How Pink Became The Most Radical Color in Hip-Hop
Hip-hop has evolved over a period of time without any doubt, and why shouldn't it for the industry is a dynamic place always adapting new cultures, whilst paying homage to the previous ones.
Coming to the color pink, it has for long been associated (and still is) with femininity and eventually, weakness and submissiveness, reserving it exclusively for only "girls" but times are a-changing.
Going back to the 90s, most of the West Coast rappers (N.W.A represent) mostly wore all-black fits to maybe look more “savage” and "hard," making it a go-to color.
Fast-forward to now, the all-black fits are no longer restricted to only the West Coast but rappers like A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi and many more are often seen drenched in black, wearing the likes of Rick Owens and the trend has hopped on far from just L.A raiders cap.
So, sometimes when a trend shows up, artists hop on it so extensively that years later it becomes an easy route to explore an era.
Pink To Stand Out
Similarly, in February 2002, another trend came in as Cam’ron shocked the fashion world when he turned up to NYFW in his pink Range Rover and a notorious mint coat. 20 years later and the look is still one of the most influential fashion moments in hip hop. Although Cam wasn’t the first rapper to embrace pink but his strategy to leverage it as part of his identity made it one of the most memorable.
"It started off with just really wanting to stand out in Fashion Week," he explained to Esquire. "There are a lot of loud people at Fashion Week, so I wanted to do something to stand out."
Roc label mate Kanye West would carry pink further into the culture with his “pink ass polos” on his 2004 album 'College Drop Out'. There’s that mustard-stained Ralph Lauren polo in the video for “All Falls Down'' and in “Touch the sky” he rapped “Back when they thought pink Polos would hurt the Roc, Before Cam got the shit to pop”.
Around the same time, Nigo and Pharrell used shocking pink hues on the graphics of BAPE and BBC goods. In a 2020, interview with i-D, West admitted to Pharrell that he was actually the inspiration behind the pink polo: "You’re the inspiration. Before I wore a pink polo you were wearing a pink polo. That lineage is mapped out and proven, and you can go from then all the way up to the moment we have in culture now. You broke down the doors in fashion for us."
Pink as a means of expression
Not just reserved to fashion, pink has been an important visual cue too. In album 'Speaker Box/The Love Below' one-half of the cover showed Andre 3000 holding a smoking pink pistol, an apt metaphor both for the distinctive nature of his half of the double album and how the color was starting to take root in the culture. He has long worn pink as part of his gender fluid style but he also made it a key message in the album 'Speaker Box / The Love Below.'
In 2009, Kanye spoke to MTV that how rappers like 50 cents made him question his sexuality because of his proclivity for blush tones and calling him out as “Fag” to which he replied “I mean how is that a gay thing? Colours? Having a lot of colours is gay?"
New-age artists like Lil Nas X has gone through a ton of backlashes for his sexual orientation but surfing through all that, he has always embraced his queerness in the most unique ways. He has donned the brightest hues of pink of late, visible in X's "Industry Baby" and also on the red carpet at 62nd Grammy awards where he was seen in an all-pink Versace Cowboy outfit. He was slammed for the same as the outfit was labelled to be lacking "masculinity" to which he obviously slapped back smoothly calling the fit "probably the most gay cowboy look of all time.”
In 2017, 2 Chainz presented a brilliant marketing campaign Pink Trap House, which saw an Atlanta bungalow painted bright pink for his album “Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.” When designing the cover to “Pretty Girls Like Trap Music,” he wanted it to be a cover that actually spoke without having words.
Chainz further explained,
2 Chainz via Revolt TV
Young Thug went on to color his hair pink, matching his whole album attire ‘Punk’ and got several appreciations from artists all over. In the video for his single ’Tick Tock’ and later for his album ‘Punk’ he rebranded himself with the color pink. In the music video, the opening scenes see Thug roll up to an office building in a pink Lamborghini and step out in a head-to-toe pink outfit.
Back in 2016 he appeared in a Calvin Klein campaign with the slogan, “I disobey”, and “I am not what you think I am” which accompanied images of the rapper in both a womenswear look consisting of long pinstriped dress over trousers, topped off with a large necklace, and a men’s suit. “You could be a gangster with a dress, you could be a gangster with baggy pants,” he said in a promo video. Thugger is well aware of the risks associated with transgressing the expectations of rap’s hyper-masculine world. But it’s his fearless defiance of these social constructs and rejection of gender norms that has made him stand out amongst his peers as one of the most influential rappers today.
The color pink has made a name for itself now, especially in the hip-hop scene and is going nowhere for the next few decades. From New York Fashion Week in 2002 to Young Thug's music video in August 2021 head to toe pink outfits always find a way to standout.