The Hip-Hop History of the Lexus GS
Updated August 12, 2014
The Lexus GS has been one of the must-have accessories for hip hop stars since the early 1990s, a time when the luxury Toyota brand was first introduced into the United States. Most notably popularised by the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, Jay-Z went on to feature the brand prominently in a number of his videos and lyrics. The Lexus GS, and various other marques, still remain popular in the 2000s. So, then, why did the Lexus become such an important status symbol for the hip hop world, and how have different rappers used it in their lyrics?
Introducing the Lexus GS
The Lexus was developed by Toyota in the 1980s as a way of breaking into the luxury car market, and particularly the sedan and sports car success of rivals such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Early Lexus LS 400s attracted attention for their V8 engines and aggressive overseas marketing in 1989, before adding in later ES sedans and GS sports sedans to create a niche in the midsize to large car market. Subsequent SUVs, and now hybrid vehicles, round out a diverse range of offerings from Lexus, which remains the best selling luxury brand in the United States.
The Lexus brand first began to gain popularity as an import in the early 1990s, with the GS 300 representing the higher end of the performance market. A second generation of the GS 300 appeared in 1997, as did the GS 400, and the 430 mid sized sports sedan followed along with the 2005 and more recent fourth generations of the car. The early Lexus GS cars were distinguished by their inline-6 engines, later upgraded to a V8, and by their outstandingly detailed interiors. Subsequent generations have adapted to include a rear wheel midsize platform design, a 3.0 litre straight six engine, and a host of safety, entertainment, and low emission features.
When the Lexus first broke into the American market, it was soon taken up by rising hip-hop stars as a symbol to define wealth and distinction from Mercedes and BMW owning singers. The car became a byword for the new wealth that came with hip-hop, and appeared in various songs by the Notorious B.I.G., whose gold Lexus SUV later became a key part of his public persona. West Coast rival Tupac Shakur also made reference to the power of the Lexus in his tracks ‘Wonder Why They Call U Bitch,’ ‘All About You’ and ‘Picture Me Rollin’. However, it would be Jay-Z, emerging from Brooklyn in the mid 1990s, who made the Lexus his own in a series of high-profile videos and tracks.
Jay-Z used a first generation GS as part of tracks like ‘Ain’t No Nigga,’ ‘Dead Presidents’ and ‘On to the Next One,’ and peppered his lyrics with lines like ‘you never see me stress…in a GS’. In his iconic video for ’99 Problems’, Jay-Z was notably pulled over while driving his GS, while the car became part of the lyrics for ‘Sitting Sideways’ with Lupe Fiasco. By the 2000s, the use of Lexus cars, and particularly new generations of the GS, had become commonplace as a way of announcing the ambitions and the newfound fame of rappers, with some even taking on the name, as in DJ Lexus. In 2000, rapper Dead Prez even used the must-have Lexus as a way of commenting on what he saw as the loss of authenticity in hip-hop culture in favour of status symbols, rapping on how ‘you would rather have a Lexus or justice/a dream or some substance/a Beamer, a necklace or freedom’.
Still, the Lexus brand continued to appear in popular tracks by hip-hop artists throughout the 2000s, from R Kelly’s ‘Ignition’, to being namechecked in three hip-hop songs in one week in 2003. Over time, awareness of the Lexus reached a point where the car had dropped some of its associations with hip-hop to become a reference point for pop and R’n’B artists. Beyonce notably namechecks the car in her 2006 lyrics for ‘Kitty Kat,’ rapping on how ‘Since 16 I was coming down ridin’ Lexus’. Kane West also makes reference to the car in his ‘Jesus Walks,’ while Jay-Z was keen to mention his off-white Lexus in hit single ‘Empire State of Mind’. However, the best use, for me anyway, comes from Kanye West’s nod to the car’s aspirational status, where he mentions how a woman ‘couldn’t afford a car so she named her daughter Alexus’.
Chris G is an avid motoring enthusiast and dreams about one day being the proud owner of an eclectic sports car collection including the Lexus GS.
Categories: Gear Grinding