“Get y’all black tees on, all black everything. Black cards, Black cars, all black everything.”

-Jay-Z “Run This Town”

“I wear black because it’s the only way I can express my inner pain.”

-Me while dressed as an Emo kid for Halloween.

One of the strangest coincidences in the modern fashion world has to be the habit of both rap stars and so-called “Emo” or “Goth” kids to dress in all black. After all, these two groups are essentially polar opposites; the former rapping about guns, women and violence while the latter resign themselves to relative isolation while they contemplate their deeper feelings. So, I suppose the question here is, is there some sort of deeper connection here? Or is this just entirely coincidental?

From the 1990s onwards, countless rappers have been wearing all black, or at least mostly black, outfits. Dr. Dre has sported this look (as seen in “Still D.R.E.”) for a while. However, he’s only one of many performers to adopt this look. On Nas’ “Hero” video, he and everyone in the background are decked in all black. In Young Jeezy’s “Put On,” he wears all black too, with the symbol of the black-and-silver American flag shown throughout the video. Finally, no rapper wears more black than Jay-Z. In both “Run This Town” and “Death of Autotune,” I don’t believe he wears a single color at any time. In addition, at one point during “D.O.A.” he uses his wardrobe to contrast himself with flashy newer rappers by saying “Your colors too bright, your voice too light. I might wear black for four years straight.” Clearly, in Jay’s eyes, black is the color of the “hardest” old-school rappers, whereas only the sell-out pop-artist rappers that he slams throughout D.O.A. wear bright colors. It seems he might be right, since 3 of the 4 rappers I’ve mentioned are rap veterans and legends.

On the other hand, there’s the Emo and Goth crowd. Usually represented in the public eye by musicians like Marilyn Manson, this group has largely flown under the radar, outside of some South Park jokes. I suppose that, as they like to say, nobody truly understands them. However, it is easy enough to understand that they dress in black to emphasize the despair and rejection they claim to feel in life. Darkness of the clothes matches darkness of the soul.

So then, the question is, is there any similarity here? Could there possibly be any connection between veterans of the rap game like Nas and your average ol’ Goth kid? When Jay-Z wrote “Hard Knock Life,” was he hinting at a deeper sort of emotional pain? Probably not, but I think both groups are similar in that they use black to stress their disconnect from mainstream society. I think that when both groups deck themselves in all black, they are giving the finger to our “Let’s all be happy and peaceful” modern social philosophy. For rappers, black symbolizes swagger, power, violence and, for most, racial pride. For Emo kids, it means inner pain, torment, sadness, and rejection. In the mainstream fashion world, black is useful, but not in a monochromatic style. So, all-black outfits provide an edgy way for both these groups to assert themselves and their personalities.