Business Is Boomin: Benjamin Kickz for Grailed
Business Is Boomin: Benjamin Kickz for Grailed
- Words Lawrence Schlossman
- Date November 16, 2017
Want to feel old, lazy and utterly irrelevant? Spend a day with Benjamin Kickz aka Benjamin Kapelushnik, the 18-year-old sneaker reseller wunderkind turned legitimate mogul. In just one afternoon together in New York, I witnessed Ben FaceTime with Offset, cash out at Stadium Goods and Patron of the New, and work on his new line of custom jewelry before sitting down to have a wide-ranging conversation about how exactly a then preteen in Miami breaks into the sneaker game and eventually becomes the plug for all your favorite celebrities. Read our chat below and then shop a curated selection of hyped streetwear and kicks straight from his vault. Business is boomin indeed.
Photography by Chris Fenimore
For starters, who are you, how old are you, where do you live, what do you do? All the basics.
My name is Benjamin Kickz. I'm 17 for like another week. I'm gonna be legal in like a week.
Thanks. I can finally, legally get into clubs in the Bahamas. I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I lived in New York for the first four years of my life, then I moved to Miami. But I go to New York every month obviously because it's home, basically. And I might be moving out to LA once I’m 18. I'm still trying to figure that out.
Do you go to school? Are you homeschooled? What's the deal?
Originally, I dropped out at first because I went on tour when I was like 15. I was a sophomore. I went on tour and my teachers were like, "Okay, well…” and when I came back they gave me like a week to make everything up. I was with Khaled and he wouldn't fly so the tour would’ve only took like a week, but it took a month and a half. I came back and all these kids I had never hung out with were like so fake, like "Oh my god! Let's link. Let's build, fam. I fuck with the vision." Like, no.
When you've gone on tour before with Khaled or Migos, what exactly are you there to do?
I just get them sneakers, like wherever they're at.
This is when you started getting popping.
Yeah, this was like the day of. I wish I had it on video the day. I walked into the cafeteria, and I'm not even trying to exaggerate, I wish I had it on video so I could show you, bro, it was like a camp out at 21 Mercer for something crazy. It was like that.
Before that tour were you were still selling sneakers?
I was selling sneakers and I was selling a lot of sneakers, but I think it's a different bracket once you go on tour with like the hip-hop industry.
Once you start getting some clout.
Yeah, that's what it is. You know, the clout game.
How did you get into sneakers originally?
I was in like 5th grade and my mom bought me a pair of Lebron 9 “Galaxy’s”. I went to school and everyone was like, "Oh shit, those are so fire.” So, I wore those and everyone was tripping out so my mom got me the Kobes after that and some kid was like, “Yo, I wanna buy them. I'll pay double.” I was like, “Whatever, I'll get you a pair tomorrow.” So I told my mom and she was like, "Why do you need another pair?” I told her I was gonna sell then and get the money back. So she bought them and the kid bought them from me the next day and I paid her back for the second pair she bought, but I kept the rest of the money.
That's how you learned the economics of this market?
And then how do you go from that dude selling the sneakers off your feet to some random kid to plugging DJ Khaled? How does that even happen?
It was like a mutual friend. Me and him have a mutual friend, a he was like, “Yo, Khaled needs the Jordan “Pantone” 11 pack. This is obviously way before the whole Snapchat thing, way before Khaled was at the level he is now. But still, DJ Khaled was in Miami, I was in Miami and you just have to like pay respect to guys like him and Rick Ross, the legends. Anyhow, I was able to get him three packs. From there it was just getting him shoes and we built a relationship off that. I was going to his house and we would hang out, do a bunch of things like go jet skiing. That was when he really became a movement. People think what he does on Snapchat or whatever is fake, but that’s the real him.
He’s that ridiculous normally?
Yeah it's amazing. We just do a bunch of stuff like hop in a golf cart or jet ski, stuff like that. Obviously, his Snapchat thing became popping and my friends were all using it. My girlfriend at the time was like, “Oh you, have to download Snapchat. It's lit.” I listened to her. That was the best advice a girl has ever given me, honestly.
Is that because you used Snap to build your own personal brand from there?
Absolutely. I saw Khaled’s numbers going crazy and I was like, “Yo, this is going places.” You gotta catch the wave while it's moving. We definitely caught the Snapchat wave.
Is it Khaled who introduced you to the other rappers you work with, like Travis Scott and Migos?
Yeah, it all started from Khaled. I remember we were on a boat and we pulled up to P. Diddy's house on Star Island, so I got in with the Combs family. I was hanging out with his sons, Justin and Christian. Just mad cool, mad humble, which is crazy considering who their dad is obviously. From them, I met French Montana and Travis Scott. It just went from there.
