If you know anything about Ronnie Fieg’s Kith, you know the brand extends into a lot of categories. First and foremost, Kith is a clothing label and retail boutique that operates 14 stores in nine cities across the globe. But that’s far from the only thing that it does. Kith is a collaborator who has put its logo on everything from BMWs to Monopoly boards. Kith serves cereal-infused ice cream inspired by Fieg’s close friends through its Kith Treats operation. The latest arm of the Kith business is its record label, Kith Records.
On Feb. 5, 2024, Kith Records released its debut single titled “Last Stop” accompanied by a music video that was shot just a week ago. It features a three-minute verse from Cam’ron and production from Swizz Beatz. Fieg executive produced it.
“Swizz called it the best Cam verse in 20 years. So I felt like we got something really special,” Fieg tells Complex.
The Queens native has tried to enter the music industry before. Five years ago, a record deal fell through for undisclosed reasons. Two years ago, he intended to soundtrack Kith’s Summer collection with an original song before sample clearance issues derailed the idea. This time around, with the guidance of Cam’ron and some help from founder of GoodTalk and Cinematic Music Group founder Jonnyshipes, he was able to get his dream to the finish line.
Cam’ron didn’t just drop a new verse for Fieg. The Dipset member is also the star of Kith’s Spring 2024 collection. Like the “Last Stop” video, the campaign was shot in a New York City subway car covered in floral arrangements by Venus et Fleur, one of Kith’s most recent collaborators. A baby blue trench coat with crochet piping that he wears in one photo is a nod to Cam’s bar, “Full-length trenches, y’all/Yeah, I’m from the trenches, y’all.” The pink hooded bomber jacket was inspired by him.
“When I thought about how colorful [the Spring 2024 collection] would be, a lot of pinks and reds, the first person that popped into my mind was Cam,” says Fieg. “I swear I had Cam in mind when we designed this like 10 months ago.”
While you may assume this all means Ronnie Feig is executive producing a full Kith album, à la I Know Nigo, that isn’t on his radar just yet. Instead, he hopes to keep tapping into his network of friends and past collaborators, which include legendary figures such as Mase, Jadakiss, and the Wu-Tang Clan, to soundtrack future Kith collections.
“This new entry into music is not where the company is looking to make its money,” says Fieg. “The intention is to work with artists that I love, and for me to be able to use the moments that I have for these seasons to highlight some of my favorite artists in my lifetime, to have a new soundtrack and a feel for the product that releases during these seasons.”
Read more from our rare interview with Fieg as he takes a deeper dive into Kith’s latest milestone, working with Cam’ron, ‘90 hip-hop shaping his passion for product, and more.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
You said you tried to do the whole Kith Records thing and jump into music before this. What stopped you in the past that you finally were able to overcome this time around?
The educational part of the business for music is really a lot more complicated than one would think. I had to go through it. I had to learn about it and go through it the hard way after getting invested in the idea. I don't want to give up what it was and who it was with because I'm still, two and a half years later, trying to make it work. We had this one track two and a half years ago where this idea was actually the same idea I had, but for the Summer collection. We had the song made, and then we shot the video for the song. There were three artists involved, and I brought them on.
It was one artist's song that I heard seven years ago. I heard this track from this artist that I haven't heard in a long time. Like, you haven't heard music from this person in a while. I was like, “Wow, that's incredible.” That artist wasn't ready to release music at the time. Basically five and a half years later, I had an idea for a Summer campaign, and the song had an island sound, and I wanted to represent that aesthetic through the collection. I thought about that song. So I reached out to the artist. We got it recorded, and we dealt with all of the attorneys to own these verses. But then the issues were really clearing the music, and it became a real challenge to get that done. I didn't even know that there was a sample on the beat. Once I found out that there was a sample, it was too late because we already shot the video. So it was a messy process and I learned my lesson from that.
This time around, it was very different because I didn't intend on even owning the track. Cam kind of mentored me through the process, and it was his idea for us to own it, which was incredible because he's like, “Hey, this could be a big opportunity. I'll put you in touch with Shipes, and he will help you through the process.” Shipes, John Shapiro, is a very knowledgeable guy in the industry that's been around for a long time and really helped coach me through the process. He teamed up with me to help manage the streaming and distribution. And then with Swizz, his track didn’t have any samples to clear. I learned a lot through that process.
