On his 1999 track aptly titled “Sneakers,” Raekwon proclaims that he is a “multi-thousand pair of sneak freak.” While we may have never gotten an exact tally of his collection, he has certainly solidified his status in the footwear world. The rap legend and his Wu-Tang Clan brethren’s largest contribution to the space may be bringing Clarks Wallabees into the lifestyle space throughout the ‘90s. And decades later, his love for sneakers hasn’t wavered. He can still be seen lacing up everything from Adidas EQTs to high-tops from Don C’s Just Don brand on his Instagram page. His biggest moments in the sneaker world in recent years have been his various collaborations with Diadora. 

The partnership kicked off in 2015 with the help of Packer Shoes via an N.9000 covered in purple suede that was released by the well-known Teaneck, New Jersey outpost to celebrate the famed “Purple Tape,” the nickname given to Raekwon’s classic debut album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx for its purple cassette. In 2020, Raekwon and the shop rekindled the partnership. This time, a pair of N.9000s was colored up to match the album art of the project and was accompanied by a purple and white Maverick nodding to its 25th anniversary. 

For his most recent work with Diadora, Raekwon has chosen to partner with Foot Locker to help foster Community Linx, a program aiming to aid aspiring young musicians via a four-week course complete with advice from Raekwon and figures in the music industry like Dave East and Scram Jones. Of course, there will be sneakers too.

Kicking off on Jan. 27, two pairs of N.9002s will drop for $120 each that nod to New York City, one each made to match the uniforms of the Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets. Raekwon’s signature text logo appears stamped on each heel as well. 

“When I think of New York, I think of the Knicks, the Nets. These colors, from a sports perspective and me growing up being a big fan of the Knicks, I felt like they resonated with the city,” Raekwon tells Complex. “People know me for wearing loud colors and just being flavorful. I call it being flavorful. I just felt like these colors resonated with what I wanted it to be. I wanted people to feel that excitement when they threw a pair of sneakers on.”

Subsequent releases will arrive throughout the year taking cues from other major cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston.

Ahead of the inaugural release of the Community Linx project, we got a chance to catch up with Raekwon to discuss his latest sneaker collab, his earliest memories of Diadora, his influence on sneakers and fashion, and more.