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Saturday, October 18, 2008 

Fashionable Fads: Don't Try To Play Me Out

Some things aren't "in" until your favorite celebrity wears them. Some things aren't officially "out" until your favorite celebrity says they are.

When I was coming up in '88, an era that many consider to be THE Golden Age of hip-hop, the fashion statement of choice was truck jewelry. Huge "dooky" gold french ropes around your neck in the 'teens, each one bigger than the next and the bigger the better. From Biz Markie to Big Daddy Kane to the infamous collection of Slick Rick (which he seemed to rock three-quarters of all at once at any given time and often bragged that he had so many that other emcees used to borrow his chains), the best way to show off your newfound affluence was how much gold you were sporting. That is, until December 14, 1988 when Keenan Ivory Wayans dropped I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA, a send-up of blaxsploitation movie cliches (complete with major parts for '70s film fixtures and icons like Jim Brown, Isaac Hayes, Antonio Fargas, Ja'net DuBois and Bernie Casey) set in the present time where the drug of choice for young black youth was, you guessed it, gold chains. Watch Jack Spade's (Keenan Ivory Wayans) hilarious (but played completely straight) reaction when he finds out from his younger brother Junebug's widow Cheryl ("A Different World"'s Dawnn Lewis) what the cause of his premature death really was.

"Oh God, NO! Not GOLD!"

Directed by Robert Townsend, 1987's HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE may have pre-dated and beat the following movie to the punch when it came to making fun of the one major fad black people will NEVR live down (coincidentally with a character played by Keenan Ivory Wayans) but it wasn't until John Landis and Eddie Murphy's COMING TO AMERICA that the jheri curl breathed its final breath. For those that don't know the story, Murphy's African prince Akeem, rather than go along with a proposed arranged marriage in his home country of Zamunda, comes to New York (Queens, specifically) in search of his true love. After many false starts and failed attempts he finally finds her but she is dating an obnoxious and entitled prick named Daryl Jenks ("ER"'s Eriq La Salle) whose family owns SOUL GLO, a company that specializes in black hair care products. There are many sight gags about Daryl and his family sprinkled throughout the movie but the one thing that nearly every viewer has in common and will likely never forget is the SOUL GLO television commercial and that ridiculously funny theme song.

"Just let your sooooooouuuul gloooooow! Just let it shine through!"

Aaron McGruder has for years long used THE BOONDOCKS, in print and more recently through his animated series on Cartoon Network, to skewer many aspects of black popular culture. During the first season he introduced a closeted gay rapper by the name of Gangstalicious (voiced by reknowned "conscious" rapper/actor Mos Def) to tackle the idea of secretly homosexual entertainers in the hip-hop world and to comment on blind hero worship. This past season, Gangstalicious returned and his same-sex preferences were further exposed with things like his latest single, "Homies Over Hoes", being outed by a former groupie with a book deal named "Wonder Cheeks" (inspired, of course, by former video vixen-turned-author Karrine "Super Head" Steffans) and lastly, his foray into the fashion world. In the following clip, Gangstalicious (who has taken to wearing pink) appears on Regis and Kelly's daytime talk show to introduce his own line of colored bulletproof vests, super-long white tees with an interesting added function, wife beaters that look suspiciously a lot like sports bras and finally PEARL NECKLACES. I find this the most scathing yet scarily effective satire McGruder's been responsible for yet, forcing his fans to take a long hard look in the mirror at themselves and letting them know through laughter that the general public doesn't always know the whole story and not every trend you follow is necessarily borne out of the place where you think it may have been.

"We just want cats out there in the street, you know, to step their jewelry game up."