• samwootton159

The Aesthetic Resurgence of the Male Vampire: Hip-Hop’s Punk Wardrobe

The Vampire is counterculture embodied, knocking politely at our conservative politicians’ bedroom doors late at night, asking if they’d like to dance with their overworked demons. From an 18th Century plague across South-eastern Europe to a cape-wearing phantom suavely gliding across the surface of our mass imagination, Vampires have been sex-symbols since their late rebranding. Such anti-heroes have stalked cultures across the entire expanse of human history, but popular culture dictates that the ascension of a particular Vampire- the blood-sucking, overtly sexual male somnambulist- is accompanied by a particular set of punkish ideas.

The worlds of rap music and folktale are, and forever have been, fused. Oral cultures reflecting, distorting and mythologising their respective truths, both art forms revere the ear of the listener. Interpretation is essential. The eye of the listener, though, is equally as important as a foundation to these ideas. How do we construct visual Vampirism and what’s the knock-on effect for our artists? Our first method of coding is the wardrobe.

Fashion is costume, essential to any performance. From Thugger’s ornate Alessandro Trincone dress, to Lil Uzi’s forehead gemstone, the line between lyric and life is, and has been, steadily greyed. So when Playboi Carti labels himself ‘King Vamp’, stomping on stage at CyberWurld adorned in figure-hugging leather and a waterfall of chains, we are left little room but to buy into the myth of the blood-guzzling punk. From Slick Rick to early Andre 3k, Rap has always contained a built-in experimental closet, but this may be the closest we’ve seen to such progressive fashion spectacularly breaching the ‘mainstream’ surface and capsizing the boat. We see endless inspiration drawn from this aesthetic. The punk-rap flow has birthed an entire generation of little vampires; Yung Kayo, Mario Judah and Ken Kar$on but to name a few.

But our new-age Vampirism is not just emblematic of a tentative two-step with the heteronormative, it’s the whole act of getting it in a headlock and forcing it into a stage-dive. We see this aesthetic demonhood more so operating in a looping motion, as referenced in a 2019 interview with Rico Nasty covering Punk-Rap: 'I’ll see straight guys moshing with the gay guys and I love that'. The expression of feminine silhouette and performance of fantasy is both political, and capable of transcendence; we watch as young men dethrone the demons borne from their inner child’s deepest fears. The Vampiric act oozes punk, reclamation of selfhood, badder than bad. Strutting the highway through hell in heels is a long-awaited subversion of stale tropes about the afterlife.

These ideas merely coagulate across the pond, though. European in conception, specific tropes of punkhood and Vampirism are most at home in the land of mossy castles and good wine. ‘I’m a stylish demon, see me rockin’ Givenchy horns’, Newham resident Lancey Foux confesses, on his recent tape, First Degree. His Poison music video constructs him similarly, blood between his teeth and dripping from his lips. Magical Realism is at the helm here, but the way in which this is projected onto real-world affairs is pertinent. Lancey's business relationship with Matthew Williams, head designer at Givenchy, is telling of what it means to be a modern-day Vampire. A polymath. A sex symbol. An idea rather than a set of facts. We hear it screamed from Parisian rooftops and East London studios alike that it’s no longer enough to be a sum of your music; your brand lies in your myth, in your fashion, in the breadth of your creative orchestra. Edward Cullen who? Demon time is no longer white and pasty. Images:

@_samwootton_ @givenchyofficial

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