Hip-hop and sneaker culture have gone hand-in-hand since Run-DMC first rapped about their adidas in 1986 — a move that led to a lucrative partnership between the Three Stripes and the three-man band, and ultimately created a lane others swiftly followed. From Jay-Z’s S. Carter deal with Reebok to Kanye’s current YEEZY deal with adidas, there’s no telling how far hip-hop will take it when it comes to the sneaker game.
We decided to look at 10 of our favorite sneaker moments on the covers of classic rap albums, and even went a step further to show you where you can get those same kicks now if your pockets are feeling a bit nostalgic. Keep scrolling to see our picks:
Missy Elliott – Supa Dupa Fly (1997)
The Sneaker: Nike Air Force 1 Mid
On top of redefining the genre of hip-hop for a new era of female emcees in the mid ‘90s, Missy Elliott was also known for her eclectic style. On the cover of her debut LP Supa Dupa Fly, the rapstress proved to be just that with a custom leather baseball jersey and a pair of super fresh white-on-white Uptowns. When it came to steez, Missy always put her thing down, flipped it, and reversed it for the culture.
Available At: Foot Locker
LL Cool J – Radio (1985)
The Sneaker: Air Jordan 1 Hi “Bred”
Technically this is the back cover of the original King James’ debut album, but it still counts! Who would’ve known that a sneaker — the “Bred” 1s to be exact — he was donning during his “Rock The Bells” era three decades ago would still be a sought-after shoe in 2018. The shoe is so iconic in fact that it’s dropping again this Friday in Chicago (and again next month as a wider release) with a completely warped style from the original design.
Available At: Flight Club
The Game – The Documentary (2005)
The Sneaker: Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Hi
No sneaker in the history of West Coast hip-hop defines the region more than a pair of Chuck Taylors. For The Game’s debut album on Aftermath/G-Unit Records — what is it about first albums and sneakers? — he chose black high tops with the white toe box and equally crisp laces. Five million copies later, The Documentary is still a classic. Whether or not the All Stars helped pushed those numbers is arguable.
Available At: Converse
Busta Flex – Busta Flex (1998)
The Sneaker: Air Jordan 13 Retro “He Got Game”
Dropping some UK flavor on us, French MC Busta Flex busted out more than a fresh jam on his, yep, debut album. Ironically, the LP’s lead single was called “Kick avec mes Nike” (translation: “Kick with my Nike”), which probably influenced him to rock these classic sneakers we now know as the “He Got Game” 13s famously worn by Denzel Washington in the 1998 film. In the words of the French, c’est d’la bombe!
Available At: Stadium Goods
A$AP Mob – Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy (2017)
The Sneaker(s): [on J. Scott] Reebok Club C 85 / [on A$AP Rocky] adidas x Rick Owens Cargo Sandals.
Last year A$AP Mob had one of the best crew rap albums of 2017, with each member adding an element that proves why they work so well together as a unit. Of course, anyone familiar with the Mob knows how important they take their fashion game. While Rocky dons a pair of Rick Owens that only he could pull off, DJ J. Scott balances it out in a Reebok model we all know and love. Cozy Boys for sure.
Wale – The Album About Nothing (2015)
The Sneaker(s): [on Wale] Air Jordan 4 Retro “Black Cement” / [on Seinfeld] Air Jordan 6 Retro “Sports Blue”
In a match made in sneakerhead heaven, Wale and Jerry Seinfeld (yes, THE Seinfeld) came together for a meeting of the minds on this perfectly-executed album cover. While the D.C. MC chose a more general Jordan release, our guy Seinfeld stayed true to style and rocked the same “Sports Blue” 6s he’s been championing since his days on primetime NBC. We still can’t believe how well this duo came together.
Available At: Stadium Goods / Flight Club
J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)
The Sneaker: Air Jordan 1 Retro “Carmine”
As we prepare for J. Cole’s pleasant surprise called KOD arriving tomorrow, it’s never a bad time to look back at his previously-released modern classic, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Themed around his childhood home in Queens, the Roc Nation golden boy sits atop said house with a pair of kicks that any sneaker fiend wouldn’t mind having in their daily rotation.
Available At: StockX
Dizzee Rascal – Boy in da Corner (2003)
The Sneaker: Nike Air Max BW
This king of Grime is an innovator in every sense of the word, especially when it came to bringing brand endorsements overseas. Dizzee has done tons of collabs with Nike since gaining notoriety for this album, and his influence has gone on to inspire his successors in the game. Stormzy and adidas? Skepta and Air Max? It all started with this guy.
Available At: eBay
Chi-Ali – The Fabulous Chi-Ali (1992)
The Sneaker: Air Jordan 6 Retro “Infrared”
The fabulous Bronx MC also has on some fabulously fly kicks for his first and only album to date. While the sneakers he had on are probably more memorable than the album itself, we still give the Native Tongues affiliate props for his contributions to the culture. We wonder if Chi still has his OG pair, especially since the last time we saw these bad boys drop was in 2014.
Available At: Stadium Goods
Grandmaster Flash – The Source (1986)
The Sneaker: PONY Slam Dunk
Of course, we had to bring it home with all puns intended on this one. On the cover for Grandmaster Flash’s fourth LP, he kept it fresh in a classic product of New York. Both Flash and PONY are considered icons of the ’80s, so this pairing ended up being a match for the ages. Calling your album The Source, well, that’s just an added bonus.
Available At: Amazon
Honorable Mention: Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda” [Single] (2014)
The Sneaker: Air Jordan 4 Retro GS “Game Royal”
One look at “The Generous Queen” on the single cover of her record-breaking single is enough to turn heads (or crash a car), but the Js that she’s rocking are pretty clean too. Of course, you get a pass if they weren’t the first thing you noticed in this picture though.
Available At: Flight Club
Did we miss your favorite sneakers to cover a hip-hop album? Sound off on our Twitter and Facebook!