So that's why I thanked Cam in my post that I put up yesterday, on his birthday ironically. I have a good relationship with Cam. I love Cam. I was a big fan forever, since Children of the Corn and Confessions of Fire. I'm a huge music guy in general, but that era really inspired me most. He was a part of the soundtrack to my early life. So the idea was really to have him shine the brightest and do everything that we can as a company and a brand to lend our resources to someone who is that influential in my lifetime. We put him in a position to win through our platform. I wanted to see Cam in that aesthetic, spitting the way he did. Swizz called it the best Cam verse in 20 years. So I felt like we got something really special.
You mentioned how Cam assisted you with certain pieces and you had Johnny on board to help you out as well. But is Kith Records an independent thing that you're doing, or are you working with a label to help grow it?
I wanna say five years ago, around the same time that I spoke to that other artist, I was in the middle of working on a record deal for the brand and it fell through. I won't mention who or why, but it didn't end up happening. This time around, with the help of some of the people who have disrupted the music industry like Steve Stoute, it’s more of an independent mindset. I think through the evolution of what has happened with streaming, we were able to do it now without any record label’s help. And also I can give back to the artist. It’s a 50/50 master deal with Cam. We own the composition, but there’s a split. This new entry into music is not where the company is looking to make its money. The intention is to work with artists that I love, and for me to be able to use the moments that I have for these seasons to highlight some of my favorite artists in my lifetime, to have a new soundtrack and a feel for the product that releases during these seasons.
So how did Cam get involved in the first place? Is this a conversation you and him are having way back when the Knicks thing is going down?
I got Dipset together and they hadn’t performed together in a long time before then, so that was a major moment for me, but also for the culture to bring Dipset together on the floor of Madison Square Garden. That was the first idea that we had. This freestyle series started with Dipset and then extended to the LOX and Wu-Tang. Jim [Jones] is a very good friend of mine. Juelz is a good friend of mine. Those are my guys. That was my first time really working with Cam. I think that he got to see the level of production and how seriously I take these moments. I think he didn't forget that. We kept in touch since then. He wore a full Kith fit during his Drink Champs episode, which was big because everybody hit me during that moment. I think that he got to know me a little bit and know that I'm really passionate about what I do. And when I had this idea and I called him, the idea started off a bit different from where we landed. A few weeks passed by, and we started to refine it and ended up with this idea. The Valentine's Day product that we just released is this flower collaboration with Venus et Fleur. We're releasing Spring 2024 in the same week that we're releasing that flower set. And then also the collection is very colorful. So I wanted to bring them together.
When I thought about how colorful [the Spring 2024 collection] would be, a lot of pinks and reds, the first person that popped into my mind was Cam. We know him as this flamboyant, ill dresser from day one. I feel like he's one of the flyest fucking hip-hop artists of all time. So I called him. Off the rip, he was just very interested in working together on it.
I was updating him and showing him what I envisioned. And when he got to the set, it was a moment because building that set took a long time. It took like four days to build, dressing up a subway car, which is iconic and symbolic for New York City. I thought visually it would be really impactful. What we ended up getting was exactly what I envisioned, which was a beautiful floral set that would be disruptive and also something completely new for how people would see a subway car.
The way that my team was able to figure out the lighting for it just really felt dreamy. It was like a dream and reality in one, which is exactly what this project is. It's like a dream come true for me. It's a special moment for the brand and also a really special moment for me because I've been trying to help produce a record for a long time. Now it's finally out on streaming.
Can you talk about how you got Swizz on board to produce the song and how you landed on the beat that you did?
When I worked with Cam on the idea of the track, he was like, “I'm gonna work on getting a beat for this.” When he ended up sending me the track for the first time, when I heard it, I was like, “Oh shit, he's bigging up Swizz on this shit. Is it a Swizz beat?” I was surprised by it because I didn't know it was gonna be Swizz production on the track. When I called Cam, he was like, “Swizz and I have a great relationship, and he gave me the beat for this.” And Swizz and I have a crazy relationship. Cam didn’t know this. So I spoke to Swizz, and when he heard the Cam verse he was like, “Oh my god, we got one.” We were just talking about how amazing that it ended up being him on the beat because Cam didn't know that I had a relationship with Swizz. It all came together. It's just incredible when things align that way.
