“Bro. Bro! Listen to the kids,” Kanye West kicked off his acceptance speech for his 2015 MTV Video Vanguard Award praising the youth. He let the wheels fall off for a minute, announcing his 2020 presidency and talking about smoking weed, but the new dad closed it by expressing the importance of the next generation:
“We the millennials, bro. This is a new mentality. We’re not gonna control our kids with brands. We not gonna teach low self-esteem and hate to our kids. We gonna teach our kids that they can be something. We gonna teach our kids that they can stand up for theyself! We gonna teach our kids to believe in themselves!”
Recently, 23-year old Ian Connor, the self-proclaimed King of the Youth, had a very public falling out with the men that took him under their wing, affording him even more exposure to the Instagram generation. From Tumblr and hanging out with his crew in Brooklyn to working with Kanye West and Virgil Abloh, his ascent is now in question after former friend and “big bro” Theophilus London spoke his mind on rape allegations against Connor, further adding that the young creative, who was supposed to bring back Kanye West’s defunct Pastelle line, had been fired from the company.
Just yesterday, in fact, Connor took to Twitter and Instagram to announce that he’d be selling off a majority of his wardrobe on popular resell site Grailed.
Regardless of the status of Connor’s career, with a growing number of allegations and a decreasing amount of support, there is room for a new set of young people to get some shine. Successful teens like Luka Sabbat, the 18-year old model, have amassed over 215k Instagram followers and over 70k more on Twitter, while 17-year old Jaden Smith has his hands in everything from music and acting to fashion.
Youth culture isn’t by any means a new concept, despite what the poppin’ kids of Instagram might believe. Kurt Cobain was a brooding 19-year-old when he started Nirvana in 1988.
Adults remember a time before the internet we know today, waiting 20 minutes for dial-up to connect only to have your mom pick up the phone and kick you offline. But today’s youth grew up on the internet and have a firm grip on #influence.
It’s more than having the right look and posting a ‘gram from the right place with the right people. Which one will become the most influential and claim the title of King of the Youth?
From: New York
A$AP Mob affiliate Ade Oyeymi is a “rule-breaking, game-changer,” always draped in Supreme, Palace, and coveted collabs. He was recently featured in the Stussy x Fred Perry Spring/Summer 2016 lookbook. As someone closely affiliated with Ian Connor on his path from L3NF to Kanye West, Oyeyemi is keenly aware of what is going on with cool teens™, while accompanying A$AP mob everywhere from Paris Fashion Week to LA’s VLONE pop-up.
From: Dublin, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland-raised rapper Rejjie Snow was onstage with Pharrell at 11 and was Madonna’s opening act on her Rebel Heart U.K. tour. Three years after his debut EP Rejovich knocked Yeezus off the U.K. iTunes hip-hop charts, he returned with a short film featuring Lily Rose Depp for his song “All Around The World.” The video reached nearly half a million views in less than a week.
Currently, he’s working on his full-length debut album, Dear Annie, while regularly performing internationally. And once upon a time, he was also photographed for Highsnobiety’s limited edition 10-year anniversary T-shirt with BAPE.
From: New York
Sham Maurice is Justine Skye’s brother, Vic Mensa’s close friend, and has been featured on Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat shows/movies/sagas (her Snap story is just that much cooler than yours). Sham has ambitions of acting and walked in the VFILES Fall/Winter 2016 show.
In an interview with Galore, he explains how he manages to look good every day—his closet is “full of costumes.” Interestingly, Maurice also explains he dresses himself as a girl that dresses boy-ish, taking gender fluidity full circle.
From: Atlanta (now lives in New York)
On the map from his breakout single “Broke Boi,” Playboi Carti is originally from ATL’s weird squad, Awful Records, but started to hang with A$AP Mob after Ian Connor took over his artist management responsibilities. Although that relationship is up in the air right now, Carti consistently reps A$AP Bari’s brand VLONE with his regular rotation of ‘Preme, BAPE, and A$AP x Guess.
His most recent video for his song “What,” off this summer’s upcoming project, The Cozy Tapes, features A$AP Rocky and was shot and directed by the rapper’s creative collective, AWGE. He was recently featured in the OVO Spring/Summer 2016 lookbook and is also rumored to have unreleased music with Skepta and Frank Ocean.
From: London, England
One of the original members of the skate crew Palace Wayward Boys Choir, 19-year-old South London native Blondey McCoy has a lot going on. The pro-skater has his own line, Thames London, and recently had his first art show Thames, Tits & Teeth in London’s West End, but you’ll likely recognize the blonde, gap-toothed lad from being featured in Palace and Supreme’s lookbooks, and skating for both brands.
From: Seattle (now in New York)
Eileen Kelly, better known as her Instagram handle @killerandasweetthing, has translated her huge online following into a safe place for teens. At 16, she took to Tumblr to create a sex education blog and forum for honest and open communication around the topic. You can find her in brands like Places + Faces, or simply in her underwear. As she puts it, “It’s basically a bathing suit…Relax.” True.
- Lead Image: Alasdair McLellan “Blondey McCoy,” 2014
- Words: Rae Witte