As a general rule, it's safe to say something has officially gone mainstream if your parents are talking about it. That’s exactly what happened when we our news editor Leila Brillson’s mother asked her if she had heard of seapunk — the once-obscure Internet genre that has found sudden fame due to Rihanna and Azealia Banks' recent appropriation of the aesthetic. “Who is filling your mind with this?” asked Leila. “The interwebs,” Mama Brillson replied. Well, of course.
For those of you who don’t spend all your time on the web trading GIFs of floating dolphins, seapunk (or #seapunk, as it’s almost always referred to on Twitter), is a visual aesthetic, musical sound, and — arguably — a genre that everyone from Proenza to Rihanna has dipped a toe in. Springing from Tumblr in summer '11 to refer to underground artists like Ultrademon, Zombelle, and Kevin Heckart, the term was coined by music video director and visual artist @LILINTERNET (the guy responsible for Diplo’s butt-shaking “Express Yourself” video).
To understand why it suddenly featured heavily in videos by both Azealia Banks and Rihanna (within days) and then made its way into a Proenza lookbook, we went to the source, term-coiner @LILINTERNET. “I created #seapunk in terms of the nomenclature, and I was a part of it for the first period of its evolution. What most people think of #seapunk today, however, is really the aesthetic associated with Coral Records. Turquoise hair, hologram John Lennon glasses, ‘90s CGI with a kitsch oceanic look.”
Dolphins, Greek columns, 3-D geometric shapes (usually pyramids and spheres), pentagrams, crystals, and grid patterns are all recurring themes. Think New Age meets ‘90s rave culture meets Trapper Keeper covers, and you’ll be getting pretty close (it’s one of the you-know-it-when-you-see-it type things). Producer Jerome LOL, whose visual art contains similar references, described the appeal of the self-consciously kitschy style to us: “I mean, there is a strong sense of nostalgia in the work, but I wouldn't reduce it to just that. It's appropriating a style and imagery that many would consider ‘bad art’ and making something interesting through curation and juxtaposition.”
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Music Group.
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