During the mid-1980’s hip-hop entered a golden age of expression and the culture flourished and became part of the mainstream. With this success came a new sensibility, attitude and visual identity. Hip-Hop became bigger, bolder and brasher. A new ‘swagger’ replaced the struggles of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Hip-Hop became stylistically victorious and boastful. The culture now exuded confidence and focused on themes of materialism, indulgence and excess.
The rappers Mase and Puff Daddy embodied this laid-back swagger in their song ‘Feel So Good’ from 1997.
“Do Mase got the ladies? Yeah, yeah
Do Puff drive Mercedes? Yeah, yeah
Take hits from the 80’s? Yeah, yeah
But do it sound so crazy? Yeah, yeah
Well me personally
It’s nuthin’ personal
I do what work for me
You do what work for you”
Songwriters: Joel Diamond, Lee Shapiro, L. Russell Brown
Feel So Good lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group
The 1990’s were also a time of innovation in fine art. In the UK, the YBA’S (Young British Artists) gained status and success by making ‘shock art’ and creating ground-breaking exhibitions in previously derelict industrial warehouses. The artist Chris Ofili was one of the YBA’s to gain recognition for his work in the controversial exhibition; Sensation which was first held in 1997 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
Ofili makes paintings with exuberant colours and intricately detailed patterns. They are bold, vibrant and confident paintings. He appropriates a wide range of visual ideas and techniques, from blaxploitation movies to Zimbabwean cave painting, in his work. For example, his recognizable trademark is using balls of elephant dung to stand his paintings up on. This unusual presentation technique was inspired by a research trip to Zimbabwe in 1992. By sampling ideas from a wide range of traditions and sources Ofili creates new narratives and meanings in his work.
In ‘The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars’ the figure of Captain Shit stands majestically over his adoring audience. He dazzles with his broad white smile and vibrant red and yellow outfit. Captain Shit is a fictional character, loosely inspired by Marvel superhero Luke Cage, created by Ofili. This work manifests the swagger of the golden era of hip-hop.
Catch up on Hip-Hop vs Fine Art: Part 1 here.