Footwear Plus | December 2023

Page 23

Top: Tupac Shakur wearing Fila Grant Hill 2s. Bottom: Sean Williams and sister, Sheree, kick

to perform. The hard rubber shells of my Superstars prevented quite a few mishaps that would’ve likely left me walking differently today or unable to walk at all! The soundtrack to my graffiti days came courtesy of Kool DJ Red Alert on 98.7 Kiss FM, and Mr. Magic (RIP) and DJ Marly Marl on 107.5 WBLS. Red Alert, now a good friend, rocked a signature military hat paired with whatever were the hottest basketball sneakers of the day. I sported Adidas Rivalry in the tried-and-true New York Knicks colorways. And on the days I ventured into Manhattan after school to work as a messenger, I donned fresh Nike Air Max 1s to make a good impression. I’ve always valued individual expression and my broad range of sneaker styles reflected that. On some occasions, I’d roll up in New Balance 574 joggers or Diadora Borg Elite tennis shoes. Showing up in kicks intended for sports I didn’t play was par for the course. For example, premium leather Bally Triumph tennis sneakers, circa 1986, was another style in my sneaker arsenal. It showed everyone that I rocked to my own beat. Being different was celebrated back then!

up their Aqua Air Jordan 8 heels in 1993.

basketball shoe. Tupac Shakur wore it on the All Eyez on Me album insert released in 1996. Hip Hop was edgy, and the shoes we sported were tough. Who cared if a sneaker weighed as much as a boot? Those days are long gone!

IT’S A WONDERFUL (SNEAKER) LIFE The new millennium marked the dawn of a new age for sneakers and Hip Hop. And1 crashed the party in 2000 as a brash new brand ushered in by Vince Carter’s NBA All-Star weekend dunk contest win for the ages. I’ll never forget that 360-degree, windmill monster jam with Carter sporting And1 Tai Chis. It put the brand on the map. Adding another pin to the map for Hip Hop was GhostFace Killah’s album Supreme Clientele. Even though Ghost was known as “Wally Champ” for his love of Clarks Wallabees, he wove sneaker and apparel references into his rhymes often. Sometimes I felt like we were shopping in the same places at the same time! His Wu-Tang Clan bandmate, Raekwon the Chef, also sparked a ton of footwear nostalgia in his 1999 song “Sneakers,” which name-dropped an array of classic styles. Other noteworthy Hip Hop albums released that year included Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia by Jay-Z, and the incomparable Busta Rhymes’ Anarchy. Eminem has since partnered with Nike on 30 amazing collabs! As the aughts wore on, there was a shift from overbuilt shoes to retro styles led by Nike Dunk and Jordan Brand. This trend is strong to this day. Hit styles included Vans Authentics, Adidas Stan Smiths, Converse All Stars (they never go out of style), and Fila Disruptors, to name but a few. Songs like Nelly’s “Air Force 1s” became a soundtrack to a lot of ’hoods across the country. As much as I disliked that song, it’s an undeniable ode to that 20-year-old sneaker’s legacy. Still, I’ve never owned white-on-whites in any brand. I just can’t go there, stylistically. Hip Hop’s influence on sneakers and vice-versa is stronger than ever today. And while these days sneaker drops come at us faster than Buster Rhymes raps, I can never get enough. Every new sneaker is a story—just like every new Hip Hop track. And after 50 years of marriage, the bonds between sneakers and Hip Hop are tight. I expect they will stick together for decades to come. Thank you for the memories. Happy golden anniversary, Hip Hop, and long live sneaker culture! •


THE DIDDY DAYS Around 1990, the sneaker wars were heating up and my role in Hip Hop’s growing army had changed. I jumped feet first into music production, owning my own indie record label. Puma and Adidas moved to the back of my closet, as groups like Audio Two, Eric B & Rakim, and Boogie Down Productions all rocked Nike styles. A new brand king had been coronated. MC Milk Dee and Giz of Audio Two made a bold statement on the cover of their “I Don’t Care” 12-inch release wearing Nike’s pump-controlled Air Pressure hi-tops. Soon after, Nike’s Air Max collection dominated my sneaker wardrobe, led by my alltime favorite, the Nike Air Max 1. My mid- and hi-top game also featured styles by Reebok, Air Jordan, Avia, Spot-Bilt, Adidas, and Converse, among others. I even got my younger sister, Sheree, in on the act with Aqua Air Jordan 8s, which we purchased together on the release date in 1993. The Hip Hop scene in New York was the epicenter of all things independent in the ’90s. That’s when artists like Eminem, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Biggie Smalls, Nas, and others found fame. Sneaker-wise, we continued to embrace individuality. There was none of today’s lockstep “released on Saturday, everyone wears them on Monday” behavior. Fila took a turn in the spotlight, led by its iconic Grant Hill 2 Alex

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