It just snowballs.
Exactly. I ended up doing a New York Magazine shoot with Travis Scott on his plane. It was crazy. Recently, I just got in contact with, obviously one of the biggest out, Justin Bieber. I don't wanna sound like I'm hyping myself, but…
It’s all good. Go for it.
At 17, to be able to plug Justin Bieber, plug every link, that’s crazy.
How are you getting these sneakers? You have certain tricks of the trade, so to speak?
Before the whole Instagram fame and all that, I was really into the sneaker shit. Like really, really into it. Every day, staying up day and night. I wasn't going to high school parties. Sneakers was my whole life.
You were working.
Literally. I was going to Sneaker Con, cashing out 40, 50 bands. I was making investments. I was trying to pick out what's gonna be popping.
You’re forecasting sneaker trends.
In a way, yeah, but it wasn't that difficult. You just put two and two together. Buying the right stuff headstock in the right sizes. I was really doing sneaker shit heavy and I still have shoes from three, four years ago that I was buying.
How many shoes would you say you own? How many pairs?
At my high point, I would say it was around almost 6,000 pairs. I first started off at my parents’ house. My dad was so not having it. For my Bar Mitzvah, my grandma gave me money and I bought a pair of—well she actually split this with me—What The Dunks. My dad was like, "You spent $650 on a shoe? You're insane. Who does that?” He wanted to kill me.
I’m assuming that your parents eventually saw the return on investment, yeah?
My mom always saw it. Or, it wasn't that she saw it, but she believed in what I was doing.
What do they say about this now? Are they proud of what you do?
Now, they're all aboard. My mom actually helps me out with stuff. My dad is still doing his own thing.
So what's the plan now that you're about to turn 18? Do you want to go to college?
I got flown out to Yale to do a speech on the whole entrepreneur and sneaker shit. That was cool, but realistically, the whole college thing, if I went it would be for marketing because that's something I wanna pursue. But not right now.
What is it like the best partying with rappers story that you have?
Oh man, I have something we definitely can't talk about. When they go to the club, like Quavo says, when we pull up to the club we shut the club down. Like literally, we'll pull up to the club and like the whole shit will be literally shut down.
Is it still crazy for you to find yourself in those moments? Or are you more used to it now?
I'm super used to it, but it's still dope.
Yeah I can imagine. What would you say are your top five sneakers of all time? If you had to pick…
This is obviously kinda biased, but it's all SBs.
Do you think SBs are gonna come back?
I hope so. It just depends on who starts wearing them. Honestly, I'm trying to get all the rappers SBs. My SB collection right now, no flex, it's just insane.
Have there ever been any celebrities that have hit you up for sneakers and you were like, nah it's not a good look, I don't wanna work with you?
I guess Instagram models you could say, who are like poppin on the gram, but like actually not. I've put my life into this. I was not sleeping, doing this shit. There's people doing other stuff, this is what I was doing. I wanna make sure it’s going to people who actually care. Like, what are you gonna do? Post up pictures holding a Dunk with your butt out? That's a piece of history for the culture. I’d rather sell it to somebody like G-Eazy who understands about the whole SB game and was really into it. That’s why this project with Grailed is like the perfect thing. People will hate, but that’s just part of the game.
What’s next for you?
I’ve always been into jewelry, so I’m working on my Boomin pendants. I'm dropping an album. The promotion's there and all the artists I know are already there backing me. I literally got all my features for free.
Do you sing? Rap? What's your deal?
Before I got into sneakers, music was my favorite thing. I'd look up to all the rappers I now work with. I was 11-years-old, just writing stuff, like raps, Thinking to myself like, “Oh, I'm gonna be Eminem.” It's just so dope and to be able to express yourself in a way that has a whole melody behind it and everything. It’s not just boring like how having a conversation can sometimes be.
What’s your rap name?
Well, honestly, I didn't have one. Just Boomin I guess.
Does the album or mixtape have a title?
Yeah, The Boomin Album.
Are you going to put sneakers on the back burner for that?
No, sneakers are always gonna be my thing, but the music is definitely going to play a part.
How do you deal with the haters?
I don’t to be honest. You kinda want to respond, but then when you do you just bring yourself down to where they're at. There’s no point in responding, you feel me? At the end of the day, it’s the same kids who ask me for a picture when they see me at Sneaker Con.
I guess that's kind of the ultimate sign of respect, that people would take the time out of their day to even spend that much time thinking about you and what you’re doing.