4 weeks straight, and artists who were involved witnessed their past works experience a significant revival in streaming and sales. Although hip hop entrenched itself in the political issues of the ’90s and combated issues that artists thought were important, and still continued to do so underground, mainstream hip hop throughout the late ’90s and early 2000s started to revolve around dance rap, crunk music, and club hits like “Get Low” by Lil Jon or “Cyclone” by Baby Bash. Although rappers like Mos Def continued to carry on conscious rap, it fell under the shadow of this increasingly popular genre of catchy hip hop. However, it has made a revival recently, most notably by the Kendrick Lamar album, To Pimp A Butterfly. 

From the introspective shrieking of “u”, to the internal monologue on the value of a dollar based on Lamar’s interaction with a homeless man in “How Much a Dollar Cost”, to lamenting the corruptive powers of wealth in “Institutionalized”, Kendrick covers a wide host of political issues more comprehensively than any other relatively popular hip hop artist in a significant amount of time. After the release and wide praise of this album, political hip hop begun to take a revived role in music. There are many examples of this, but the most obvious of them is ALL-AMERIKKAN BADA$$ by Joey Bada$$. He constructs an entire album based on issues he finds important, mainly concentrated around police brutality and institutional racism.

It is brash, unforgiving, and almost begins to sound like a plea for help as the album goes on, with songs like “Y U DON’T LOVE ME? (MISS AMERIKKKA)” wherein Joey uses a metaphor, constructing America as a woman he is in a relationship in who is constantly disrespecting him while he begs for her approval.

Hip Hop has always had, and will continue to have a strong influence on the political climate in this country, but it is also beginning to greatly influence fashion trends.


Although hip hop and fashion have been intertwined since its inception, it is now taking on unprecedented importance throughout the industry. The b-boy culture surrounding the early inception skyrocketed the popularity of sportswear brands like Rebook, FUBU, Nike and Adidas, but with the increase of money in hip hop, rappers started to take ownership of luxury brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Polo Ralph Lauren, and many others from the traditional buyer  of these brands, a preppy, rich, middle-aged man. Now those brands are associated with artists like Migos and Kanye West

In more modern times, rappers are associated with some of the most expensive and sought-after brands in fashion. A$AP Rocky, for example, elevates the popularity of brands simply by being seen in public wearing that brand. The same goes for artists like Travis Scott and Pharell Williams. However, hip hop artists have begun to create their own legacy within fashion, the most notable example being Kanye West. His Yeezy shoes have become arguably one of the most iconic footwear brands. The extremely pricey shoes (the Red October Yeezys attain a resale value of about $5,200) have become coveted by almost everyone, hip hop and non-hip hop fans alike.

Whether it be politics, fashion, or a plethora of other attributes of society hip hop affects that would require an article at least twice this length, rappers are increasingly taking a stronger influence over our culture. Let’s just hope that influence isn’t led by Lil Pump.