Creative Director and Writer Ren Dungari Takes Us Back Into the Cultural Thrust of the early 2000’s, InÂ Exploration of a Pivotal Intersection of Black Masculinity as Seen through the Guise of Fashion. Photographed by Neal Santos, Wayman Grose III and Justin Miles Become the Essence of What Dungari has Titled, Sour and Sweet.
These black men – their eyes reveal an untold, inspiriting story of triumph and defeat. Time and time again, history has had its way with their character and integrity. But these black men – they have overcome.
Like two brothers, they stand side by side, proving to be adept in the art of innovation. In well- nigh two decades, they’ve seen highs and lows, wide and far, setting trends to defy the norm and represent their culture with appreciation. Together, they never lose sight of their origins, for there is one decade their dark brown pupils could never forget: the early 2000s.
It was both sour and sweet, of course. As flashback photographs from an ex-valued MySpace, Xanga and BlackPlanet resurface upon logging in, faces cringe. The mere visual memories of overly oversized garments – composed of tacky wife beaters, football jerseys and velour sweat suits – are as haunting as a bad nightmare. Yet, it’s twisted with surrealism.
Once unified rap groups like Dipset, G-Unit, State Property and Murda Inc., created a progressive, dynamic and highly style-conscious revolution that will forever be missed. Music had met fashion on a media-based platform, and the two were very much in love. The early 2000s marked a moment of pride for these black men. They began to develop a passion for such an of-the-moment movement.
These black men conformed to the times and it spoke volumes of dignity. Raised in ununiformed, urban communities, they defaced the media wrong by embracing personifications of metropolitanism and an uncouth lifestyle. Wearing unforgettable brands like Sean John and Rocawear, they had always seen themselves as the exact opposite – immaculate and state-of- the-art.
These black men — they declared independence from what society deemed as worthy and acceptable. Their garments were eccentric. Remember how proud Juelz Santana was to be an American in the 2003 “Dipset Anthem?” What about Ludacris’ pride in Air Forces during “2 Fast 2 Furious?” Historically and deeply rooted, an undying love for Girbaud jeans deemed luxury. These black men had only accepted one Paul — and his origins dwelled in Houston.
While many have tried to imitate, none could duplicate. The most sour and sweetest reality of the early 2000s proved that for black men, playing both sides of the fence was a rare talent. Though they were judged, mocked and copied, they redefined themselves, commending full- figured men like no other race ever had or ever will. These black men — they could be rough, and then, they could easily clean up.
Truly, the sweet had always outweighed the sour — from the dirty south to Killadelphia. An enduring six years later, this unforgettable nostalgic juncture is a transformation well-worth documenting.