On November 14th, 2012 Wale sent out what might be the most poignant tweet of his career. The rapper tweeted, “When did all u celebrities become sneaker heads?” For someone like Wale this is a very important question, especially considering when Wale made his big-break with his timeless project “A Mixtape About Nothing” rappers like Raekwon and Curren$y seemed to be some of the few rappers willing to cement their image as a part of the sneaker culture.
While hip hop has always been tied to kicks, even Run DMC made a hit about Adidas in hip hop’s early stage, the sneaker culture as we know it – camping out, collecting rare skateboarding sneakers, and etc. – was not as trendy as it is now six years ago. While other adamant sneaker collectors all over have taken a notice to the extreme rise in new sneaker heads, Wale has an interesting case here.
Not only is the D.C. rapper known just as much for his sneaker collection as he is his rapping ability, Wale is the only star on his record label, Maybach Music Group (MMG), to not have a sneaker deal with a major company. The label’s boss Rick Ross has inked a deal with Reebok, Stalley received a 7-figured deal with Nike, and Meek Mill has officially joined Puma. Wale, on the other hand, has been collecting some of Nike’s rarest kicks for a long time and has only been part of seasonal look-books with rumors buzzing about a collaboration which has yet to be confirmed.
This is where Wale’s tweet becomes larger than the words that were typed. Even though Ross rapped about Wale’s exceptional collection on his new album bragging, “Me and Wale where the same kicks” sneaker companies have not given Wale the same respect. The rhetorical question becomes one that begs to be answered, forcing one to not only consider when did these celebrities become sneaker heads, but also when did these sneaker companies start fostering this behavior.
This is not to say that companies like Nike have not supported true sneaker heads in hip hop. While Nike and Reebok have hooked up De La Soul, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Swizz Beats, and ?uestlove with sneaker designs, it has been unprecedented until this point to see any hip hop record label such as MMG have as many people on their roster with sneaker deals. With three people on the label having sneaker endorsement deals ranging at least in the six-figures, they have a standing that mirrors some professional sports teams.
This is not a reflection on sneaker companies, but rather a reflection on the rapid change of the sneaker community itself. Nike, Reebok, and Puma all understand that as the amount of sneaker heads grow daily, the percentage of sneaker purists diminish as well. Just as sneaker purists laugh at people claiming to be “OG Heads” with nothing but retros and foams from 2010 and beyond in their collection, Nike and other sneaker companies are laughing all the way to the bank as they release countless Foamposites and re-release Air Jordans that all these new fans jump to without thinking.
Wale not having a sneaker deal is one of the most prevalent signs of this change. As sneaker purists slowdown from buying sneakers because they aren’t exclusive enough, and waiting lines are being crowded with resellers, the companies are playing into their newest, and largest market- people who are buying sneakers because its cool. Before the sneaker game was based on rocking kicks that others didn’t have or didn’t even know came out, but now it has become a popularity contest where everyone wears the same sneakers, in a uniform fashion, to show that they belong.
Truthfully Stalley, Meek Mill, and Ross have built a “cool” around themselves, which really has nothing to do with sneakers but translates to other markets. People who are into Wale are most likely already into sneakers meaning he won’t convince as many new people to buy kicks as Mill or Ross will. In a sense Wale’s expertise has worked against him for now, he’s a true sneaker head in a market where the real sneaker collectors have become obsolete.
Heads like DJ Clark Kent being granted the luxury of consulting for brands such as Nike leave hope that Wale could get his due, and we hope the best for him as just like you, we want our culture back.written by Mark Sabb