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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Attention Rappers, Your Wardrobes Suck
Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I go to a lot, I mean A LOT, of Hip-Hop shows and recently I’ve seen a new trend that illustrates why some artists get famous and why some stay unknown. It’s the clothes, man. I realize that when some rappers labels themselves as underground artists they feel they should reject everything that mainstream Hip-Hop does. This is a fantastic way to stay completely unknown and keep that nine to five at Kinkos. If you’re ever going to be a success you have to look at what those mainstream artists who are popular are doing and make it work for you. Step one, like with any job interview, and believe me every performance an artist does is essentially a job interview because one never has any idea if anyone of importance is in the crowd, is dress to impress.

Humans are visual animals, it’s why we have that old saying, seeing is believing. We remember what we see very easily and put a lot of weight into what we see as being the truth. You can lie to us with your voice and tell us you’re an acrobat, but if we see you trip and fall we know you tripped and fell. Right now a lot of rappers are talking a good game about how dope they are, but they’re tripping and falling in terms of following up on that with even the simplest of requirements. It’s become an epidemic, rappers getting up on stage dressed like they just got out of bed, and I’m tired of it. While this may work for open mics when all you want is three minutes to spit in front of your friends, it’s a huge mistake when you’re supposed to be doing a show. I was at an event on Saturday where every artist hit the stage wearing old jeans and a t-shirt. The occasional baseball cap was thrown in for good measure, as well, but nobody made any effort to match their clothes up or color coordinate and in at least one case I don't even think dude washed his shirt. Dress like that and, barring a Canibus or Chino XL-like lyrical showcase, your performance will be forgotten by the time the concert go-er hits the parking lot. When one performs the point is to be remembered, so leave your everyday wear at home and come correct. This is a SHOW people!

There have been some great examples I’ve seen recently of underground artists sticking in my memory due to their wardrobe. The first time I saw Mindspray C.O.N.C.E.P.T. was wearing huge fake sunglasses and had his hair spiked out at all sides. Domer’s fro and LEFTist’s trademark funky hat are also things that stick in the mind. At a later show Dyalekt would wear a black dashiki and matching kufi, again, something that people did not forget three seconds after the group left the stage. I also recall a show by Divine Profitz where I can’t remember a single lyric they spit BUT I can vividly picture the black and red outfits they performed in. I remember Insanate performing in all red a few months back and Fresh Daily rockin an extremely bright multi colored outfit for one of his shows. An artist doesn’t even have to go that far if they don’t want to, though. For Substantial’s last CT performance he simply wore a shirt with his name / logo on it. The point being it was SOMETHING. People didn’t leave the show saying they dug “the last guy on stage,” they left saying they dug Substantial.

In the late 90’s Puffy and Mase had a quick rise to fame. People mocked the shiny suits they wore in their videos but to this day anyone who saw any of those videos even just once remembers those suits, and if you don’t think that ingrained memory of the smiling dudes with money in their shiny suits didn’t have an impact on people when they went into their local record store to pick up a CD you’re out of your mind. Those suits helped sell millions of records for Bad Boy and it’s nothing any other artist can’t do with a little thought and ingenuity. Remember Hammer's pants? Missy's garbage bag outfit? Das Efx's fatigues? Of course you do. Heck, even outside of Hip-Hop this rings true. Think about the hair metal bands of the 80’s, not great music, but tons of sales. Think about Elton John and his Marie Antoinette costume. Think about Boyz II Men and their matching outfits. Think about Britney Spears and her schoolgirl outfit (wait, stop thinking about that now. Finish reading, then you can go back to thinking about schoolgirl outfits).

Back in the early days of Hip-Hop it was OK to hit the stage wearing just anything, rappers weren’t nearly as prevalent as they are today. In the 80’s it was easy to hear after two bars if someone was good or not, but in the 90’s and now the 00’s everyone has picked up a mic and the Hip-Hop stages of the world are more cluttered than Rosie O’Donnell’s table at an all you can eat buffet. If you’re an artist you need to find a way to stand out to give people a reason to pay attention to you. Hook people’s eyes and their ears will follow. We’ve been inundated with rappers with no skills for a while now so pardon the public if they’re not going to sit through your entire set to find out if there’s anything they like. Two bars in if it’s not good the ears shut down and you just become background music. I’m not saying go up on stage in a gorilla outfit, but if you do, and your rhymes are even halfway decent, you can be sure you’ll be the act that’s talked about for the rest of the night, and beyond.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 10:14 AM  
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