(Credit: Myles Kalus Anak Jihem)

Mixtapes

Revisiting Virgil Abloh's eclectic lockdown playlist

The death of Virgil Abloh on November 28 rocked popular culture. A creative in every sense of the word, he was without a doubt the most important and influential fashion designer of the contemporary era. The most significant facet of Abloh’s colossal contributions to society was that he was not solely a fashion designer. 

Yes, he may have used fashion as his conduit to achieve his goal of bringing blackness and fluidity to the forefront of conversation. Still, his intersectional, multi-disciplinary logic fused elements from different spheres such as technology, architecture and music to create a visual style that is emblematic of culture’s present juncture. 

In a recent interview with Vestoj magazine, Abloh explained his ethos: “I’m an autodidact, an explorer, and often I’m an amateur too. My career, in that sense, is an investigative exploration. It’s about how to be a black thinker in white spaces; it’s about inserting the black canon in art history books.” 

He continued: “It’s about being a black voice that matters beyond the fringes. I want to be able to look back at my life and career and know that I left some inanimate objects behind, yes, but also a logic that changed the mainstream.”

A huge part of Abloh’s existence was music. Famously, prior to founding Off-White in 2013, and way before he became the first African-American artistic director of a major fashion label at Louis Vuitton, he was a DJ.

He founded the art collective and DJ crew BEENTRILL, and it was through the group that he started to make his mark on society, playing across Chicago and the globe, bringing his ideas to a whole host of audiences. Showing how much Djing and music meant to him, he once said, “I’ll be Djing after I’m done designing or doing anything else.”

In a 2020 interview with Vogue, just as the pandemic was at its peak of destruction, Abloh curated a playlist of music that had been soundtracking his efforts to “flatten the curve”. Attempting to quash the boredom that he, like all of us, felt when faced with the seemingly unending lockdown, he shared some songs that meant the most to him at that specific point in time.

As fluid as his artistry, expect to see a wide variety of classics. Kicking off the playlist is ‘Générique’, the legendary 1958 piece of jazz by Miles Davis, taken from his lauded 1958 album, Ascenseur pour l’échafaud. There’s ‘Rodent’ by electronic pioneer Burial, as well as entries from Tom Misch, Yussef Dayes and American rapper Jay Electronica. 

Of the 17 track assortment, Abloh said: “Much like my art and design practice, my musical tastes know no boundaries; they don’t fit nicely within any box… The songs are just as varied in their genre-less thinking as I am.”

He also explained that his fluid nature is emblematic of his generation’s. He explained: “We are of a generation where this way of thinking and living—not locking ourselves into one box or role—is being deemed as formally okay,” he said in full spirit leader mode.

A total legend in life and death, Virgil Abloh will never be forgotten. His relentless spirit and dedication to progression and inclusivity have been transformative in the way that we produce and consume commodities in the modern era. 

Listen to his playlist below.