Karl Lagerfeld, the eccentric creative who revolutionized Fendi and Chanel (and by proxy the fashion world), died last Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 85 years of age. Lagerfeld achieved an elite level of success, celebrity, and influence that immortalizes him in many ways. His image—the silver ponytail, black sunglasses, high-collared shirt—is fixed at the forefront of fashion canon. His spirit is forever imbued in his designs, his photographs, and his domination of modern couture culture. He leaves behind a fortune valued between $2-300 million.
Following the news of his passing, Westside Gunn paid tribute to the late icon with a loose track called “Karl,” in which he raps, “Karl Lagerfeld, trynna get money like that,” over an elegant vocal sample. The track, produced by Roc Marciano, features singer Tiona D. on the hook and fellow Griselda signee Keisha Plum, who delivers a hair-raising spoken-word poem as the song’s second verse.
It makes sense that multi-hyphenate mogul Lagerfeld is a figure of inspiration for Gunn. The Griselda Records godfather is an outspoken lover of “all fly street shit,” and his music regularly aspires towards fine art, from renaissance painters to museums to highbrow fashion houses. Lagerfeld and his creative extensions represent the wealth and class that Gunn is obsessed with achieving by any means necessary. In the past that meant donning ski masks, hitting licks, and trafficking narcotics. Now it means making art that belongs in the Guggenheim. His music exists exclusively within those two extremes—Gunn will rap about investing in Basquiat and flipping bricks in the same bar, and then about hiding the bricks in the Basquiat frame when the K-9 unit comes sniffing.
“Karl” was the first in a spree of loose songs the prolific Buffalo rapper dropped last week. In the next two days, Gunn put out “Bubba Chuck,” a two-minute chunk of basketball references and gunshot adlibs over a bluesy saxophone loop; and “One More Hit (Freestyle),” built around a haunting sample that the definitely reliable Soundcloud comments section attributes to Brazilian soul singer Tim Maia. The songs are lo-fi, dusty and as raw as can be.
The FlyGod sums it up: “We the illest ever, hundred chains on my deathbed.”