In 2004, a young Chicago producer named Kanye West released his first studio album: “The College Dropout.” One of the standout songs on the 21-track LP was the song “All Falls Down,” a soulful, four-minute dissection of materialism and insecurity within the African-American community. Remarkably, 15 years after the release of “All Falls Down”, many of West’s musings on self-consciousness and infatuation with status are still as poignant as ever.
As with explosion in popularity of high fashion brands within the African-American community, thanks to references to the brands in hit records by artists such as Future and Lil Pump, there seems to be a clear desire to be affiliated with the wealth that is represented by these brands.
During the track, West would boldly proclaim “We’ll buy a lot of clothes, but we don’t really need ’em / Things we buy to cover up what’s inside / ‘Cause they made us hate ourself and love they wealth.”
While clothing has historically always been somewhat of an indicator of one’s wealth or status within a given society, there’s an inherent problem with chasing these designer brands in urban communities. West was tackling the need of validation from an artificial means that doesn’t respect the African-American community. Compromising financially or ethically, in order to purchase brands that only contribute to the cyclical nature of greed in the African-American community.
As West put it “Drug dealer buy Jordan, crackhead buy crack /And the white man get paid off of all of that… I got a couple past-due bills, I won’t get specific / I got a problem with spendin’ before I get it / We all self-conscious, I’m just the first to admit.”
However, there looks to be a shift away from these high-fashion brands within in the African-American community. Following the release of racially insensitive clothing pieces by brands such as Prada, Gucci (a sweater that imitated blackface) and Burberry (a sweater with a noose fixed around the neck), it seems that West’s warnings may be heeded after all. As the result of these products saw mass backlash against both companies from social media, and many influential people within the African-American community, such as Spike Lee, Russell Simmons and T.I., calling for a boycott of the brands.
T.I. would say in an Instagram post “As a 7 figure/yr customer & long time supporter of your brand I must say…Y’all GOT US f-cked UP!!!” The Atlanta rapper continued, stating “We ALL GOTTA Stop buying,wearing,and supporting this… Our culture RUNS THIS SH-T!!! We (People of color) spend $1.25 TRILLION/year (but are the least respected and the least included) and if we stop buying ANYTHING they MUST correct any and ALL of our concerns. That’s THE ONLY WAY we can get some RESPECT PUT ON OUR NAME!!!!”
It’s yet to be seen the impact of the boycott, but recognizing the issue and calling for an immediate halt of supporting these brands, hints that the infatuation with the brands may be coming to an end within the Black community. Or at the very least, there is a demand for change from the brands. And if change won’t happen, then it may be time for the African-American community to let these brands all fall down.