The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.
Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. In this case, it’s to avoid or put off doing something because one is afraid.
Following the highly anticipated NBA collaboration, Supreme has the world of streetwear in a frenzy after unveiling its full UNDERCOVER x Public Enemy collaboration for SS18. Many are excited to get their hands on the logo work jacket or the taped seam parka, but some are extremely hesitant, for good reason.
The collection pays homage to iconic rap group Public Enemy, particularly referencing the group’s 1990 album, Fear of a Black Planet. The drop features many pieces celebrating the album’s cover art, created by NASA illustrator B. E. Johnson, that plays on Chuck D’s vision of two planets: Earth and the “Black” planet, eclipsing.
The bold “Fear of a Black Planet” yellow font logo is featured on an allover print sweater and rugs, while the groups signature crosshair logo that symbolizes a black man being a target in America is used on several Supreme x UNDERCOVER tees, hoodies and puffer jackets.
However, as it’s shaping up to be one of the biggest and most controversial Supreme drops of the year so far, many fans are skeptical about buying it. On Reddit, white fans in particular are hesitant about wearing the collaboration out of fear of it seeming like appropriation.
It’s understandable. In its history, America hasn’t been too kind to people of color, not least to rappers in the ’80s and ’90s. The ’80s was hip-hop’s first real decade, the era when everything started to blow up, aka the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. Marly Marl and the Juice Crew brought a new level of lyrical technique and distinctive personalities to the culture, while KRS One gave us tales of grim street life over new school beats.
Then came Public Enemy.
Formed in the mid ’80s, the group helped popularize political subject matter as they helped fight the good fight for justice and equality.
Their third album, Fear of a Black Planet, especially, is one of the greatest and most important hip-hop albums of all time. With controversial songs like “911 is a Joke,” “Anti-Nigger Machine,” and their iconic politically charged anthem “Fight the Power,” Public Enemy shined a bright light on frustrations and concerns of the African-American community to the mainstream.
Along with the UNDERCOVER lookbook, Supreme released a teaser video for the collection that pays homage to the Fear of Black Planet era and what the project represents. Featuring Public Enemy’s Chuck D, he explains that the iconic album is “laughing at the fallacy of race. Racism is an endorsed game so people can benefit at the expense of others based on their appearance and the fear is not accepting the truth about it.”
Now, to get to the lingering question, should you wear this collection if you are white? To help fans that are on the fence of wearing these piece due to fear of appropriation or racial backlash, here’s what some of our colleagues think about the issue:
Creative project manager Brandon Dixon believes, “A majority of the consumers who will be purchasing the collection will not even have been born the year the album was released, let alone truly understand the message that PE was trying to get across at the time in the ’90s. But- fast forward 25 years and their (PE’s) message remains very current and even more so colorless.
“Regardless of the color of the person who wears the line – as long as PE’s message is not lost in between the fabric of the garments of the people who wear it, there’s no issue with white people wearing them. Education is the key point in attempting to join something that is not fully intended for you.”
Assistant editor Noah Thomas states, “I never think too hard about these things because I know a majority of these children are not thinking that deeply about what they have on their body, especially if it’s Supreme. Although the saying “Fear of a Black Planet ” on a young white kid could be odd, it is ultimately a win and means that Chuck D’s message is slowly coming to fruition.”
I, Kyle Hodge, agree. Everyone should be wearing the collection. I want it hung outside of the White House. I want it worn in the crowd at “President” Trump’s next speech. Spread this message far and wide. Don’t be fearful of it. It shows how far we’ve come. It further strengthens Public Enemy’s passion for equality, unity, and the acceptance of minorities. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an easy thing to do. Most of the time people don’t completely understand the importance or history behind the message, and that can cause controversy.
Know what this album represents, and its importance to the black community. Pay homage to Public Enemy instead of just trying to flex on Instagram or make a quick cash grab by reselling. So, put your fear away, try to cop what you can. There’s nothing wrong with showing love and celebrating a classic album.
The collection will be available at Supreme’s NY, Brooklyn, Paris, London, and LA locations, as well as online starting March 15. Meanwhile, Japan sees a March 17 release. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds from the collection will be donated to the ACLU.
Tell us what you think about the Supreme x UNDERCOVER x Public Enemy collection below, and in particular, your thoughts on this controversial subject matter.
- Main/Featured Images: Supreme