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In Praise of Shadows & The Evolutionary Origins of Drip

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

Appreciating beauty takes an elevated consciousness. Beauty is an end all by itself. This is something we instinctively recognize but overlook. We pay money to beautify our spaces, we pay money to visit beautiful places, we watch beautiful films, we buy clothing that makes us more beautiful, we seek out beautiful people, we get haircuts to beautify ourselves, we eat food that looks beautiful, we wear beautiful fragrances, we stare at beautiful oceans or beautiful stars in the night sky. The ability to perceive beauty is deeply and evolutionarily entrenched into us as humans.

In semiotics, architecture, fashion, cooking, literature, genetics, music, sight, design, colours, communication, proportions, ratios, forms, shapes, size, light, sound, smell, length, width, harmony, balance, unity, community, & art, at the foundation of reality itself, beauty is the highest ideal. A relationship with beauty is a relationship with the transcendent.

That’s why Churches, Mosques and Temples are built so beautifully, to house the highest ideal in the most beautiful sanctuary.

Style, drip, dab, whatever you want to call it, the pursuit of flyness in Black American culture is a generational phenomena that is raising the global taste palette and elevating our consciousness.

First we need to agree that the pursuit of aesthetic appreciation is one of the most noble pursuits. The act of beautifying yourself for the world, and beautifying the world around you, is an act of heroism, there’s enough ugliness and if you’re taking time to make yourself and your environment look, smell and sound beautiful, thank you, you’re doing the world a favour. You’re like a flower blooming in the sun to be appreciated by every passerby.

Eve made Adam eat an Apple and ever since it’s been illegal to be naked. Now, I have never been one to take fashion very seriously. In fact at one point during my teenage angst I got really into boom bap Hip Hop, picked out my Afro and swore off fashion and name brands. It seemed like a pretentious and consumerist scam for idiots, and I was partially right in my sentiment, but as I got older I found the other side of this equation.

Flyness, for lack of better terms, is an ancient pursuit. Beyond any brand names or sweat shop labour, quality fabrics, rich colours, stylistic choices, aesthetic criterias, these are all things that are ancient and in fact they connect you with a larger genetic heritage based on the choices you make. What you choose to wear is your ultimate expression of yourself. Your aesthetic choices stem back to things that helped our ancestors evade predators, helped them attract mates and fall in love, start families, they were choices they made to enjoy themselves, beautify their spaces, have a more meaningful connection with each other and the world around them, and express their being on this planet. Every single time you find an object beautiful you’re connecting to a lineage that spans all of time.

An essay that perfectly encapsulates this premise is In Praise of Shadows. It’s an essay on Japanese aesthetics by the Japanese author and novelist Jun'ichirō Tanizaki. It was translated into English by the academic students of Japanese literature, Thomas Harper and Edward Seidensticker.

The author talks about how certain aspects of Japanese design and architecture were misinterpreted as inferior to western designs when in reality the Japanese architects were appreciating aspects of design that westerners typically wouldn’t, like the beauty of shadow and candles flickering in the wind.

The interesting part of the essay was how the author spoke about aesthetic appreciation and culture itself being genetic and biological. He spoke about how Japanese people would have never designed heaters in the way they exist today because they would have found the sounds that emanate from the device to be too unpleasant to the Japanese ear.

The author believes that based on your ancestors living conditions, environments, and lifestyles, the aesthetic choices you would make would vary from someone else whose ancestors had a different experience, your actual DNA is a code to what you find cool.

That’s where Hip Hop comes in. In the 1970s black people in America began adopting counter cultural and African fashion aesthetics in order to break away from the previous generations European assimilated fashion such as Jazz artists wearing suits and ties. The newer generation began growing out their Afros and wearing dashikis to express themselves and their unique aesthetic sensibilities.

This grew into Jewelry, Gold teeth, diamond chains, various hairstyles that were popularized by rappers, the growth of brands like Adidas and Nike, streetwear, baggy clothing, skinny jeans, dreads, and so many more radical aesthetic choices that have now been normalized, they were all founded through this revolutionary Hip Hop ideology of authentic self expression with style.

That continues to grow and expand into artists like Tupac Shakur, Young Thug, Pharrell Williams, A$AP Rocky, Kanye West and more revolutionizing modern fashion by approaching European designers like Versace, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, and merging their own sensibilities to create this new world of global cultural amalgamation.

Appreciating beauty is not self evident, straight men are typically not supposed to be into fashion in North America, but that mentality is what leads to barbarism.

The Atlanta music scene in the past decade has singlehandedly been responsible for what we deem cool. Many of the artists from Atlanta that broke barriers in fashion like Young Thug and Gunna are constantly facing homophobic remarks simply because they are venturing into unknown territory. Because many people in the world still operate from this very low and primitive consciousness where liking colours and fabrics somehow makes you gay.

Having style, appreciating textures, colours, lines, design, sonics, and beauty is the key to a more fulfilled life, it has positive neurological effects and leads to a healthier lifestyle. The ultimate goal of life is to enhance the quality of life and the number one key to that is beauty, but beauty is typically disguised behind labels and brands and ideas of “luxury”. The luxury is in the individual, in the same way culture is in the individual.

Culture is our individual expression. We tend to think of culture as something outside of us but culture is what we do. Every move you make is connected to all of history, down to how you express yourself, and by expressing your being in the best possible way, you are connecting with the transcendent. Connect with what you find beautiful, not just what celebrities wear.

Hip Hop fashion started because kids would get ripped up hand me down baggy jeans, so they decided to own it and it became cool. Own your expression, own your style, beautify yourself and the world around you, and connect to all of human history and the essence of beauty itself.

Being fly, getting fresh, being clean, looking dope, dripping, whatever it is that you do to make your life a more beautiful experience for yourself and those around you is the highest ideal and it’s own reward.

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