With regards to semantic capacities the poet rapper has the opportunity to say something, however, the producer does not have this semantic possibility. Alternatively, in the sonic context, the rapper instrument has voice but is not speaking, instead pursuing the phonic extension into the sonic realm, but this realm is the kingdom of the producer, who will always have greater sonic possibilities than the limited sonic ranges of the rap as instrument. When the flautist Marsyas challenged Apollo to a musical duel his simple practice of blowing his voice through a reed instrument was not enough to impress the Muses, Apollo’s digital dexterity and informed complex compositional choices won the music contest:
“The satyr who had lost to Leto’s son
The contest when he played Minerva’s pipe,
And paid the penalty. ‘No! no!’ he screamed
Apollo stripped his skin; the whole of him
Was one huge wound, blood streaming everywhere,
Sinews laid bare, veins naked, quivering
And pulsing. You could count his twitching guts,
And the tissues as the light shone through his ribs.”
(Ovid, 2009, pp. 133)
Marsyas’ punishment was as gruesome and macabre as anything threatened by Method Man or Ghostface on 36 Chambers. With regards to possibilities in the realm of musico-sonic capability the apollonian producer will always have the advantage, the producer will always flay a rappers being, destroying the lyricists presence and semantic weight in order to furnish his masterpiece with fragmentary vocal sonics. As Robb Bank$ and ASAP Rocky’s vocals are increasingly phonically phormulated as sonicized instruments rather than semanticized voices/raps we may sympathize with their penchant for Rick Owens brand clothing.
"Raf Simmons, Rick Owens - usually what I'm dressed in" – (ASAP Rocky)
"Saggin' and my drawers showin'
You like Rick Ross? Well bitch, I like Rick Owens
Say it cause you ain't noticed
How cashmere my dressed clothes is" – (Robb Bank$)
After all, as their traditionally masculine and platonic position of the reasoning voice of semantic wisdom is ‘relegated’ to that of sonorous instrumental vocal component it is understandable that they would feel a strong metaphysical urge to clothe themselves in the most luxurious fashion. But their penchant for Rick Owens contains further theoretical anchors that, once dredged to the surface, will elucidate contemporary raps metaphysical dilemma in the context of Marsyan flaying and the emasculation of de-semanticizing the vocal poetry for (pimping) it’s sonic . We may suppose that: 1) Luxury Designers may hold an appeal to those who have wealth, this is not a particularly unusual trait for rappers attire preferences, however, Rick Owens designs do not display wealth, the labels niche is carved from an aesthetic that does not display wealth or luxury; the luxury is introverted, endophilic, and self-centered:
“I try to make clothes the way Lou Reed does music - minimal chord changes, and direct. It is sweet but kind of creepy. It's about giving everything I make a worn, softened feeling. It's about an elegance being tinged with a bit of the barbaric, the sloppiness of something dragging and the luxury of not caring. At Revillon, I felt it isn't about displaying one's wealth, but rather giving the woman a selfish pleasure. It is about using sable as the lining under a very humble jacket, the luxury is all hers." (Rick Owens)
“With both men and women, I’m kind of more into how a garment feels than how it looks. Personal luxury and a discreet tone is what I’m going after more than display of status – not caring who you impress is one of the biggest luxuries of all” (Owens, 2011, pp. 89)
Owen’s designs do not display luxury, but invisibly imbue luxuriousness upon the skin of the wearer. The metaphysical parallels to old, velvet lined instrument cases, manifestations of fashion as protection, donning second skins and so forth need not be expanded. 2) The layers. Owens’ designs have consistently concerned themselves with the corpo-aesthetic interplay of drape dynamix. Twisting seams, doubling layers, stretching hems have all been beautifully ‘glunge’ manifestations of an obsession with how different fabrics interact with one another, the body and gravity. Garments are washed, treated, cut, ripped, worn, sewn, washed, dyed and treated before leaving the factory; cottons shimmer and drape like silk, after months of artisanal torture cashmere is sacrificed to hang a-cross the wearers frame. Rappers sporting Rick Owens cashmere, donning comfy designer retro-dermis, may feel they are rewarding their skins with a Herculean adornment, but perhaps they are also swaddling themselves against the Marsyan fate that awaits them as their careers of battling apollonian producer mega-stars accelerate towards the inevitably painful metaphysical outcome? 3) The femininity. If we posit that music/corporeal/sonic lies in a realm designated feminine, that of Echo maintaining the Voice Sonic but not any semantic capacity of her own, of the Sirens tempting sailors with wails and warblings, but not words, and the countless other metaphysical engenderings voice has been subject to:
“Let the music follow the sense of the words. Keep it simple and ingenius. One must condemn pretentious music which is devoid of sense and effeminate” – Chinese emperor Chun (c. 2200BC) (Dolar, 2006, P.43).
“let us dispense with the flute-girl who just made her entrance; let her play for herself or, if she prefers for the women in the house. Let us instead spend our evening in conversation. (Plato, 1978, Symposium 176e)” (Dolar, 2006, pp. 46)
We can appreciate the coincidence of the new generation of rappers succumbing to their sonicorporeal position of voice (of themselves as instruments and not, platonically, metaphysically aligned speakers of isolated masculine semantic reasoning) and their fondness for one of the most conspicuously androgynous designers of modern fashion(6). Rather than wax lyrical about the beauty of such androgynous silhouettes and aesthetic compositions I will simply presuppose the readers appreciation that in menswear history a denial of the body, and an insistence on the wisdom-concealing-shell paradigm is the established norm. Alcibiades also references the idea in a mundane outer and an inside of infinite wisdom: “I think he’s (Socrates) very much like one of those Silenus-figures sculptors have on their shelves. They’re made with flutes or pipes. You can open them up, and when you do you find little figures of the gods inside.”. The notion of wisdom and semantic power as a masculine, inner kernel, separate from corporeality and music is not new. For the stoic story telling, poet rapper we can liken his stance to the old Grecian, his words reveal his inner wisdom whilst the sonic and corporeal is left for others. The embracing of such a corporeally sensitive designer such as Rick Owens (who in his earlier years experimented with drag) by rappers signifies their repositioning away from the supposedly ‘masculine’ mantle of a-music word play and arrival at the role of corporeal voice and musical component. I hope to have triangulated ASAP Rocky’s and Robb Bank$ aesthetically manifested metaphysical difference to the Platonic emphasis of logos/the concealed semantic via their choice in fashion and sonic. Especially in the Clams Casino produced tracks of ASAP Rocky and Robb Bank$ There is a fundamental departure of the man and woman, logos and phone, semantic and sonic, story and music, poetry and pussy division from previous rap generations such as Dr Dre.