Rap is camp and has been ever since its birth. Rappers have always challenged the accepted elements of high taste, riding the borderline between tacky and tasteful with their outrageous looks, from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes right up to modern-day standouts like Migos and Kid Cudi. Hip-hop demands exaggeration, but it also requires cool to pull it off, leaning into sillier elements with so much verve and seriousness that it makes the ridiculous aspirational.
So, it’s only right that hip-hop showed out at last night’s Met Gala, where the theme for the evening was “camp.” While the entertainment and fashion worlds’ biggest stars put high-concept couture on display, there is no one better at “making fun out of… artifice and elegance,” in the words of English novelist Christopher Isherwood, than rappers. In fact, it’s almost disappointing that more rappers weren’t invited — Lil Kim, Missy Elliott, and Busta Rhymes could have all given a clinic on how to turn up their fashion choices to eleven. Even without them, though, hip-hop represented and showed the Met’s attendees how it’s done. These are the hits and misses, the highs and lows of hip-hop at the 2019 Met Gala.
Anderson is one of those artists who live and define camp every day, with his commitment to 1970s Blaxploitation tropes throughout his music. At the Met, he finally let his sartorial aesthetic match his musical one and went full Player’s Ball with his look, with a patterned jacket, wide-brimmed fedora, and dragon-stitched boots, evoking the over-the-top showiness of his main creative influences. The only thing missing is a cane and a pair of scantily-clad “dates,” but maybe that little bit of restraint is what keeps the look endearing rather than offensive.
If I could just make this blurb 100 heart eye emojis, I would. Cardi absolutely nails the concept, with that pillowy, velvety, ridiculously long train billowing out in waves behind her and those feathers on the shoulders and that cowl covered in baubles. Cardi is one of the artists who was expected to bring camp — because she so often does anyway — and truly delivered, with a dress that took 35 people more than 2,000 hours to create. It was time well spent.
Janelle gets a resounding, repeated “yes” from me. That eye on her left breast actually blinks. The whole look is like a campy sendup of the male gaze; watch out, fellas, this one stares back. It also feels like a commentary on the clash between her old, “masculine” looks, with her monochrome tuxedos and pompadour, and her new, more colorful “Pynk” outfits that embrace everything it means to be a woman. She can be and do both with this outfit and in her everyday life.
Lizzo hit the mark and blew right through it with her swishy, pink, tasseled overcoat by matching it up with a pink wig and her signature, confident strut. The best part about her outfit, though, is its versatility. Lizzo showed up at the airport the morning after the Met with the same clothes on from the night before, totally upending the concept of the walk of shame. It wouldn’t be surprising if she slept in the plush overcoat, either, because it looks like it could double as a fuzzy, plush comforter in case of emergencies.