Hip-Hop has always been inspired from and influenced street fashion. Hip-Hop artists took their business skills into the world of fashion and shaped the culture of urban wear as well. Artists like Kanye West, Rihanna, Pharell Williams and many more have become global icons in the world of fashion. Through the years, sneaker culture has also grown and thrived through these stars.
“Six – Street fashion, lookin’ fly, Catchin’ the eye while them cats walk on by.” – “9 Elements” by KRS ONE.
Hip-Hop has found it’s own identity in terms of clothing and presenting oneself due to a collective effort from many of rap’s superstars. Looking “fly” now has its own definition. In the early days of Hip-Hop, rappers borrowed from Rock N Roll culture, showing up in leather outfits or spandex suits. Soon artists picked up on different styles, ranging from tracksuits, bomber jackets etc. All this topped up with the most important part of any hip-hop wardrobe – sneakers. Then, they kept the ball rolling from there.
Hip-Hop stands out distinctively because of artists like these. They talk the talk and most certainly walk the walk. Here’s a list of rap superstars who immersed themselves in street fashion and upheld the 6th element of Hip-Hop to its core and gave rise to trends that stuck (and will stick) for decades to come.
Run DMC – Adidas Superstar
Run DMC are pillars to Hip-Hop culture when it comes to fashion. They made an iconic fashion statement in the early days of Hip-Hop. Wearing Adidas tracksuits paired with bucket hats and most importantly a fresh pair of Adidas Superstars, they demanded attention. And boy did heads turn! Sneakers are to this day a go-to pair of shoes for hip-hop heads and fashion enthusiasts alike. No other pair of shoes have received multiple iterations and variations than the Superstars.
The 80’s Superstars they rocked had thick laces and a hi tongue to accentuate the look. RUN DMC rocked those shoes with the laces out and upped the hype for these eternal shoes. RUN DMC opened the doors for a new era of rap stars. Now emcees put a conscious effort into looking fresh and fly. They realised they had to stand out through more than their songs.
Kanye West – Yeezy
Kanye West is a genius. Be it in music, designer clothes or shoes, that statement maintains its truth. Kanye West stated in a recent interview that he used to picture himself becoming a fashion icon in Hip-Hop. He has accomplished more than just that.
‘Ye has started a tidal wave trend in urban wear with his Yeezy clothing line. He holds regular fashion events introducing the clothing collections. In the fashion world “Yeezy Season” has become a major attraction. After designing various shoes for major companies like Nike, Louis Vuitton, and many more, West joined forces with Adidas to introduce his own shoe line. He took shoe designs to the next level with his Yeezy 350 series.
Two versions of these shoes have been released. The shoe is designed like no other and was introduced originally in 4 colourways. The version 2’s come in 6 different colourways. The most eye-catching of them remains the grey with the orange streak, followed by the black-infrared colourways. These shoes have surpassed standards in sneaker culture due to design alone. Yeezy’s remain a must-cop for sneaker heads around the world to this day.
Drake – Jordan X OVO
When Drake rapped “Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpman, them boys up to something//” – he wasn’t lying. The OVO X Jordan collections unleashed a new sensation to the heavy favourite Jordan brand among Sneaker heads. Drake released 2 variants of shoes under the Jordan brand. In his own words “I get boxes of Air Jordans like he plays for North Carolina/”. More life to the Canada emcee. More power to the sneaker heads.
Pharell – Adidas Human Race
Pharell has been a fashion enthusiast ever since he stepped into the Hip-Hop circuit. He has two fashion lines under his belt namely “Billionaire Boys Club” & “Ice Cream”. He had also collaborated with iconic Japanese streetwear brand “BAPE”. This ushered in a different look in Hip-Hop.
He has collaborated with BAPE to infuse a new design to their shoes. He has also designed his own line of Timberland boots. But the most noteworthy fashion collaboration of his would be the Pharell -x- Adidas collection.
This collection includes designs for the Adidas Superstars. But the designs that really took it to another level were the Pharell “Human Race” NMD’s. Trust us, you haven’t seen shoes look like this before. They are shoes with a message.
The pairs come with a split message, some pairs saying “Human Being” and some “Hu Race”. The word “Hu” stands for human but is a wordplay on the word “hue”, as in colour. He means to say that we as humans of different colours are all human beings at the end of the day. Keeping the overall theme of unity aside, these sneakers are hot!
Lil Wayne – Supra Spectres
In 2012 “Trukfit” CEO and triple platinum artist Lil Wayne collaborated with the American sneaker brand “Supra”. These shoes instantly became a hit with fans and casual folks alike. The collaboration was pushed to represent skateboarding culture entering it’s way into Hip-Hop culture.
The “Supra Spectres” bring back the baggy and heavy look back into Hip-Hop fashion. These shoes are extra comfortable and durable as well. This move also launched an uprising of fake copies which people still bought into. Free Carter V y’all!
Kendrick Lamar – Reebok Classics
Reebok is a brand that has always been resonant with the soundscape of Hip-Hop culture. Rakim was one of the first emcees to endorse the Reebok Classics. These shoes were branded “Lyrical Classics”. This is a new age, and just last year we saw the return of the Reebok Classics. And who better to be the face of the return than King Kunta himself! These pair of shoes kept it close to the original Reebok with just a simple edit.
The tongues for both sides had a red and blue separation on either side. Kendrick explained that this was a symbol of peace between the prevalent gangs in the West. These shoes carried forward the messages in his socio-political themed album “To Pimp A Butterfly”.
In the album, he delves into topics about the prevalent gang violence in America and how this affects the environments of people in society. This thought converted itself to these shoes and they represent a truce between the Bloods and Crips. This was a bold symbol to reflect but Reebok pulled through with ease.
Special Mention – Eminem Air Jordans
Not known to be much of a fashion junkie, the GOAT himself has a collaboration with the other GOAT. The $30,000 Eminem Jordans are a pair of shoes that made it to this list because they are some of the most expensive shoes on planet Earth. May the sneaker Gods bestow you with every shoe on this list!