Apart from being the savior of real rap music for many, Kendrick Lamar has also made an impressive mark in streetwear. Last year, his Reebok „Red and Blue“ Classic Leather were not only a work of elegant simplicity, they also carried an instantly comprehensible message of unity. A subject matter which rang true not only among the Crips and Bloods in the streets of Compton, but throughout the world. Thus, expectations were high for the next step in the cooperation between Reebok and Lamar. And they didn’t disappoint. These new Classic Leather show thick longitudinal seams on the split upper, representing the “Red” and “Blue” theme on both of the sneakers – a hint at Lamar’s message of neutrality as well as a pointer towards the “third man“ of this project: Garbstore founder and personal friend to Kendrick Lamar, Ian Paley.
To celebrate the iconic Classic Leather model, Reebok invited a bunch of international media for a meeting with Kendrick Lamar in Manchester. The artist took some time out from his busy schedule – right in-between visiting a rap workshop for local teens and performing a set for the exclusive audience of a Reebok Classic Leather party at the famous old Granada studios – to answer our questions. Speaking in a low voice and taking his time to provide concise replies, Lamar gave his thoughts on creativity, style – and dad hats.
There are many connections between fashion and music today. How do you feel about this?
Fashion and music both come from the streets. And kids in the streets, they make up what’s cool. And what’s cool is always the fashion. They come from these urban communities, and they make up what we’re doing, what we like to do. That’s how it’s always been.
Right now most rappers don’t wear any bling-bling, they all wear designer clothing. What are your thoughts about that?
Whatever they taste, they taste! I don’t come from that whole perspective, though. Whether you’re wearing the bling-bling or the designers’ stuff, that’s cool. Like us, we are rolling with the classics. You know, keepin’ it original. Everybody has their own perspective.
You’re doing a lot of traveling. How would you say that has influenced your style?
My style has evolved just by understanding other people’s culture. Way before that high-end fashion hit the United States, we was in the UK, we was in London. And I’ve seen a lot, basically understanding where and how it can go, in all different types of cultures.
You’ve talked about your long connection to Reebok before. What is your earliest memory of the brand?
My first memory is probably me as a kid, wanting to get them and dirtying them up as fast as possible. And then trying to convince my mom to get me another pair. Which she did, but she got smart: This time, instead of the white Classics, she got me the black Classics!
From your point of view, what makes a classic? Is it possible to produce a classic or is that something that one can only aspire to?
It just depends on who you are, if you’re a classic or original person. It’s in your own perspective. Your have to possess a taste that is not only a representation of yourself, but could be a representation of everybody else who feels the same way.
You can definitely make a classic, but it depends on what’s in here (points at heart). And are you doing it for the accolade, for the money or for the freedom of creativity? It usually starts from the heart, from the creativity.
Your style and your music speak to a lot of young people. What are your hopes for future generations?
Just to continue the idea of creativity, of the freedom of creativity. Express yourself. That’s what music is all about. Doing something that other people can feel and that they can’t express themselves. A lot of them turn to drugs and violence, things like that, so my hope is for all the creative people out there to express themselves, to do art that kids can look up to.
The Red and Blue shoes you presented with Reebok are very much an “L.A. thing”, but Reebok is a British brand. Do you take any inspiration from British subculture or style?
My concept of a British shoe was always that complex simplicity. And that was also represented in the Red and Blues. It wasn’t a shoe that had a thousand colors. I just wanted to keep it organic in the same sense that British brands did in the beginning.
Is there a kind of style staple that you have stuck with since you were young?
Yeah, definitely! It’s this thing that they now call the “dad hats” – we were rocking those back in school already, and now it’s become a trend!
What do you wear when you’re in the studio?
I like some comfort in the studio, I move around there, I sleep in there, I can’t be in button-ups. I don’t go in there for like two hours, more like 16 hours.
What’s the reaction been like to you working with Reebok in the US especially?
It’s been super! When we dropped the Reds and Blues, there was a frenzy. It was not only a shoe, it was something that represented the culture of where I’m from. That was just a great thing for me, and everybody at Reebok felt that same way: Let’s make something with a back story.
It certainly felt like a very positive story. How important is positivity for you?
Most definitely important! When I’m in the studio, I have to have that energy to start creating, otherwise I need to get out of there. It’s the same creating a shoe, or creating anything. You always want to have people with open minds, who are not boxed in with what they think they know or what they’re told. You gotta have an open mind to create anything. So that positive energy goes a long way.
In your music and your words, you seem to be driven by a certain sense of purpose. Can you expand a bit on that?
I think that my drive is pure curiosity. In my music, you won’t get the idea that I know everything. You will get the idea that I want to share my knowledge, my wisdom, but at the same time, I’m still asking questions. And that purpose, that curiosity has led me on to all these great travels. Where will I be in ten years – or what will I learn by travelling to Manchester (laughs)?
Do you have any personal fashion or style icons?
Well, in the present time you’d have to go with Pharrell, go with Kanye. You can’t run from that. Pharrell being the godfather, and Kanye being the extension of that for today. That’s for my generation – you know, these guys are ten, twelve years older than me, so these are the people that we are looking at. Kanye coming with the backpacks, and Pharrell with his crazy sense of style.
Kanye West is very „articulate“ in his social media channels – you’re not. Do you simply have no time for that?
Everybody has their own perspective, their own idea. It’s not bad to be outspoken, and Kanye, he’s just a very outspoken person, that’s the beautiful thing about him. And about social media: I’m just not very good at it. (smiles) I tend to use my own avenues to get my point across.
Has designing clothes or shoes always been something that you wanted to approach and get into?
I just like the idea of creating anything. As was said before, music and fashion go hand in hand. So, you’re sitting at lunch, writing some raps, and on the next page you might be sketching a shoe. That’s what kids do, that’s what we all did.
You’ve done the Classic Leather with Reebok now – can we expect you to work on other Reebok silhouettes?
Oh, we’ll see. The Club C is one among my favorites, it might be my absolute favorite next to the CL. I have a lot of ideas and it’s just a matter of sketching them out.
(Interview by Daniel Giebel)
The interview is part of Sneakers Magazine #31 – GET YOUR COPY HERE!