“When does a trademark become a gimmick and is there a difference?”

That question was asked by ELLE Canada’s Features Director, Kathryn Hudson, during the Fashioning an Icon: The Power of Music and Style panel during NXNE Interactive this past June. And I’m still pondering the answer to that question.

The panelists chatted relentlessly, as fashionistas often do, one by one, about their personal style icons ranging from the usual Madonna and Lady Gaga to Pharrell with his big brown Vivienne Westwood hat.

And to be honest, I didn’t really care. I cared, because I had to write this piece on it, but low key, I was bored. It got me thinking about other things.

I’m not keen on the fashion world. I like beanies, chucks and my Dipset crewneck. I wear clothes that are comfortable that ensure I’m dressed appropriately to talk with rappers, stand five hours through their show from when the doors open to the very end, and so I don’t have to hurt anyone when they spill their beer or step on my feet. That’s my style. So chatting about the importance of a dress made out of meat and pointy bra cups aren’t really a priority to me.

What I do know about, however, are gimmicks. Anyone in music in general, but specifically hip-hop, should be aware of the gimmicks surrounding each artist that seem to blow everyone’s minds via the Internet.

We seem to not want talent, we want to be entertained. The hip-hop culture is not entertaining enough anymore. We want f*ckery. We want to be shocked. We want to debate over it on Twitter and we want to turn it into memes that will go viral so those outside of the hip-hop culture can shake their heads at it or steal it for their own.

We are in the era of the gimmick – drowning and choking on them. There are no more trademarks, because everything becomes oversaturated, stolen and abused. Look at Migos and their flow, for instance. A$AP and their leather. Venus X and Ghetto Goth.

Artists aren’t just artists anymore, but are molded and fabricated into something beyond that. A real life, Brown Sugar Ren and Ten type thing that spreads like wildfire.

How can I stand out? How can I push the envelope? How can I be so infuriatingly annoying that I become embedded in your mind and that can be mistaken for catchiness?

Iggy Azalea and her fraudulent accent, The Shmoney Dance, Young Thug in a dress, Been Trill and the Sad Boys. Anything new and newsworthy in the world of hip-hop, headlines are flooded with them, leaving very little room for talented artists to take the title of icon in any sense. And yes, I refuse to call Spooky Black an icon.

We seem to not want talent, we want to be entertained. The hip-hop culture is not entertaining enough anymore. We want f*ckery. We want to be shocked. We want to debate over it on Twitter and we want to turn it into memes that will go viral so those outside of the hip-hop culture can shake their heads at it or steal it for their own.

Maybe that’s just my quarter-century self, talking. Maybe I’m too old to understand this new wave of rap ridiculousness. Yes, I still listen to Biggie, ATCQ and The Lox, so what do I know?

I enjoy a gimmick or two. When I’m out, I like to hear the worst of it and turn up to it by jumping on couches. But where is the balance?

In hip-hop, there are no more original trademarks, because there is no equilibrium between ability and the gimmicks that reign supreme.

Talent. Trademark that.

Samo