Before Kanye West, Pharrell, and Nigo signed big-time adidas deals, Big Sean was already working with the brand and putting his own personal spin on Pro Models.
The Detroit rapper is back with a new sneaker project, which is set to drop on Sept. 13. But this time, he took a shot at the Metro Attitude Hi - a silhouette that first made its way to mainstream culture via Patrick Ewing and RUN DMC in 1986.
Taking inspiration from the Hawaiian Islands, where G.O.O.D. Music’s recording headquarters are, the sneakers feature the same snakeskin leather seen in Sean’s first two adidas collabs with a heavy dose floral pattern. His personal touch is also found on the kicks, with lyrics from “First Chain” printed on the sockliner.
Here, Big Sean talks about the sneaker, Kanye’s style influence, and why G.O.O.D. Music is the freshest label in hip-hop.
Interview by Gerald Flores
This is your third project with adidas. How is this new collaboration different from what you've done in the past?
Every shoe has a different vibe every time. The first one was something bright, and the next one was more of an everyday shoe that was dark and subtle. This one was more about the story.
I remember telling ‘Ye about adidas in 2011.
What was the story you were trying to tell with this collab?
I’ve spent a lot of time in Hawaii with the G.O.O.D. fam just recording. It’s one of those places where I just felt comfortable with myself and it’s where I had some of the best experiences and learned the best lessons of my life. It was cool to incorporate those experiences into the shoe. Every sneaker, I want to have a cool theme to it and tell a deeper story. We working from that perspective and adidas definitely helped conceptualize it. I’ve always got to come with something new and fresh. I’m going to keep it me and keep it Detroit, and have fun with it.
A bit of a departure from the “Detroit Player” theme from the first two collabs.
Yea. This is just a spinoff of that, but we’re just telling a different story about the time I spent in Hawaii and how it was the most important time in my life. It’s one of my favorite places in the world, and every time I look at that shoe, it reminds me of the time I was in the studio out there with ‘Ye, Jay, Ross, and Nicki, and how I developed as an artist.
Speaking of which, who would you say are the most stylish rappers right now?
The whole G.O.O.D Music crew is very stylish. Obviously ‘Ye, me, and Pusha T. We all got our own styles.
How would you describe your own personal style?
It changes up every few months or so. I’m about to do another album, so I feel another style change coming soon. I usually get my style inspiration from my mentors around me.
You were working with adidas before Kanye and Pharrell officially did. Why does it seem like entertainers are jumping on the brand right now?
I don’t know. I mean, I appreciate them for working with me early on. Obviously, they’ve been one of the biggest brands in the world for a long, long time. It’s cool, because when I got with adidas, there was a resurgence. The company was going through how to refresh things by making products for every part of culture, not just sports. They take chances with people in music and get involved with artists who are known and artists who aren’t known. I was one of the early artists they decided to team up with and I remember telling ‘Ye about adidas in 2011. It’s cool that everyone came on board and is now a part of the brand. It’s cool to be at the forefront of that and just to be a part of culture.
So have you given Kanye any design advice for what he’s working on yet?
Nah. He’s pretty much got a handle on things. (laughs) He’s got the design thing on lock.
I’d eventually like to make my own shoe, like an original style.
In terms of your style, what kind of influence has Kanye had on you?
I remember ‘Ye took me out to Japan with him a while ago, and that’s where I met Pharrell, Nigo, and the Teriyaki Boyz for the first time. We got samples of the gold "POW" chains and we were like the first ones wearing them. I was one of the first ones to get an iced-out one, along with Pharrell himself. Even though my style changes, certain elements stay the same. Being with those guys at that roundtable. It was literally a roundtable with me Ye, Nigo and Pharrell, well N.E.R.D. actually, the Teriyaki Boys, really influenced my style.
That’s funny because all of those guys you mentioned are under the adidas umbrella in some shape or form.
Wow. With that being said, adidas is just number one, man. To be a brand ambassador with those people, I really appreciate them and their relationship with me.
What would you say are the elements that make a good artist and sneaker partnership?
The brand and the artist need to have the same mentality. That’s what it is. Both got to have the mentality of trying to be in culture, and willing to tell the story.
Working on sneakers, is sort of second to you, in the sense that you’re a musician first. What’s the process been like?
There’s been a lot of perks, really. You get to go and do cool things with shoes. The more and more involved with the brand I get, and the deeper I get into designing things, I’d eventually like to make my own shoe, like an original style. But for now, this is great.