Nice Kicks: How would you describe the sneaker culture in D.C. when you were growing up?
Wale: As far as the whole sneaker culture in D.C., there were so many types of sneakerheads, but we all knew each other. Back then, it was a super underground thing. To get Foams early, you were like the guy that knew people that knew people that knew people, and we were those guys – me, Sneaker Man Dan and my dude Adrian. We used to sell sneakers to all of the drug dealers on the 1st and the 15th; I vividly remember us selling those peanut butter Foamposites to everybody back in the day.
Nice Kicks: Are Foams what you were personally into even during that time period?
Wale: I didn’t wear the shoes people consider hype nowadays. I wore shoes like the “Human Torch” 95s, the “Hawaii” Dunks and the “Mork and Mindy” Dunks. SBs were our first real wave. That’s when we were on our Nationals hats heavy; no matter what we wore, we always had on red Nationals hats. As for Foams, I’ve always been into those, but I don’t like the some of the recent joints. It’s starting to look like the next Air Max 95. Remember when it was just the f*ckin’ Neon 95s? That kinda justified them being $160 because that shade of green was so amazing. The new Foamposite shoes – like the Barkley Posite Max – are cool, but they don’t have longevity.
It’s like having a hit single versus a great album. Did you see that crowd today? Millions of people come see us [Wale and J. Cole]. We don’t have the biggest record in the club. We do well on the charts – “Power Trip” went #1 and “Bad” went #1 – but you hear other rappers in the club way more than us. You can relate that to the new Foam models. They’re dope for what they are, but I almost feel like they’re being created to have a week or two of a few wears, then it becomes your hoop shoe. If a solid Foamposite colorway comes out – like the Royals or Eggplants – and gets a yellow bottom, you’ll still rock that shit. That’s the difference between myself and a lot of these new guys.
Nice Kicks: Outside of D.C., how has the sneaker culture evolved – either positively or negatively – from when you were growing up until now?
Wale: Now, everyone is into sneakers – DJ ‘this’ and rapper ‘that’ – which kinda makes things weird now. But you know, it’s the evolution of the game. Some of these industry people are not really of this sh*t. They do it because it gains them more fans and Instagram followers. Everybody gets sh*t early now because the game is so f*cked up. I can’t even tell who’s who anymore because they all have the blueprint now. I do know that Trinidad James respects the culture; I met Kevin Hart a long time ago, and we were talking about Sea Crystals, Jedis and other SB Dunks, so I know he’s into it.
I respect the culture, but I hate that it’s been bastardized. I understand it makes you a quick buck – we used to flip sneakers too because we couldn’t sell drugs – but there needs to be a line drawn somewhere. The sneaker game has just evolved into something else.
Nice Kicks: Why do you think that is?
Wale: I don’t know. Indirectly, I might have something to do with it because no matter what you do, your hobby or interest elevates as your celebrity figure elevates from a commercialization standpoint. Point in case – Meek Mill loves bikes. ‘Bike Life’ is hot now because that’s his hobby regardless if he raps or not. The only difference is ‘Bike Life’ people are more willing to support Meek Mill because the sneaker community is very snobbish. I say that with the utmost respect, but it’s a snobby type of thing. People hate me on NikeTalk, but I’m actually one of them. I like what I like, but sometimes it unintentionally dictates what’s about to pop off. I genuinely like certain shoes. I’m just a n**** from the hood that can rap his ass off and knows how to make songs, but I’m wholeheartedly into sneakers. The same thing happened with Lupe Fiasco and skateboarding. Skateboarding became a big part of the hip hop culture when Lupe Fiasco came in. It’s just a case of people who you can relate to being into what the masses like.