In the 35 years since Nike first introduced the Air Force 1, one of its most iconic sneakers, rap’s relationship with the sneaker industry has gone through many phases. Rappers have gone from subtle co-signers who helped start grassroots movements to indirect ad men, to power brokers with creative control over entire lines of product.

Air Force 1s, for example, have continued to thrive for decades largely because of their important place in rap culture. They were made famous by the rappers who emerged from neighborhoods in New York, Philadelphia and other East Coast cities where the shoe was a staple amongst hustlers, and influenced generations of listeners in the process (Michael Jordan never dropped 50 points in Air Force 1s). Today, rappers dictate business and trends in a way one never thought possible, to the point where rappers have usurped athletes as the go-to tastemakers in the industry. It’s been quite a sea change in terms of how the various companies do business, but rap has always had an epochal influence on the sneaker industry.

Long before A$AP Rocky was consulting for brands and sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week, Run-DMC were showing off their adidas Superstars on MTV. Before Nike took a chance on Kanye West with a signature shoe, Reebok gave Jay-Z that same opportunity. Over the years, there have been sneakers designed and/or influenced by a who’s who of rap’s elite: Nas, Wu-Tang, Eminem, Raekwon, Cam’ron, DJ Premier, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Future, Pusha T, De La Soul and so many others.

From “My Adidas” to “Air Force Ones” and from Hammer to Kanye, here’s a brief history of rap’s relationship with sneaker culture.

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