Interview: Nas On Sneakers in Hip Hop and Opening 12AM RUN (Video)

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Complex Original

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Nas is one of the greatest rappers of all time. This goes without argument. Is he the greatest? Well that's debatable, but his impact on the landscape of music is undeniable. And now, Nas is looking to have the same impact on sneakers.

Last year, Nas announced plans for opening a boutique in Las Vegas called 12AM RUN. While the rapper isn't a stranger to sneakers (see FILA), he is new to running a shop. So Esco partnered up with Vegas business mogul Nick Sakai to get things going. Here, Nas and Nick share the details on their new venture and talk about sneakers in hip-hop.

As a kid, were there any sneakers that you really wanted?
Nas: Yeah. We can go back to Pumas, shelltoe adidas, FILAs, Jordans, and Air Max. Once Jordan came into play, all the sneakers from Nike seemed to turn to Air this and Air that. Air Max was like the Air Jordan's cousin. So you wanted all the Air Jordans. I just started racking up on sneakers. Whatever was new. Avias and Ellesse. You remember those? My list went on with pieces that just weren’t the usual suspects that people talk about today.

Speaking of some of those old-school sneakers, British Knights is coming back. Did you rock those?
Nas: I had British Knights. I had Playboys. I didn’t get Clark’s for a while, but British Knights, I had those early. They had Bally sneakers as well. I had a pair of those. The Lottos. 

So one of the biggest sneaker hip-hop songs was "My Adidas" by RUN D.M.C. Do you remember how that song affected you?
Nas: We was already buying shelltoes. That was the hottest shoe, hands-down. When they made that song, it was right on time. It just went crazy. You had to have shelltoes. If you just got up on shelltoes when RUN-D.M.C. did it, then you were blown away, like what is this?

They had the blue stripes, red stripes, black stripes, you know. RUN-D.M.C.’s name should be on every pair of shelltoes right now. That may be my number-one sneaker. My favorite sneaker of all-time. 

RUN-D.M.C.’s name should be on every pair of shelltoes right now. That may be my favorite sneaker of all-time. - Nas

Could you name your top five sneakers?Nas: Number one would be shelltoe adidas. Two would be the Air Jordan 1. Three, I would say is the Air Max 1. Four is the FILA with the one stripe and the one “F” on it. The all red with the blue stripe. It don’t say FILA on it. Those are just classic, I'll always love ‘em.

I noticed you have on the Jordan III. Would they make your top five?
Nas: No. These are not in my top five, but I would say the Air Jordan IV.

How long would you say you were into sneakers? How big is your collection?
Nas: Since I was a kid. My collection's too big. It needs its own house. I have storage for my sneakers.

So 12AM RUN, why Las Vegas?
Nick Sakai: It’s a great place to open a shop because we have everyone coming to us. It’s fun taking things that we are both passionate about, which is sneakers, and putting it on a big stage. It is very rare to open a store in a city where you have people from all walks of life— East coast, West coast, and overseas coming here every day. 

What does the name 12AM RUN mean?
Nas: To me, 12 a.m. sounds like go time in Las Vegas. Run, that's athletics, feet, sneakers, movement. You hit the ground running here in Vegas.

This should be a Mecca for everything to happen in sneaker culture. I want Michael Jordan to throw his next party there. - Nas

Nas, why sneakers? Why not headphones or energy drinks or something like that?
Everybody was already doing all those other things and those things have those guys' signatures on them. We can all open sneaker stores, but who is going to care enough to do it? Everybody in the country, outside the country, loves sneakers. For me, it was something I wanted to do a long time ago; even before I met Nick. Nick was already doing his thing in the business, so the timing was just perfect.

Rappers are starting to actually design sneakers now. What are your thoughts on deals like Kanye/adidas or Drake/Jordan?
Nas: That's what we do. That is what we are all about. If those sneakers come out and kill, it just shows how much hip-hop guys love their shoes. Hip-hop guys should be behind the design of sneakers. 

NS: I think its also hip-hop guys not doing it for hip-hop guys anymore. This is mainstream. I think that is pretty dope too. These guys are doing their signature shoes and it creates a bigger buzz than anything. For all of last year people talked about the red Yeezy. And it wasn’t just the hip-hop crowd, it was everybody. It shows the power of sneakers.

With Nas being attached to the store, it seems like it opens a lot of opportunities for music-based projects?
Nas: I’m really a background guy, believe it or not. That's how I play everything that I do. Of course I’m all about the store and representing. I want everyone involved. I want the Yeezys, the Snoop Lion sneakers. We need collaborations. This should be a Mecca for everything to happen in sneaker culture. I want Michael Jordan to throw his next party there.

Let's talk about the concept of the store. What is the design inspiration behind it?
Nick: One thing that we both agreed on was that we wanted it to have elements of old Vegas. Nas and I are both big fans of the Bugsy Siegel gangster days. Also, being in such a busy center at The Linq, we wanted it to be advanced and new as well. We wanted to take these old Vegas elements and make it a beautiful shop. We are going to have a DJ booth. In our store, we're going to have the DJ booth in the middle, and the shoe wall is going to be centered around that. It's a bit of a play on new Vegas with elements of old Vegas as well. 

Will we see a Nas and 12AM RUN collaboration in the future?
Nas: The sky is the limit.

NS: We are definitely going to work with our brands in interesting ways. We already have a calendar and we are going to try and do a new collaboration every month. One thing we want to pay attention to, like I said we are on this big stage, but we don’t want to forget about the locals. So we want to make sure we show love to the locals and only drop it in-store. Not online. That will give our local consumers, our regulars, something to look forward to monthly. We’ve got Hundreds, we’ve got Floyd Mayweather, we’ve got Mitchell and Ness that we are working with. 

We are definitely going to work with our brands in interesting ways. We already have a calendar and we are going to try and do a new collaboration every month. - Nick Sakai

Is there a calendar for when 12AM RUN will open?NS: We do, but it's a construction calendar, so it's a little fuzzy. But we are trying to get it open as soon as possible. Right now, If I had to guess, I would say mid-March. We are going to pinpoint a day on the calendar for a grand opening of the site.

Let switch back to music. What is the difference between Illmatic Nas and 2014 Nas?
Nas: Now I got money. Back then I was rich with spirit. Now I got money. That’s the difference. Back then I was talking about “you should get money, the world is yours.” Now, I became a man and I’ve experienced the finer things in life. 

If Illmatic Nas and 2014 Nas did a song together, what do you think it would be about?
It would be crazy because we would have different perspectives. One from his point of view talking about the things I don’t see any more, the things that I am not around when I lived there. I would be able to talk about things that he doesn’t know. We would both enlighten each other. He would be pulling me this way, I would be telling him what’s up over here. It would be a well-rounded song.

LeBron recently announced his Mt Rushmore of basketball. If you had to name a Mt. Rushmore of rap, who would they be?
Kool G Rap. Rakim. Big Daddy Kane. KRS-One

Where is 2014 Nas as an artist?
I am in a great place. When you first start, you want to speed and outdo the ones that came before you. You want to let them know you are here and they need to respect you now. But when you are where I am, you realize that you don’t have to do that. Your journey is your journey. You don’t have to rush it. It’s going to be what its going to be. Right now I’m at a place where I am good. How I feel, my everyday life, and how I feel artistically, I’m real good. So when I go sit down to make music, it's from a great place.