Back in 2013, when Kendrick Lamar took aim at the whole rap universe with his verse on Big Sean’s Control, he said he’d drop designer gear, and get back to one sneaker in particular: the Nike Cortez.
But from 2014 to early 2017, Lamar had a deal with Reebox, remixing classic kicks like the Ventilator, Classic Leather and Club C. The collaborations always had a message of unity and peace baked into their design, like when he combined rival gang-affiliated hues in a single pair.
And while Reebok sneakers are having a moment right now, there’s no arguing that the Nike Cortez has been a bigger staple of hip-hop style, particularly in Lamar’s hometown Los Angeles.
The Cortez—which first debuted in 1972, and was re-released by Nike in its original glory earlier this year are to LA rap what Nike Air Force 1s are to New York City hip-hop. They’re the instantly recognizable sneaker that helped define the style and vibe of the city.
The vintage runner style is most remembered in its white leather, red Swoosh, and blue detailing colorway and in that sense, it’s already a natural extension of Lamar’s Reebok collaborations.
They also look pretty great with the custom Fear of God track suits Kendrick Lamar’s been wearing on tour these days, as well as the oversized pants, white tee, and bandana he wore on stage last night at the VMAs.
Other than Kendrick’s admiration of the Cortez, little is known about just what his partnership with Nike will entail. That said, this move still makes waves, the latest big news in the world of rapper-sneaker brand partnerships, with Jay-Z seemingly joining Puma, Big Sean leaving Adidas for Puma, and Young Thug in turn leaving Puma to join Adidas.
It is an insanely competitive time in the ongoing Sneaker Wars, especially on the hip-hop front and now that brands are showing no one’s roster is entirely safe, it’ll only get more heated from here.