The chorus to "Josie" has 1-O.A.K. singing about how you "stay in them Jordans," while on Spank Pops' "A New Day," you dropped a reference to Nike Air Jordan designer Tinker Hatfield. Are you obsessed with the Jordan sneaker?
Yeah, I think that I am! The Air Jordan No. 3 is my favorite shoe, so I do refer to that a lot. I have about five to six pairs of those shoes.
What is it about their design that appeals to you so much?
I just think they're really cool, like with the exotic elephant print, and just the colorways and the way everything sort of blends in together. It's just a really cool-looking shoe. It's also representative of a man [Hatfield] who worked really hard to get to the top of his game and achieve excellence. That's another reason why I like standing in those shoes.
Do you remember when you got your first pair of Jordans?
I got my first pair about two, three years ago. I wasn't able to afford a pair of Jordans like a lot of the kids when any of the Jordans first came out. [Mine] came in '08, when the Jordan brand released a collection pack of two pairs of shoes. They'd pitch it as iconic, but everyone knows if you're a Jordan head you pretty much want numbers one to thirteen -- nobody really cares about the ones after that, when the brand lost its luster with the Jordan heads. One to thirteen is what everybody goes crazy over. So they put the [Jordan] three with another shoe that nobody wanted. It was clever marketing. Before they released the retro package, if you wanted the Jordan three, with the Nike Air logo on the back, you were going to have to pay at least $350-450 for the shoe, for the black ones specifically. And they knew that -- the Jordan brand keeps tabs on the community and their clientele -- so they re-released it and made everyone go ahead and pay $350 for one shoe, but told them they were getting two shoes, even though it's only one you cared about.
Is that how much you paid for yours?
I paid about $320 and change. And I bought three of them, ha ha! You do the math.
HUF, and True, where I worked for a short time, and sometimes I go to the Finish Line, I go to Foot Locker, cause they're not all quick-strike accounts. If they do a regular retro, like a Deion Sanders, you can pick that up at a Foot Locker, but otherwise you need to go to a Huff, or an Undefeated, which is a boutique type store out in L.A. that specializes in that.
Spank Pops! Cause he actually has the Jordan threes, the white elephant print, which are coming out again on the 22nd of January. And I will be getting those. That's like my grail. Whenever I see those I kinda bite my first and put it in my mouth.
Would you ever step on Spank Pops' sneakers out of jealousy?
No, cause he probably would step on me if I stepped on them! We would no longer be making any songs together.
When you worked at True, did you have any other artists come in to buy sneakers?
While I was there I don't recall any major rappers coming in, but I do know that True has a huge hip-hop following in terms of rappers coming through when they are in San Francisco -- they drop by and they have all of these Polaroid pictures of people who popped by, like Kanye West and Slim Thug. You name it, they've been there.
Have you ever bought a pair of rapper-endorsed sneakers, like 50 Cent's G-Unit line or Kanye West's Air Yeezys?
No, I haven't.
What do you think of them?
Aesthetically, they're not really my thing. I thought that the Air Yeezys were a nice shoe, and I could see why people would like the shoe. Shoes are made for different people and styles. You have sneaker heads who when they walk out they need for you to see what they are wearing, they want to break your neck; and then for some people who don't like all that, they just want something simple and clean and be on their merry way; and someone who wants to let you know how smooth and suave they are wants you to see them with these exotic leathers and animal skins. But the Yeezy, I thought was an iconic shoe just because he got to do what every rapper wants to do and really design a shoe from scratch. They didn't give him an Air Force One silhouette and said, "Here, just warp some material on it and give it colorway." Kanye designed it from scratch. He took all of his influences from Jordan threes and the four and the big strap from some high designer shoe that he loved, he took them all and combined them. I thought that was really dope.
Would you wear them?
Would I personally wear it? Some of the colors weren't my thing, but he had one which was all black, a special mama edition, which came out when his mother passed away. He had those out that I really liked and would wear. But to answer your original question, I don't have any shoes that have been endorsed by any major rappers.
As an independent artist, what's your take on clothing and sneaker brands sponsoring artists to make music and mixtapes?
I think they pretty much go hand in hand. If you look at the way skateboard culture was doing it back in '05, you had a lot of graffiti artists doing collabs with Nike skateboard shoes. They knew that these skaters and these graffiti artists had these ties to the hip-hop world and the subculture and knew that these kids wanted a piece of their brand. So what better way than to do a cross branding?
Is there a danger that it serves the brand more than the artist?
Well if you love Futura or you love KAWS, and KAWS has a dope shoe with another brand, you're gonna get that. And if you make it limited, it's exclusive and you have something the rest of the world doesn't have. It's just like hip-hop, being one-up on everyone, like being the first to flip a crazy sample and know everyone's bugging out about it. I know that hip-hop is bigger than we could have ever imagined, but it all spawned from being a subculture. I think that's how they tie-in. And rappers in general, we have this whole thing where we wanna look fly. Even if you're not rapping about some big chains and don't feel the need to go out in a big chain, you want to go out and wear some, say, Comme des Garcons, and you know that when people see you, the people in the know, they know that's some expensive fly shit. It's like validating your taste. So hip-hop and sneakers go hand in hand -- it's about one-upping everyone and expressing yourself in a unique manner.
For an indie artist, what's the hardest part about releasing music these days?
Well I think the sky's the limit for today's generation because it's very easy to release music. You can go on to YouTube and be a phenomenon. Look at that guy Antoine [Dodson] -- I forget his full name, but the song about the burglar coming into his house? That was over 50 million views! This guy got on YouTube, somebody saw it, made a news story out of his song, and he's been able to do very well in terms of putting out a song that nobody's going to care about in two years. There's nothing holding people back. Now you don't have to use the majors, you can have your own movement, just work and grind and don't go looking for handouts. You don't need any handouts -- you have all the tools for your own opportunities these days. You start with the grass roots, the early adopters who are going to run and tell their friends about you, and then you hope for a tipping point. When you release a song, you never know who's listening.
For "Josie," do you have a goal for the number of downloads you'd like to achieve to consider it a success?
I don't know. Of course I'll say I'd love to have 10,000 downloads, but I have work that I have to do to get to that point. Right now, toady, I'm satisfied with 100 a day. Then for the next song I expect more. 100, 150 a day is fine. I don't really know what the average is for a new person coming out! I'm happy if just anybody likes to listen to what I have to say.