We didn't have a lot of time. Swizz added his ad libs on top of the track. It all happened just in time for us to make it to the streaming services. I had an incredible conversation with Ebro. It was just ironic how these things happened because I saw Ebro at the Rich Kleiman and Michael B. Jordan brunch on Friday. He was like, “I heard that you're doing something with a song.” I let him see the visuals. Ebro started to talk to me about what this can eventually evolve into. Ebro helped us get set up as an artist on Apple Music. I emailed people last night, and he pushed it through this morning and we were able to get it on both platforms at the same time so it could be the first part of the Spring 2024 rollout.
That same day I met Angie Martinez. I never met Angie Martinez before. So [Shawn] Pecas introduced me to Angie after I spoke to Ebro. I had brought Angie Martinez to my office afterwards, and on the car ride there we spoke about the ‘90s and hip-hop shit. Her voice was such an important part of my life growing up. I heard Angie Martinez every single day for decades. That's a crazy feeling to then have that person in my car speaking to me in the same voice, like an incredible nostalgic moment. I let her hear the song, and then we started to talk about how she felt about what we can do. I started to get really incredible perspectives from within the industry on what we're doing and how this could be really special.
It’s just crazy. We just shot the video last weekend and were able to get it done in time to then release it today. A lot had to happen to get it done in time. 2 a.m. calls with Swizz in London. Calls with Cam in Vegas making sure the track was mastered and edited properly to get it up on the platforms. So if you wanna put out a song and a video at the same time, give yourself more than three weeks. Ultimately, that’s my advice to anyone trying to do anything like this.
Everyone knows Cam’ron is a style icon in his own right. When he's on set with you, is he giving any input into the outfits or the stylings? Was it more collaborative than usual?
I think that there’s trust that we have for one another. Eugene Tong, who's the head stylist for Kith. He's actually the VP of visuals, but he also is the person I lean on for styling because we've been working together since the first Kith show. He's one of the top stylists in the world. We put together 26 looks for the lookbook. We picked the best looks that we thought would fit Cam best. We put four looks in his dressing room before he came in. He liked them all. It's because I know how Cam would look in this product. I'm a fit model for all the product that we make. I try everything out. I know how things fit. I know how things feel. I also know how the product can complement Cam and how Cam can complement the product. I think the colors worked really well. When you look at one of the lines in the song where he's like, “Full-length trench,” that bar dictated putting the trench on him. The first part of the video where he's wearing a pink suede bomber jacket, I swear I had Cam in mind when we designed this like 10 months ago. When I was working on that piece, I literally thought of Cam because that piece is poly filled. It feels like a comforter. When you put it on, it just looks so plush. And it's pink. We first worked on an olive one and I was like, “Oh, we have to make this piece in pink.” He was like, “I trust you with the visuals and the clothing.” So he was psyched on it. And I trusted him with the music. We both trusted each other with what we do best.
Going back to the David Z days, were there any moments with Cam?
He came to David Z, but I wasn't the one who helped him. So I didn't have that relationship with him early. I helped Jim [Jones] in the past, but not Cam. But I remember him coming to the store. I think we have photos with him. I'm talking right around Confessions of Fire, like ‘96. Mase was coming in around that time too. 1996 was the most influential year of my life, which is why we reference it sometimes with the brand. Cam dropped Confessions of Fire and N.O.R.E. dropped N.O.R.E. Those two albums are in my top 10 most played albums of my life because of the era in which they came out. That was when I first started driving and stealing my parents’ car, you know what I'm saying? And that's the shit that was playing. That was a very important moment in hip-hop. Those moments before social media and the Internet, I feel like that was the peak of analog influence for style and sense of individuality. That was the most important time for style in my life.
Your post alluded to that, how music videos were such a big source of style inspiration for you. Are there any particular moments when you think about that?
I'm not the only one, but I was helping a lot of these artists buy products for their videos. When you saw Mase and Diddy in the “Been Around the World” video, I sold them the Dolomites that they wore in that video. When Lauryn Hill raps about “Gore-Tex and sweats, I make treks like I’m homeless,” she came in and bought her first pair of Gore-Tex boots with me. The entire Wu-Tang Clan used to come in and buy their Wallies with me and then go down the block and get them dyed. And Method Man and Mary J. in “All I Need” when Method Man climbs the fence and is wearing those Grant Hills and the Helly Hansen jacket. The next week everyone was wearing Helly Hansen jackets and Grant Hills.The influence that it had was crazy. And you didn't feel like you were one of many because you couldn't share it on social. To you, it was like your personal relationship with that song and that video. That's why I am who I am right now. I have such an emotional tie to product from that era. If I didn't grow up in that era, I don't think I could have been as passionate about product as I am today.
