How TikTok’s Kendrick Lamar Girl Aesthetic strips away Black culture’s significance

By J'Nae Phillips

Published Jun 24, 2024 at 11:59 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

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There aren’t many rappers and music icons who can namecheck designers such as Graces Wales Bonner and Martine Rose on an album, or rock up to the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show wearing custom Louis Vuitton or the 2023 Met Gala wearing a Chanel neckerchief around the waist along with a silver diamond-encrusted CC tooth gem. Not many people also merit the design of a unique Tiffany & Co. crown of thorns which features over 8,000 cobblestone pavé diamonds and is the result of 1,300 hours of skilled craftsmanship. A piece so special it’s been worn everywhere from the cover of album artwork to the front row at a Louis Vuitton men’s show to a headline Glastonbury set.

But Kendrick Lamar isn’t like many other people, with his stylistic influence mirroring his musical journey as his fashion choices kick up a notch. All of this has made way for something social media has coined the ‘Kendrick Lamar girl aesthetic’, popularised on platforms such as TikTok where the internet is torn between the complex intersection of cultural appropriation and the underlying value of aesthetic trends.

Lamar’s a West Coast native through and through, which is an attitude that’s always been reflected through his attire. Nike Cortez sneakers have become a symbol of the rapper’s connection to his hometown, and his outfits have often paid homage to the city that raised him through his commitment to storytelling via his sartorial choices. This mix of oversized jerseys, baggy jeans, nostalgic sneakers and snapbacks has taken off online and laid roots to the backbones of the latest internet aesthetic to make the rounds.

While this trend ostensibly pays homage to Kendrick Lamar, a prominent Black artist, it often features white and light-skinned women as its prime examples. This not only strips away the cultural and personal significance embedded in Lamar’s artistry and his Compton roots, but it also dilutes the authenticity of his influence by disconnecting it from Black culture. The aesthetic commodifies Lamar’s image, reducing it to a superficial style rather than recognising the deeper cultural narratives and struggles he represents.

Critics and creators such as @meeandminnie and @setaminata argue that such trends exemplify how aesthetic movements can go too far, sanitising elements of marginalised cultures for mainstream consumption without proper acknowledgement or respect, while others like @itsimaniblackmon question where such aesthetics come from in the first place. This dissonance is particularly glaring as Lamar inspires his fanbase through lyrics that honour his identity and artistic legacy, which in turn leads users on X to call out the superficial nature of ‘Kendrick girl’ trend-following.

@meeandminnie

They think we all dress alike I fear 😩 #aesthetic #sadeasthetic #sade #kendricklamar #styleaesthetic

♬ original sound - Shanna
@setaminata

They not like us fr fr 😪 #kendricklamargirl #sade #culture #aesthetics

♬ original sound - Setaminata

At a time when culture is in a state of flux, trends take off without most trend adopters realising the impact they’ve had on the communities they profit from. The ‘Kendrick Lamar girl aesthetic’ often abstracts and repackages the distinctive elements of Lamar’s persona, stripping away the intricate layers of his artistic expression and wider socio-cultural narratives. This reductionist approach highlights a broader issue, where genuine homage is overshadowed by trend-following that prioritises visual appeal over substance.

For fashion fans of Lamar, the Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper knows the impact he has. “I’m best-dressed moving forward,” Lamar raps on his track ‘The Hillbillies’ with Baby Keem. As someone who came up in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when hip-hop’s stylistic influence was being reshaped by a new, younger generation of tastemakers and artists, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that his fashion legacy continues to influence and dominate.

And with the rapper being at the centre of one of the most high-profile diss wars as of late, feuding with rival Drake and getting the internet on-side along with a host of other musicians and artists as seen at a recent Juneteenth concert, the sharp-tongued, quick-witted musicians fashion legacy remains unapologetically West Coast and culturally significant. But, as internet aesthetics and the constant barrage of cores dominate socials, the ones based on an artist’s persona usually tend to go a little deeper.

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