What hip-hop bling reveals about American status anxiety
An American music subculture that was once considered a secret society of the hipster elite is at the height of its power. But as hipsters become increasingly self-aware and self-conscious, they’re beginning to understand how much power their status in the world truly means.
As rapper and model T.I. has put it: “The thing about being an athlete is that you are a world to yourself. Everybody knows your name. The things that happen are exclusive to you.”
In fact, being an influencer is a major part of the hipster lifestyle. The hipster elite is constantly in the public eye, as they socialize in nightclubs and on reality TV and they advertise themselves on social networking platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. They shop in pop-up stores on the Lower East Side. They host secret dinners in upscale restaurants.
But despite their growing visibility, it’s also not clear what role hip-hop has in this new status, which hipsters refer to as “power consumption”—essentially, the consumption of cultural meaning and identity.
I don’t know if this consumption really is hipster consumption—I don’t know if the hipsters are really being a hipster. But I do know that many of their habits and their values reflect an unease with the cultural status quo. These habits are part of the American hipster subculture, and together they shed light on their own status anxiety.
The most recent sign that hipster culture is about to enter a new phase is the emergence of hip-hop as a mainstream entertainment format. In the last year, hip-hop has become the new Elvis.
I know hip-hop is big. I know hip-hop is a big deal. I know hip-hop is influential and I know hip-hop is an influential part of our culture, and I know hip-hop is a big deal because there are a lot of people who are hip-hop fans, and there are a lot of people who want to know what it’s all about, and there are a lot of people who want to know how to go about becoming a hip-hop fan.
In the age of mass media, hip-hop is still, for many Americans, still a secret. There is a widespread unease about hip-hop and it goes deep