By Samaria Bailey
A group of black artists clad in thousand-dollar suits peruse fine art, mingle at horse races, and dine until they are drunk from everything: Fresh caviar. Vintage Dom Perignon Champagne. Six-figure cars. Gorgeous women. Exotic animal skin Gucci loafers. Life is good. Life is amazing. But really, it's not.
In the debut single, "Caviar and Champagne," from his self-titled album, Philadelphia musician Erik Honesty examines the cost of having the world, the shiny things, the beautiful things, at your fingertips.
The characters in "Caviar and Champagne" live a life indulged with such things but not without relinquishing something precious. Their handmade, tailored suits provide a degree of security but don't hold them at night; the designer shades hide their eyes but don't shield them from the harmful spirits, the temptation, the greed, or the gluttony.
"The heart and soul of the song is me saying to myself, What are you sacrificing to obtain what you want? What do you have to give up?" said Honesty. "It's a continuous journey. I'm doing it right now."
The visuals in "Caviar and Champagne" are informed by Honesty's experience as an entrepreneur and artist. His five-year-old Cultured Couture Vintage boutique — recognized earlier this year by Philadelphia Magazine as a "Best of Philly" shop — offers a menu of luxury cars (Honesty collects vintage Mercedes); a wardrobe of Italian and French designers, including an extensive collection of Hermes menswear and scarves; and a closet full of Belgian, Italian, and French shoes and slippers.
Outfitted completely with pieces from Cultured Couture, the cast of artists in the video don a collection of exotic skin Gucci loafers, 1800s Brooks Brothers formal suiting, Brioni capes, antique French masks, and Depression-era loungewear.
"It's in my DNA, it's something I'm very passionate about that I do every day and I just take it in as a way of life," said Honesty, about his appreciation of style. "It started when I was younger, when I was 12 or 13, from seeing the rappers. For me, it was shoes and then I would buy clothes — sweaters and button-down shirts."
Honesty said his eye for "opulent, eccentric" looks developed as he got older, sought out diverse cultural aesthetics, and traveled to different places, especially Paris.
"I was looking for something I couldn't find in the States. The architecture, the Louvre, walking through the city — seeing how people were living the style in a nonchalant way, was an inspiration," said Honesty. "The suiting came from me looking through GQ from the '60s and the '70s. It was just, 'I'm interested in this. Let me learn more about it.'"
Honesty's eye has caught the attention of other artists. Two years ago, he provided clothing and accessories for and appeared in Jidenna's "Classic Man" video, self-styled in pieces from Cultured Couture. Since then, every now and then, someone will yell out "Classic Man," when they see Honesty.
"I came out the house one day. And this guy said to me, 'Hey man, you the classic man, right?,'" laughed Honesty, "I said no. [But] it was a good experience to have. It was fun seeing the people dressed in pieces from the store and getting the opportunity to be in it. They tried to get me to shuck and jive but that really wasn't me. I just live that every day all day [even] when nobody is around."
"Caviar and Champagne," was recorded with live instruments — saxophone, bass, guitar, drums — and a synthesizer. It's uptempo, yet trance inducing and puts one in the mind of a breezy Ibiza beach party. The structure is unique in that the hook primarily repeats itself, with one minor verse near the end, a strategy Honesty said he used to inspire a feeling, no less a straightforward message.
"I love the late '70s and early '80s electro-funk music and I like to move, so when I produce I try to move the body in some type of way," he said. "I want [listeners] to feel good. I want them to dance and I want them to think. We are complex and we do all of that at the same time."
After several loops of the hook, Honesty transitions into a brief verse that names those shiny things that can make a caviar and champagne lifestyle: "Long nights, shorter days...velvet slippers...tufted leathers, oil paintings, cashmere overcoats." Then, his final piece of advice: "Release the cork, and have a toast, but take it easy, baby, don't overdose."
Watch "Caviar and Champagne," directed by Jamele Ransom and Erik Honesty, below: