Anybody remember that song “Vans” by The Pack?
Most articles about hip-hop and sneakers start with Run-DMC’s “My Adidas,” which is irritating, obvious and trite. “Vans” by The Pack is the greatest sneaker song of all time, but that’s an argument for another day.
It used to be that athletes made the biggest waves in sneaker culture and that was it. While this remains true, it cannot be ignored that rappers have evolved from the days of merely rapping about shoes to being cultural forces in their own right. When Kanye first rapped “But the Yeezys jumped over the Jumpman,” it seemed like hyperbole at best, a swipe at an unreachable throne at worst. However, release after release Kanye has proven that whatever he designs, co-signs or wears holds immeasurable weight in a certain sect of the sneaker community. In a similar vein, Drake has proven that a non-athlete can not only survive in the Jordan brand stable, but thrive. With every OVO Jordan, Drake proves that indeed “them boys up to something.”
With the rising influence of rappers we decided it would be interesting to see, “What Sneaker Is Your Favorite Rapper?”
Jay-Z – Air Force 1
With the Air Force 1, Bruce Kilgore designed a perfect shoe and arguably Jay-Z is the perfect rapper. Jay-Z and the Air Force 1 are similar for a host of reasons that aren’t apparent until you dig beneath the surface.
Jay-Z started as a mid-level drug dealer, transitioned to being a mid-level rapper hidden behind other NY titans, weathered the storm to become the King of NY and eventually turned his street knowledge into becoming “not a businessman,” but a “business…man.” In the same way the Air Force 1 wasn’t always a classic. In fact, the Air Force 1 took years to receive the clout it has today. Like Jay-Z, the Air Force 1 had a long run to become king. Add together that the Air Force 1 has become the essence of NY culture and you can see why we made the connection.
Nas – Timberland 6 Inch Premium Boot (Wheat Nubuck)
New Yorkers love Timbs. New Yorkers love Timbs so much if you type in the phrase “New York Timberlands” on Twitter, you will be guided to a host of amazing memes about the big apple and their footwear decisions. Similarly, New Yorkers love Nas. I mean most hip-hop fans love Nas, but New Yorkers REALLY love Nas.
So it makes sense that the quintessential New York fashion staple and the man that crafted “N.Y. State of Mind” would be solemates. Both Nas and Timberlands are durable. Nas has weathered multiple storms – music, beef, marriage, divorce – always coming out the other side stronger. Nas and his influence isn’t going anywhere, just like your Timbs.
Kanye West – Air Jordan 3 “Black/Cement”
The Air Jordan III is the greatest sneaker of all time.
Now we’re not saying Kanye is the greatest rapper of all time, but he is the most artistic, ambitious and consistent rapper in hip-hop history. Kanye is the Air Jordan III. Jordan’s third model designed my Tinker Hatfield, ushered in a new age of sneaker culture.
Think about the components of the Air Jordan III as Kanye albums. The high quality leather on the upper is smooth like the expertly chopped soul samples of The College Dropout. The otherworldly elephant print matches the abstract chaos of Yeezus. The futuristic looking midsole and outsole plays exactly like Graduation.
The Jordan III helped keep Michael at Nike and inspired the greatest sneaker line. It can be also be said that with the success of The College Dropout, Kanye ushered in an entire new generation of rappers (Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott, etc.).
Drake – Air Jordan XI “Legend Blue”
Patent Leather on shoes shouldn’t work. In fact, many people thought it wouldn’t.
Drake shouldn’t work. His brand of icy navel-gazing, bedroom confessional anthems spit in the face of everything hip-hop was known for.
That’s why Drake is the Air Jordan XI “Legend Blue.” That shiny patent leather is appealing and infectious like a Drake melody. It catches you off guard with its simplicity and directness. That clear white upper is as cold as listening to “Marvin’s Room” on a snowy Toronto night. The “Legend Blue” on the outsole is the disarming coolness Drake has perfected whether he’s battling Meek Mill or winning over the heart of your mom and sister.
Kendrick Lamar – Adidas Stan Smith
Everyone loves Kendrick Lamar. Hipsters love Kendrick. The hood loves Kendrick. President Obama loves Kendrick.
That’s why Kendrick Lamar is the Adidas Stan Smith. In the last couple of years the Stan Smith has seen a revival that has made it the shoe of choice for everyone from fashion models to hypebeasts and sorority girls. The same could be said about Kendrick.
K.Dot is the best rapper alive. His rhyme schemes, flow and subject matter have put him in an elite setting that very few reach. People want to like Kendrick. For the casual music fan saying you listen to Kendrick is an affirmation that you’re smart enough to “get it.” In a lot of ways that’s why Stan Smiths have returned to the forefront of fashion. Stan Smiths are a symbol of coolness that says to any onlookers that you indeed “get it”. Whether they’re fresh out of the box or a little dirty, Stan Smiths are a statement piece in any persons wardrobe.
Future – Air Foamposite One
Future sounds the way the Air Foamposite One looks.
Future and his warbling autotuned sermons are unflinching and unbreakable like Nike Posite material. His melodies snake up the upper just like the Foamposite grooves. Future is indeed an astronaut and the Foams are the only otherworldly footwear he needs.
Young Thug – Adidas Ultraboost
The Adidas Ultraboost has been a runaway success for Adidas.
Despite its comfort, there was a time when boost technology looked crazy. Now the look of boost has become interwoven and ultimately accepted into sneaker architecture, but it wasn’t always like that. That’s why the Adidas Ultraboost and Young Thug are a supreme match. Young Thug looks weird. He raps weird. He sings weird. He dresses weird. However, its Thug’s eccentricities that set him apart from the pack.
Much is made about Young Thug’s intelligible croak, chaotic singing voice and his propensity to not make sense on record, but Thug’s music defies rational thinking. Young Thug works, because it doesn’t need to be understood. Sometimes its just as rewarding to watch the beautiful chaos and admire its unbound energy from afar.
Also The Pack’s “Vans” is still an amazing song…