Hip-Hop's Top Ten Greatest Sneaker Songs

Kid Cudi, going all out for Converse.
Kid Cudi, going all out for Converse.

Sneakers have long been hip-hop's footwear of choice. The links between the artists making the music and the companies behind the kicks are now totally intermingled, from top-end exclusive lines like Jay-Z's limited-to-five-pairs all-black Air Force 1s (decoded: they're entirely black) and Kanye West's Nike Air Yeezys to the populist-minded brand Converse sponsoring a summery release from Kid Cudi. In honor of the show that committed hip-hop sneaker freak Rick Ross played this past weekend in NYC as part of the 2010 Sneaker Pimps tour, here's a look at ten top sneaker songs from the annals of rap.

Kanye West, KRS-One, Nas, and Rakim, "Classic"

If you were cynical, you could characterize this all-star, old-to-the-new line-up as a crass attempt at pimping Nike's Air Force 1 sneaker, but when the marketing sounds this good, who cares for scruples? Yeezy holds his own with the certified lyrical legends over a chunky DJ Premier beat, while Rakim, who used to cop his sneakers and custom-made Dapper Dan suits up on 125th Street in Harlem, adds a hitherto unheard of biblical context to the footwear game, claiming, "I bet Kan' had 'em on when he walked with Jesus."

Raekwon, "Sneakers"

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"I'm not paying $140 for them... Size eight and a half." So begins a frugal--and apparently small-footed--Raekwon on this Pete Rock produced footwear ode from the Wu man's largely disappointing second album, Immobilarity. Copping to being an "Adidas freak," and claiming a collection that numbers a "multi-thousand pair," it's the second verse where he shows his sneaker stripes, rattling off a list of brands that takes in Italian lines Diadora and Ellesse, retro line Patrick, and '80s hip-hop footwear favorite Travel Fox. Underscoring that tight budgeting is held in high esteem by the Wu, Rae's rhyming partner Ghostface also bragged about snagging a pair of "bright fat yellow Air Max" for "$20 off, no tax" on "Apollo Kids" (although a bout of heavy rain soon ruined them).

The Geto Boys, "Read These Nikes"

An almighty ass-stompin' anthem that also happened to big up the Houston group's footwear brand of choice, here Willie D--a man who'll "beat your mama ass and go get a six-pack" and who would later go on to record the song "Fuck Rodney King"--takes charge of the vocal duties, but it's his mid-song banter with the dinky-sized Bushwick Bill that underlines their faithfulness to the brand. After Bill says, "Yo, D, I saw the way you stomped that motherfucker and left your trademark upside his head," Willie responds, "Yeah, man, but that was one of my off nights--I usually leave the whole motherfucking logo."

Run-DMC, "My Adidas"

There's nothing unique or news worthy about a rapper endorsing a brand of sneakers these days--even underground recluse MF Doom has a signature Nike Dunk shoe. But back in the early '80s a rap trio from Hollis, Queens gave the corporate sportswear world a wake-up call by voluntarily endorsing Adidas's Superstar shoes, worn without laces--a move which led to them soon nabbing an official endorsement deal with the brand. They formalized their footwear preference in rhyme with 1986's now universal anthem "My Adidas," during which Run and DMC ram home their appreciation of the three stripes by name-checking the brand over twenty times.

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