For better or worse, the sneaker world is dominated by hype. And nothing in the sneaker space (save for a coveted Jordan colorway refresh) gets as hyped as a music artist sneaker brand collaboration. This is a rich history that starts with Run D.M.C.’s My Adidas, kicked up steam with notable collaborations with the likes of Jay-Z and Eminem in the early ‘00s, and reached its peak with the introduction of Yeezy, which dominated the sneaker world for nearly a decade.
The popularity of artist sneaker collaborations is so high that the big sneaker brands can’t stop dishing them out and it seems like we can’t stop buying them. But who is doing the best sneaker collaborations of our modern era? We dove deep on the subject by ranking the best sneaker artist collaborations right now.
To keep this list as current as possible, we’re paying special attention to active sneaker collaborations (with the exception of Beyonce, because that just ended recently). We’re talking about ongoing collaborations between brands and artists, which means no coveted ultra-rare pairs like the Jordan 4 x Eminem Encore, no Yeezy Adidas collaborations, and nothing that isn’t readily available on aftermarket sites.
For each artist and brand pair-up, I’ve selected a single silhouette. One pair that I think represents the best of the collaboration between the two entities. I’ve narrowed it down to 10 candidates. Let’s dive in!
10. Cardi B — Reebok Club C Cardi V2 (Lavender)
Just because I’m ranking Cardi B’s collaboration with Reebok dead last doesn’t mean I dislike the shoe. I don’t! But I certainly don’t love it either. This collaboration builds off the silhouette of the classic Club C, one of Reebok’s best sneakers, and outfits it with a crazy altered leather upper with big outsole lugs, and a loud single-tone colorway.
If you saw this sneaker out on the streets there wouldn’t be anything to indicate that it’s a collaboration with Cardi B, and it’s not like that’s a requirement, but it just seems like this sneaker is a cash grab and little else.
Find the Reebok Club C Cardi V2 Lavender at Foot Locker.
9. Pharrell Williams x Adidas Humanrace NMD S1 MAHBS Bliss
Pharrell has a long and storied history combining the worlds of fashion and music, and his Ice Cream sneakers were some of the best of their era, but ever since the super producer/ Louis Vuitton menswear creative director has been making shoes with Adidas, there has been something lacking there.
Don’t get me wrong the Humanrace line is consistent and has produced some fine shoes, but they lack the excitement of his early collaborations with Nigo. There is a certain post-Yeezy blandness to the designs. They’re sneakers that don’t demand to be seen, opting instead to fade into the surroundings. They’re minimal to the point of being, well, kind of boring.
One of my favorite Pharrell Adidas drops of last year came in November, the Humanrace NMD S1 MAHBS Bliss. As a sneaker, I like the neutral colorway and the semi-futuristic design, but it just doesn’t spark any excitement and it doesn’t feel like a pair of sneakers you need to have.
Find the Pharrell Williams x Adidas Humanrace NMD S1 MAHBS Bliss at your favorite aftermarket site.
8. Beyonce x Adidas Ivy Park Sleep Super Glow Blue
When Adidas first linked up with Beyonce for the Ivy Park line of sneakers and streetwear, I was hyped.
1). Because it’s Beyonce, she doesn’t miss.
2). Because it looked like Beyonce was trying to transform the Adidas design language and recreate it in her image.
I’m always for that, but seven years into the two brands coming together, Beyonce has never released anything that has set the sneaker world on fire.
Having said that, I like the Super Sleek a lot. It takes the Samba silhouette, arguably Adidas’ most popular design, and mixes it up enough that it’s essentially a new shoe. It has a thick chunky sole, elegant Ivy Park branding, and a bungee cord heel clip.
It is by no means an essential sneaker or one that lives up to Beyonce’s reputation, but it looks great.
Find the Beyonce x Adidas Ivy Park Sleep Super White & Blue at your favorite aftermarket site.
7. Drake x Nike NOCTA Glide White Chrome
I was initially skeptical of Drake’s Nike NOCTA line of sneakers because I’ve never been in love with Drake and Nike’s early OVO collaborations, but I think the NOCTA Glide is a pretty dope sneaker. It takes most of its design cues from the Nike Zoom Flight 95 and sports a modern build of mesh and textile, with a foam midsole.
The White Chrome sports 3M reflective elements and chrome detailing which gives the sneaker an elevated luxurious look. That mix of bright white and chrome feels classic like this shoe has always been a part of Nike’s roster. But that’s also part of the problem — nothing about this sneaker is reflective of Drake other than the fact that it feels incredibly safe, is engineered to be a hit, and lacks any soul or weirdness.
Find the Drake x Nike NOCTA Glide White Chrome at your favorite aftermarket site.
6. Bad Bunny Forum Low Easter Egg
At first, I was incredibly excited about Bad Bunny and Adidas teaming up, but I’m starting to get a little worried. Mostly because I think the best Bad Bunny Adidas collaboration by far, is the Easter Egg, which was the two entities’ second collaboration. That sneaker came out three years ago and Bad Bunny and Adidas haven’t released anything even half as dope since.
