Sneakers and hip-hop go hand-in-hand. So it’s only natural that heavy hitting sneaker companies would want to produce shoes in collab with their favorite wordsmiths. The opposite is true too — rappers are renowned for their sneaker collections and they leap at the chance to work with Nike, Adidas, Reebok, or Asics. It’s a no brainer.
Earlier this week, UK grime MC Skepta unveiled a new Air Max 97 collaboration with Nike, inspired by his travels to Morocco, and it got me to thinking: What are some of the best rapper/sneaker collaborations ever? I sat down to brainstorm a bit, and with the help of a sneakerhead buddy of mine, came up with a list of ten of the best rapper-inspired sneakers to hit the streets. Hopefully, your feet have been blessed with a pair, but if not, maybe this primer will put you up on game, so you too can “walk this way.”
Big Sean x Adidas — Metro Attitude
Big Sean first came on the scene in colorful, high-end luxury gear, so of course his Adidas-designed kicks feature bright floral accents, leather lining, gold detailing, and a snakeskin pattern paying homage to his home of Detroit (where they only rock the finest reptiles on their feet). This 2014 collaboration is hard to find now, but well worth the hunt if you can get them. In fact, the insole bears the inscription, “My dreams stopped being dreams when I turned ‘em into goals,” — which might be the only way to get your mitts on a pair of these in 2017.
Drake x Jordan Brand — Air Jordan X “OVO”
These dropped very early last year, but let’s be honest: If you don’t have a pair already, you probably aren’t getting one. Hitting with two colorways, one white and one black, the mania to scoop these reached truly unreal proportions. They launched accompanied by an apparel collection with a hooded sweatshirt, sweatpants, and more, all branded with the signature October’s Very Own owl logo and featuring The Boy’s trademark black-and-gold (or white-and-gold) aesthetic.
These were a fine example of brand synergy at its finest; Drake and Future didn’t release a song called “Jumpman” for nothing.
MF Doom x Nike — Nike Dunk SB High
You would think that the mysterious, masked MC known as MF Doom would fly under the radar of a multinational conglomerate like Nike, but back in 2007, the Swoosh’s design team was scouring the ‘net for interesting collaboration partners to give their kicks street cred. They got that in spades with these ostrich leather and 3M versions of one of their most popular silhouettes. Designed by graphic artist Frenel and featuring MF Doom’s old graffiti logo, these are a strong get for any hip-hop and/or sneaker head’s collection.
2 Chainz x Adidas — Top Ten Hi: 2 Good To Be T.R.U.
These also dropped in 2014 to commemorate the artist formerly known as Tity Boi’s first headlining national tour. This croc-embossed, brushed nubuck iteration of Adidas’ Top Ten came in 2 Chainz’ favorite colorway, all black, with full-grain leather and gold lace-tips and eyestays, molded snakeskin three-stripes logo, and a leather-lined collar and footbed.
These are definitely more runway than hardwood, but are sure to turn heads wherever they turn up.
Wu-Tang Clan x Nike — Nike Dunk SB High
If you’ve got these, you probably hail from Staten Island, grew up on kung-fu movies and comic books, and rhyme like a drunken monk does kung-fu. Only 36 pairs of this ultra-rare collaboration between Nike and the almighty Wu-Tang Clan are rumored to exist, and the odds of catching a pair of these Killah Bee-colored Dunks now are almost the same as getting your paws on that $2 million Once Upon A Time In Shaolin album from Pharma-bro Martin Shkreli.
Wale x Asics — Gel-Lyte III “IC Champion”
Wale may be one of the best-known sneakerheads around, so this collaboration is beyond special. He also happens to be one of the biggest wrestling fans around, being a prominent member of so-called “Wrassle Rap” Twitter — so it’s no surprise this sneaker pays homage to one of Wale’s favorite championship belts: The Inter-Continental Championship.
Reflecting Wale’s lifelong appreciation of sports entertainment, the 2016 sneaker glimmers in metallic gold with blue highlights, just like the belt worn by prominent WWE faves Shawn Michaels, Mr. Perfect, and the Ultimate Warrior.
De La Soul x Nike — Nike Dunk SB Low and High
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Interestingly, these are the only kicks on this list that actually come in two different colorways; the original low-top, green ones are nigh-impossible to find at this point, but the high-top, white-and-yellow joints occasionally pop up at outlets from time to time (I literally had my size in my hands once, but also had a moth in my wallet — you know, like those old cartoons).
Point is: It’s possible you may be able to grab a pair of the 2015 re-release of this Daisy Age-themed pair from the original hip-hop hippies.
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De La Soul Nike SB low #3feethighandrising #delasoul #delasoulsb #delasouldunks #sblove24_7 #sbovereverything #sbology #sblife #sbcollector #sbdunks #nikesbornothing #nikesb #nike #justdoit #fredsneakercloset #fightthehype #wearwhatyoulike #weareverypair #bgkicks #nicekicks #kicksonfire #sneakerwatch
DJ Khaled x Jordan Brand — Air Jordan III “We The Best”
Loud, ostentatious, head-turning: All adjectives that could be used to describe both DJ Khaled and the sneaker that he cooked up with Jordan Brand earlier this year. Bright red all over with the customary hits of elephant print that made the Air Jordan III such an iconic shoe within hip-hop and the fashion world, these were made to be seen, in the same way Khaled custom-designs every one of his feature-laden singles to be heard by as many ears in as many venues as humanly possible.
Adorned with his trademark catchphrases — in hashtag form, no less — these couldn’t have been produced by anyone other than DJ Khaled, who may not be a rapper, but is one of the most influential names in hip-hop today. #majorkey
Pharrell Williams x Nike — Nike Dunk SB High
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Possibly the original “Nike x Artist” collaboration, I remember scrambling to get a pair of these fresh out of high school, only to find the last available pair at Proper in Long Beach — two sizes too small. That was a dark day. Released in January 2004, the design was actually a collaborative effort between all three members of alternative hip-hop/rock back N.E.R.D. (Pharrell, Shay Williams, and Chad Hugo) with the N.E.R.D. brain logo embroidered on the heel, and tonal-black reptilian skin upper serving as the trademark feature. Only 1,050 individually numbered pairs exist, so good luck finding a pair in decent condition at this point, but if you do, and they happen to have a 12 or 13 on the tag, holler at your boy.
Damian Lillard x Adidas — Dame 3 Legacy
Okay, so this one’s kind of a cheat, I admit it. But hey, Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers point guard, does have an album, The Letter O, out, and it is pretty darn good — and so is his sneaker (as well his reasoning for keeping it at a low price point). The most accessible sneaker on this list, the Dame 3s value function over style without sacrificing the latter, not to mention, this specific colorway was gifted to winners of his weekly #4BarFriday challenge as a special prize upon release.