In class on Wednesday, we touched on an idea that I had never thought about before: re-appropriating. What if a group appropriates instead of assimilates, and the outcome is so desirable that the originators re-appropriate?  Hip-hop culture is a classic example.

High fashion designer products such as those by Versace are constantly appropriated by the hip-hop community. Donatella Versace  herself probably couldn’t have forecasted the sensational effect that Versace products would have in this space. Typically, luxury items are a type of commodity intended for the wealthy and sophisticated.  This sort of consumption serves as a marker of difference and distinction between classes and groups as Canclini mentions in Consumption is Good for Thinking. Despite the high-end designer’s intent, consumption in Hip-hop is infectious.  Once a brand is mentioned in a song  or acknowledged, it somehow becomes an affiliate with the entire culture.


Recently, a popular rap song was released that immortalized Versace (see above). In it, Versace is repeated hundreds of times in the chorus and verses. What is the meaning behind  transforming and appropriating nearly every marker of difference and distinction that serves the elite? Canclini would say that it is because the hip-hop identity is constructed and molded by narratives that operate under the influence of sociohistorical conditions.

Despite the sociohistorical context and meanings embedded in hip-hop discourse,  those who are not a part of hip hop find appeal in the newly created meanings. As a result, re-appropriation may take place. Although they do not share  the hip-hop identity, they borrow from it and operate within the constructs of their own identity.  For example, many re-appropriate the hip-hop lifestyle, which itself was appropriated from that of rich people. Regardless of what ever meaning each constructed identity makes, there is a universal rule which applies: “identity is theatre and politics, performance and action” (Canclini 96).