One thing I will give the Bad Bunny Adidas collaboration is that it’s… easily identifiable. The sneaker takes a popular Adidas silhouette, the Forum, and alters it with a buckle strap and Bad Bunny-inspired branding at the tongue. It’s also really hard not to fall in love with this soft pink colorway. It feels daring and unexpected, a colliding of aesthetics and opposing worlds, kind of like the best Bad Bunny songs. I just wish they’d capture that magic again.
Find the Bad Bunny Forum Low Easter Egg at your favorite aftermarket site.
5. Tyler The Creator x Converse Golf Le Fleur One Star Ox Bachelor Blue
Out of all the artists on this list, none of them are quite as visionary as Tyler the Creator. He has a distinct vision and aesthetic that is entirely his own. We don’t know how involved any of these artists are in the design process of their respective sneakers, but we can say with certainty that none are as involved as Tyler the Creator.
He’s always shown an interest in fashion and his Golf Le Fleur, Golf Wang, and GOLF brands operate under a specific and consistent vision. I appreciate Tyler’s place in the fashion world and his ongoing work with Converse, but I feel like overall that distinct vision is kind of niche.
While I think the Golf Le Fleur line has resulted in a lot of dope shoes, if your vibe isn’t classic Converse shapes and bright pastel colors, this line will never really speak to you.
My favorite so far has to be the 2018s One Star OX in Bachelor Blue. I love the suede upper, the flower print branding, and the orange contrast points.
Find the Converse Golf Le Fleur One Star Ox Bachelor Blue at your favorite aftermarket site.
4. Action Bronson x New Balance 990v6 Lapis Lazuli
Not enough people are talking about Action Bronson and New Balance’s collaborations. The pair linked up just last year and hasn’t missed on a single drop. Our favorite so far was the 990v6 Lapiz Lazuli, a sneaker we named one of the 20 best of 2023.
The sneaker is part of New Balance’s MADE IN USA line and features a mesh base with suede overlays and big bold colors. Big bold colors are something consistently missing from New Balance, so we like to think that contribution comes straight from Bronson, who has a big bold personality to match.
Keep watching the Action Bronson NB link-ups, because we have a feeling the best is yet to come.
Find the Action Bronson x New Balance 990v6 Lapis Lazuli at your favorite aftermarket site.
3. J Balvin x Air Jordan 3 Medellín Sunset
I’m a bit torn on this one. On one hand, look at it, it’s dope. I don’t need multiple paragraphs to convince you this is one of the best Jordan colorways to drop in recent memory, celebrity collaboration or not. That off-white coconut milk upper, the soft suede Elephant print mudguards, those hints of yellow at the seams, the gradient heel piece — this is an all-time great Jordan 3 colorway.
It may even solidify J Balvin as Nike’s greatest current collaborator. But it just feels so damn safe. It takes arguably the greatest Jordan silhouette (I say arguably because I think the 4 is superior, but that’s just me) dips it in an interesting collar combination inspired by Balvin’s hometown, and then calls it a day. It doesn’t take any risks whatsoever, and the end result is probably better for it, but ranking it any higher than third just feels wrong.
Having said that, J Balvin’s Jordan collaborations are always interesting, so as long as they keep dropping shoes together, we’re going to keep paying attention. We’d just like to see Balvin take even a little bit of a chance.
Find the J Balvin x Air Jordan 3 Medellín Sunset at your favorite aftermarket site.
2. Rihanna — Fenty x Puma Avanti C ‘Aged Silver’
I was incredibly close to giving this collaboration between Rihanna’s Fenty and Puma the top spot. I love everything about this shoe, I love the simple design, I love this particular colorway and the level of luxury, and I love the way it combines PUMA’s King Football Boot and Easy Rider running sneaker, a reference to German designer Jil Sander King who was the first high-end designer to ever combine the world of runway fashion and sportswear.
It was King who elevated the sneaker from sportswear to luxury wear and I think it’s dope that Rihanna recognized and paid tribute to a fellow trailblazer. But history and tradition aren’t enough to award the sneaker the number one spot.
So while I think Rihanna is operating on a deeper level than every other artist with a signature sneaker, I can’t pretend this is the best. Especially considering the number one spot is so painfully obvious that you’ve probably been waiting for it this whole time.
Find the Fenty x Puma Avanti C ‘Aged Silver’ at your favorite aftermarket site.
1. Travis Scott x Jordan 1 Mocha
When I said the sneaker world was dominated by hype, I meant it. That’s why, even though it’s not my favorite Travis Scott Nike collaboration ever, I can’t deny that this is the best artist sneaker collaboration in recent memory. This sneaker kicked off the ongoing collaboration between Nike and Travis Scott and is the only sneaker on this list with aftermarket prices above $1000. The hype for this sneaker is alive and well.
Unlike the J Balvin collaboration, there is at least some risk taken here. The most instantly recognizable feature of a Travis Scott Nike collaboration is that large backward Swoosh. Couple that with a muted and dusty colorway, and Cactus Jack branding at the heel and you have a sneaker that reflects Travis Scott’s whole aesthetic.
It has a strong design language, and a strong level of hype, there simply isn’t an artist hotter artist in the sneaker world than Travis Scott right now. We just wish he’d take a page out of his mentor’s book and start conceptualizing some silhouettes of his own.
Find the Travis Scott x Jordan 1 Mocha at your favorite aftermarket site.