PXXR GVNG rapper Yung Beef is having a major fashion moment this summer, landing a Calvin Klein campaign and edge-seeking catwalks at Hood By Air and Pigalle during Paris Fashion Week. The Spanish rapper makes a pretty muse, and of his notorious trap and reggaeton crew, he’s the obvious choice to rise (or fall) to the runway. So why were people so intrigued, repelled, reactive to his high fashion turn? “The message boards are going to drown in their own hatred,” Madrid-based website Rewisor put it, only a little bit dramatically given the level of controversy the group generates among its critics.
It’s hardly remarkable, in the Kendall Jenner era, when a famous person decides to become a model. To be honest, it’s almost remarkable when a brand doesn’t use celebrities these days. The Calvin Klein campaign featuring Beefie is a “We Are The World” of today’s pop culture – Young Thug and Young Lean are in there, but rest assured that gender-comfortable rappers were but one component of a cast that also included Henry Rollins, Grace Coddington, Kate Moss, Zoe Saldaña, and David Blaine. As a much younger brand, and one that revels in its outsider status that has only been slightly diluted by recent work with Nike, it is appropriate that the Pigalle show looked like an IRL recreation of a hypebeast’s Instagram feed, with British DJ Siobhan Bell and Sita Abellán, who is affectionately called a “street style star.”
Celebrity is the style these days, and within hip-hop and its offshoots, there really has never been a dividing line. Rappers are known for their devotion to the style beat, from LL Cool J’s Kangol to Kanye West’s brazen plan to enter the fashion mainstream, to A$AP Rocky’s shifting fashion allegiances.
“I’ve always known who I am. It’s all the same to me.”
In an interview with Remezcla, Yung Beef revealed that PXXR GVNG has been getting runway invitations from national designers for years, and has always been hyper-aware of their connections to the style world. “We like what fashion signifies, you know?” he says. “It’s another art. For example, what urban fashion symbolizes – we know something about that. It interests us; we like it. It’s not that we’re experts or anything, but we’ve lived in various cities and in every city, there’s fashion.” Since he started listening to hip-hop, he’s been invested in the look of his favorite artists, and name checks the Polo mania surrounding New York’s Lo Life crew in the 1980s and 90s as an aesthetic he rides for. He says he remembers fellow pobre Kaydy Cain as one of the first in the country’s hip-hop scene to strut in designer gear in his videos.
Men in skirts aren’t really worth commenting on in fashion anymore and the Spanish rapper’s HBA runway look – a collarbone-bearing, asymmetric shirt dress with white stiletto boots – can hardly be counted as gender commentary. “The truth is, it was difficult,” he remembers about the added height. “I just walked normally, but I’ve never walked in heels and they broke on me.” Perhaps what stood out most were the extenuating details of the show he walked in, which HBA hosted in a Parisian men’s-only sex club named Sun City. At the end of the show, the largely male models stripped off their couture and dove into a dry ice-covered pool in their underwear and stilettos.
Yung Beef seems unruffled by this theatric entry into the upper echelons of the fashion world. He says that he has “always” worn girl’s clothes. “I’ve always known who I am. It’s all the same to me.” When he considers designer Shayne Oliver’s talent for converging the masculine and feminine he again likens fashion to a visual version of his work in the studio. He’d never step on the musical creation of someone he respects, so why stand in the way here? “If I’m working with someone on a song, I want them to respect my idea.” Besides that, he’s an HBA fan. “I understand; I like the idea. I liked all of it, it seemed unique. And right now, fashion is highly connected to art.”
What Yung Beef wants to be clear is that this moment of his in the middle of the fashion universe hardly means he’ll be changing away from the PXXR GVNG universe. But that doesn’t mean he can’t apprentice himself to the clothing greats when he’s working with them. “I mean, I learn from everything every day. Being around these kinds of people in fashion, of course it’s taught me things. It’s not like I’m the kind of person who is going to change because I entered a different world, but I’ve learned things. I’m curious.”
Ultimately, one could look at the appearance of Yung Beef in high fashion as a business move as much as anything. When we asked about his future plans with the fashionistas, he gets a little secretive about it. “I can’t tell you that this campaign is coming out on this day, or anything like that. But I have a relationship with a lot of brands.” He does namecheck Bendición Records, the microlabel through which he put out “Dolce & Gabbana,” saying that it will continue to be “very involved” in fashion. As he’s eager to remind us, fashion is just another hustle.