September 13, 2013
The first photo Riri posted to her instagram with the #GhettoGoth hashtag. Girl DOES look good.
The first photo Riri posted to her instagram with the #GhettoGoth hashtag. Girl DOES look good.

“Underground” style don’t exist anymore, thanks to the die-hard self-exposure of today’s internet culture coupled with an industry of celebrity style experts whose existence thrives off combing the instagrams and twitters of more innovative but relatively unknown niche influencers. This sucks, obviously, for those at the proverbial bottom who contribute significantly to the trend economy but are still entrenched in the struggle to claim their own identity as they see it reproduced by stars who are sometimes even one or two degrees away from them personally. I’m not referring to fluke indicators of the blurring between ideological pop and punk, like the fact that Miley Cyrus dresses like Pictureplane now, but seemingly more nefarious instances in which organic movements are surreptitiously lifted from those who created them, dragged off to the capital farm for slaughter. Don’t expect a check, because it ain’t coming.

Rihanna’s recent adoption of #GhettoGoth is a garish illustrator of this creative shadow economy; it seems strange that anyone who spends time in NYC, wears Hood By Air and tours with A$AP would have no knowledge of GHE20G0TH1K, a party and concept pioneered in large part by its founder (and DJ) Venus X. Venus, along with quite a few other industry pals like MikeQ and Teams, have been unapologetically vocal about what they perceive as a relative form of shade on Riri’s part.

Of course, on the flipside, people are saying Riri can do whatever she wants–which she obviously can–but that seems ignorant of the fact that Venus, who depends at least in part financially on the brand that she conceptualized and built, has to go online and see this (“it’s apparent that she isn’t trying to do anything close to what the other girls are doing”), this (“opted for a ghetto-gothic look”), this (“in case you didn’t hear, Rihanna just pioneered a new fashion genre: ghetto goth”), and also the type of shit illustrated below. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry:

No one–including Venus–is threatening to sue Rihanna here, but this incident speaks to the greater culture of behemoth corporate entities (including celebs) thieving creative capital from those who rely on their ingenuity to make money on a much smaller scale. It seems like at the very least, a shout-out to Venus or GHE20G0THIK would be appropriate even by the seemingly-unlikely-but-I’m-being-charitable-here chance that Rihanna was previously unaware of its well-established context. In the case that #GhettoGoth is foreshadowing more prominent integration into Riri’s brand via upcoming material like a new album, Venus should get paid for creative direction by proxy, rather than the far-more-likely cold shoulder of of feigned ignorance from Ri’s team.

What do you think? Do mainstream celebrities have any obligation to give a nod to the lesser known but no-less-legitimate artists who directly inspire them? Is it actually possible that Rihanna is just a (Hood By) Airhead, utterly unaware of the original #GhettoGoth in spite of its proximity to her team? If you care, which IMO you should, then grab some friends and go dance at GHE20G0TH1K tomorrow on the roof at Output, rather than copping the new Rihanna on iTunes. Hopefully someday, that main$tream money will find its way back into the hands of those who give life to the same machine that runs on systematically marginalizing and/or discrediting them.

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