Do you think that still exists today in some way? You mentioned social media making it different.
I think that the older generation still feels the same way when they open up a fresh pair of Timbs, a fresh pair of Wallabees, a fresh pair of Air Forces. They still have that same feeling. The younger generation, I don't think they're as loyal to any brand. I think that things are a bit more trend driven, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just the adjustment of knowing how to be consistent in what you do and not starting to go where the wind goes. So if you look at the aesthetic of Kith and what we offer in terms of product, it's been very consistent with the evolution. It's been more of an evolution than a pivot to trend. So the product just keeps getting better because we look at what we've made in the past and upgrade that. I think that it's so important in today's world to have blinders on and not get influenced by one trend or the other when you're a brand. We're not trend driven. We are in the business of making the best product possible, and I think we have a great identity and foundation that we started with a very long time ago. We have been working off of that ever since.
Kith has a wide scope as far as the partnerships and collaborations it does. How does that thought process factor into who you're choosing to work with next on a collaborative level?
I think that it has to always come from a place of authenticity for me and what I like and love. Very few times have I strayed away from that. For example, I don't play golf. But the TaylorMade collection was because I have some people here, like my VP of product, who are really passionate about golf and then I get educated on it. Even though I'm not passionate about golf, I know that he's passionate about golf. So I know it makes sense for our brand because he's been here for 11 years now. The consistency of the filter we see product through is what makes us who we are. When you look at a piece, you could tell it's ours by fabric and construction. I think collaboratively, 99% of the brands that we work with are brands that I love. I want people to see the version of that brand the way I see it. I want them to see the product that I think the brand should be making through our lens. I think that a point of view is the most important thing you can have right now if you're a brand, and our point of view is very concise.
Do you worry about or have conversations about spreading the Kith brand too thin in that way?
We're going to be 13 years old in September. We have 14 stores in 13 years. We're a global brand. We’ve had opportunities to open hundreds of stores, thousands of stores throughout the years. I’ve actually kept it super tight. We don't wholesale the brand. A lot of the product now is in-store only. You can't even get it online.
Circling back to the music stuff, we’ve seen people in the fashion world like NIGO do it before. Is a Ronnie Fieg album on the way?
It’s not a goal of mine yet. Like I said before, I think that the seasons lend themselves as opportunities to create moments and soundtracks for the collections. I don't have aspirations to put an album together. I won't rule it out as potentially something that can happen in the future, if my time permits me to work on music, because I know how much time it took this time around for one song. So I don't see an album happening anytime soon for me.
I'm assuming some of the other artists that you've worked with in the past have reached out or inquired about getting on the next track. Has that happened at all yet? And two, who is the dream artist you’d want to collaborate with on music?
I can't tell you who the dream artist is because I'm already starting to work on that now. I'd like that to be somewhat of a surprise, but I don't know if it will be possible. To answer your question about artists, I'm always in touch with the artists that I've worked with in the past. They’re friends of mine. I don't know if they think of this as an opportunity that there's gonna be a future for.
We were just scrambling and working really hard to make this happen. In a week or two, we'll step back from it and see what the opportunities are and what we want to do, and we'll address it that way. But a lot of people have reached out and said they love what I just did. I don't know if it's gonna be an opportunity for every artist I worked with. I don't know yet. But the dream scenario, we're gonna start working on that ASAP. So hopefully there will be other chapters in the future.
And we’re gonna see you on the Cam and Mase show talking Knicks basketball next?
Maybe. It's funny. While we were shooting the video, the Knicks were playing the Heat, and I was watching the game as I was shooting the video. You know, that's my other job. So Cam was hearing me get emotional about the game, and he was like, “Ah, Knick fans, man.” I asked him, “Who are you a fan of?” He's like, “I'm a fan of the Knicks but, you know, we don't like to get let down.” If you know Cam and you get comfortable with Cam, he's really funny, man. He's a funny dude. The Knicks ended up smacking the Heat. So we shot the video. The Knicks won. That was a good day.