Last month, luxury fashion retailer Gucci landed themselves in hot water with the release of their “blackface” polo neck sweater, which featured a balaclava-style cutout surrounded by bright red oversized lips. Worn by a white model in the ads—which caught the attention of Spike Lee and T.I.—Gucci’s “mistake” prompted the easiest boycott in the history of boycotts, along with the most expensive fire I’ve ever seen, courtesy of 50 Cent.
The century-old brand promptly issued an apology after pulling the item from its shelves, and CEO Marco Bizzarri met with design legend Dapper Dan to discuss the misstep after Dan voiced his concerns via social media. Gucci also launched an initiative to hire global and regional diversity directors, while also starting its own multicultural design scholarship program and pledging to hire diverse talent within key functions and leadership positions.
Expressing his gratitude to Dapper Dan for facilitating his meeting with community leaders, Bizzarri accepted “full accountability for this incident” in a press release. In it, he acknowledged that the incident had “clearly exposed shortfalls in our ongoing strategic approach to embedding diversity and inclusion in both our organization and in our activities.”
For Atlanta rapper Young Thug, Gucci’s mea culpa seems to have made the whole dustup water under the bridge.
Thug, a breakout rap phenom-turned-fashion darling-turned-middling rap former phenom, was recently in the studio with a number of his affiliates, including current rap darling and auntie fashion enthusiast Gunna, where he could be seen reciting his own lyrics while decked out in the aforementioned racist (and honestly, ridiculous-looking) balaclava sweater.
Thugger, born Jeffery Williams (no, that’s not a typo) is no stranger to controversy. The dress-wearing rhymester has engendered controversy for his outfits of the day in the past, earning himself considerable scorn from rap talking heads desperately awaiting the reemergence of Girbaud jeans. While Thug, who told GQ he began wearing women’s clothing at 12, is hardly the first rapper to step out in clothing others would deem controversial or inappropriate—A$AP Rocky’s Ann Demuelemeester shirt and Kid Cudi’s crop top come to mind—he’s shown himself to be especially tone-deaf to basic celebrity asks, like not threatening to kill or rape folks of whom he disapproves.
In December of last year, Thug took to his Instagram to post a picture of himself alongside 21 Savage and YoungBoy Never Broke Again above the caption “If @nba_youngboy don’t like u, I hate u, if @21savage say fuck u, we goin [sic] rape u.” Notably, Thug’s threats came more than a year after threatening to kill his ex-fiancée Jerrika Karlae via Twitter after she announced their breakup.
Thug, who rode the breezy danceability of early tracks to eventual Billboard appearances on hits like “Havana” by Camila Cabello, is a unique talent with a style all his own. His record label will continue to pay him and promoters and venues will continue to book him for shows and appearances, overlooking his lust for negative press in pursuit of the almighty dollar. He certainly won’t be the first black artist to demonstrate that his light is dimmer than average with regard to issues of race and representation (Thug named a song after Mr. Slavery is a Choice himself, FWIW) and live to perform another day.
But beyond the sheer garishness of Gucci’s Coon Chicken sweater, Thug, a month after Gucci’s blackface controversy had largely disappeared from public consciousness, didn’t have to wade into the blackface debate at all. He chose to let his wardrobe speak louder than his music—despite the fact that nobody asked him to.
Rich Homie Quan didn’t sacrifice his career for this.