Excellence, opulence, decadence; Westside Gunn finds a seat at the table. Blending high fashion with street rap, Gunn curates a vision that brings his impeccable style to life. With a love affair of designer brands and the lifestyle of the rich and famous, the album, Pray For Paris is a representation of the rapper’s appreciation for the fashion world. But finding inspiration within coast-to-coast rap, the Buffalo native escapes the underground and to his claim, is now making “rare art”.
Seeking a space that’s been carved out by the likes of Kanye West and A$AP Rocky, Gunn vitalizes the aesthetic of high fashion to help tell his story. In January, Virgil Abloh the man behind Off-White as well as the head of menswear at Louis Vuitton, invited Gunn to sit front row at his show during Paris Fashion Week earlier this year. The models strutted their stuff as they walked down the runway to the soundtrack of Gunn’s raps, an unusual moment for fashion goers during fashion week, but it was an important moment that the rapper was waiting for. Receiving the co-sign from Abloh was when Gunn realized he had the responsibility to lay down the framework to a story he always wanted to tell.
Unleashing the desirability of name dropping designer after designer, it’s as if Gunn walks down Saks Fifth Avenue to seek inspiration for listeners to get accustomed to certain name brands that they might have never heard before. The wordplay on the album isn’t the main focus point but rather a palate cleanser to help digest the context as he compares and contrasts between the upper echelon of a newfound territory in Paris to the street violence that he’s been accustomed to in New York. Differentiating between the two allows Gunn to understand what’s authentic and what’s counterfeit.
Blurring the lines between the two lifestyles, Westside Gunn is aware and knowledgeable of what’s fiction and what’s not, as he’s as lively as ever by enjoying this new reality. What made Griselda capture the attention of rap fans was due in part of the collective all bringing something to the table that helps each other to pick up where the other left off, balancing the skill level while building off of the chemistry. Even though Westside Gunn doesn’t say much, he says enough with a cadence that is much like the luxury of high fashion. Gunn’s personality is top-notch, while his cadence is carefully crafted, and his delivery is curated specifically to his taste level.
Westside Gunn reassures fans that he’s not just a rapper, but an artist that he's continuously trying to unravel. But such a statement seems rather forced for rappers these days who seek acceptance for the fact that what they do best is not rapping but the stylistic embellishments that distract from the rapping. On the album Gunn stands out on his own but also shines brightest when he has his posse cut right by his side. Gunn is deeply in rooted into the designers that he becomes a brand himself. Unhinged, ruthless, but while stylish doing so, Gunn is cocky and confident on a high-class selection of beats that are the stat of the show. Pristine to ease, Pray For Paris flosses the most when it isn’t so distracted by Gunn’s fetish with designer brands.
It isn’t about what you wear, it’s about how you wear it, and Gunn realizes that he doesn’t have to prioritize big logos — but instead he highlights his fascination with the most descriptive pieces that don’t need a logo to capture attention. Much like Virgil Abloh, the creative vision of Westside Gunn comes to life when he has the help of fellow creatives by his side, and that’s not a bad thing.