On this week’s episode of People’s Party, Talib Kweli and his co-host-with-the-most Jasmin Leigh sat down with legendary DJ, producer, designer, and sneaker extraordinaire Clark Kent for a lengthy discussion that covers Kent’s Superman DJ Crew, hip-hop’s greatest emcees, and, of course, sneakers. If you haven’t caught the episode, it’s definitely worth a full watch and offers some deep insight into hip-hop’s earliest moments as a culture-dominating force.
Prior to the interview, we linked up with “God’s favorite DJ” for a chat about the famous trendsetter’s favorite sneakers of all time. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that the AF-1 ranks at the top — Nike famously commissioned Kent for an iteration of the shoe for 2010’s “Five Boroughs” project. In fact, of the eight sneakers designed by DJ Clark Kent currently available on StockX, half of them are AF-1s, each doper than the next. The dude knows shoes, so let’s jump in and find out DJ Clark Kent’s four other favorites, his all-time favorite sneaker drop, and who he thinks is killing it in the sneaker game right now.
Watch the full DJ Clark Kent interview on People’s Party above.
What is your favorite sneaker silhouette or pair of shoes, ever?
Well, my favorite silhouette is Air Force 1s because they are the cleanest, simplest, most easy-to-wear silhouette. I think they look perfect, and my favorite pair of sneakers of all time is white on white, Air Force 1s.
What are the craziest lengths you’ve ever gone to get a pair of shoes?
I found out that there were these linen Air Force 1s. Clean linen color with pink swooshes, coming out on a weekend only in Japan, but I wouldn’t be until Japan the week after, because I had to DJ there. I had the promoter change my flight to go a week early, actually a week and two days early. The first thing he said was “I’m not paying for a hotel.” I said, “It’s all good, I’ll pay for the hotel.” I need to be there like a day or two before the shoes come out. He doesn’t understand why I want to come. I don’t explain it that way, but that’s my mentality. The shoes come out on Saturday. I got to be there early just to prepare. So he switched the flight. I got the hotel, the same hotel that I was supposed to stay in.
I was staying at The Civilian. I’ve always stayed at the Civilian. That saturday morning I went to 11 sneaker stores and bought every pair of size 11 and a half of AF-1 linen that I could find. I brought back home 11 pairs to the United States after I did my show the week after. So basically, I went and sat in Japan for a week with a bunch of shoes, just to make sure I had them.
When I came back to New York, everybody made jokes about the fact that I was wearing sneakers with pink swooshes. Then, a couple of stores imported them, and all of a sudden it was a thing — “Oh my God, the pink Air Force 1’s, linen Air Force 1s!” and I’m looking at everybody like, three months ago, y’all thought I was funny!
It was just crazy.
Japan always has the best colorways!
Japan and London! They’ve come close in London or in Europe with JP sports. They always had incredible colorways, but in Japan, they do get some really incredible colorways.
Could you walk us through your five favorite sneaker collaborations? They could all be AF-1s if you want them to be, or shoes you own or wish you owned.
It’s really hard to say what my five favorites are. I think it might be easier to just say, what are my five favorite silhouettes. I would really have to sit here and jog my memory of all of the craziness that I’ve come across or stuff I went looking for that I missed. That would, seriously, probably take about a month — because I’ve been doing this since I was nine. I’d have to go back to 1975, and those were great shoes I was getting when I was a kid.
But favorite Silhouette is Air Force 1. The second favorite is the Air Max 1. Third… there’s a tie between Jordan III and a Jordan XI
The fourth would probably be the Adidas Grand Prix, and then the fifth would be — I like so many sneakers, man. I think it might be the Valley Competition.
Is there a pair that you’ve always wanted, but never have been able to get your hands on?
Yeah, there is plenty of shoes I wanted but couldn’t get my hands on, but the reason I missed them was that they didn’t make my size or something. It’s not because I don’t know how to find them, or I don’t know how to make the call to get it.
Now, there are shoes that are made that might only come up to a size 12, and I’m just like, “Come on guys,” “Well, this colorway is made for women, so the biggest size would be a men’s 11 and a half.” My God! There’s plenty I haven’t gotten.
I would be going crazy if I had to give you a full list but there are enough that have come out that I couldn’t get, and contrary to what most people think — I don’t get everything. But what I do get is what I want. Do you know what I mean?
But like I said, if I want it and don’t have it, the shoes probably just didn’t come in my size. So even though I might have wanted them, I didn’t get them, but you know, I don’t trip off of that. Always remember one thing to be very, very true. There is always next Saturday.
Who, in your opinion right now, is killing it in the sneaker game? Brand, designer, a celebrity with great taste —
Salehe Bembury is doing very well. Joe Fresh Goods, he’s doing great collabs, I’m still doing great collabs! It’s so many, so many brands that can get it right. Do you know what I’m saying? Like, Bodega, when they do their New Balance Collide, always amazing concepts, there are just way too many to say who’s the one.
I don’t miss on Air Force One’s and Conflict doesn’t miss on New Balance. Joe Bodega doesn’t miss on New Balance. Right now, Virgil isn’t missing on Off-White. Supreme doesn’t miss. Do you know what I’m saying? Even when you think they miss, it’s not a miss. They could sell you a brick —
That’s when you know you are not missing. They sold you a brick, you’re not missing if you can do that.
Sneakersnstuff. The things that they do, they don’t miss. I think we need to give these outside collaborators the ability to do something with a big brand. When that happens, special things can happen. When you work at a plant and you are confined to this season, or this color is what’s happening this season, or this is the materials we’re trying to use this season that has to do with this initiative we’re pushing this season. When you are confined to those rules, the people who work in the brand are stifled. So with that stifling, the guys from outside look like they’re killing it. But they have guys who are sitting in those brands that are amazing. And they just aren’t getting to be as amazing as they could.
Travis is kind of killing me too. Who’s going to say that Kanye West wasn’t killing it on sneakers? There are honestly too many people out there.