The link between sneakers and rappers is scientifically proven. Something about incessant mic-rockin' seems to trigger the shoe-lovin' gene. It's almost become a cringing cliche. Breaking through the boredom is New Orleans artist Lyrikill, a man analysing the sneaker game from all angles on his breakthrough mixtape More Heart, More Sole. With the release prominently featured in year-end best-of lists at big-time blogs The Smoking Section and Kevin Nottingham, the Louisiana legend caught up with Sneaker Freaker to talk kicks and snares.
Tell us a little about Lyrikill to get it started...
Lyrikill is Heart & Sole: That’s one part heart, representing, family, spirituality and love; while the other part is sole, which is passion for sneaker & hip-hop culture. I am an artist (a visual & performing artists as well as a journalist) and advocate for authentic hip-hop culture in New Orleans. I co-founded The Soundclash, a local networking showcase that has been operating for nearly four years. I also created the sneaker event Kicks & Snares that combines a beat battle with a buy/sell/trade sneaker showcase.
The size of your collection is right up there in the hundreds. How long have you been buying sneakers?
I had the '86 Converse Weapons, Magic Johnson colorway in Kindergarten. I still don’t understand why I was in elementary school asking high schoolers about their Jordans, but its been something in me. As I started to earn my own money, I took every opportunity to cop the shoes I loved. I never bought into much of the hype, I just like what I liked and made sure I had a fresh pair.
You have a lot of Jordans, but we can also see some adidas, Converse, Puma and a whole bunch of Nikes in that diverse collection. Is there a particular style you're more interested in, or is it just anything goes?
So many ‘sneakerheads’ these days only buy Jordans and Nikes. I came up during a time when suede Pumas and shell-toe adidas were just as popular as Air Force 1s. Being that I enjoyed the Jordan era, I’m partial to early model OG colorways, but I also love Puma First Rounds, Converse One Stars, and the adidas Decade Hi. I’m a firm believer that you determine which shoes are important to you. These days there are way more people into sneakers and so many people reselling that people are attracted to a shoe based on its limited availability. I prefer to enjoy shoes for the nostalgia, being that many of these models I wanted very badly as a grade school kid and I could only afford to have a pair or two a year.
When people think of New Orleans hip hop, it probably begins and ends with the Hot Boys. What can you tell us about the scene there?
The scene is very diverse and many of the artists are now being exposed to the rest of the world. You got people like Curren$y and his crew that are changing the way people view New Orleans. 50 Cent recently signed Kidd Kidd, a local cat that’s been grinding for years and female emcee Natee has been working with Timbaland. You can go through our videos and see Curren$y, Natee, Dee-1, Nesby Phips all at The Soundclash. There are so many great people just bubbling underneath the surface right now that I feel really good about New Orleans' future.
We see the video footage of NY and Florida riots and enormous queues for releases like Concords and Galaxys. Is it the same in NO?
It was crazy here but not quite as bad because on big releases the House of Hoops in Baton Rouge (which is about an hour away) will get them. Politics gets some of the bigger releases and Sports Plus on Canal will get some but for a city as notable as New Orleans, there are limited retailers. I was in Dallas when the Galaxys dropped and House of Hoops said it was first-come-first-served. Then when 500 kids showed up they decided to do a raffle, so people were pissed which led to police intervention.
Did you have Allen Iverson written previously, or did you pen that one when you heard the Questions were coming back?
I actually had this one done a few months ago. I felt a parallel between how the music industry does you and how the NBA did Bubba Chuck. They love you when you’re crossing over and wowing the crowd, but then when they figure you’ve lost a step, they move on to the next cat with the moves. Iverson was an icon for hip-hop culture. The jewellery, tattoos, entourage – all of that was hip-hop. And while the NBA will reap the benefits of the culture's following, they don’t want the negative press of these street kids who made millions with no education. I felt we shared some things in common and wanted to speak on it. When I heard the Questions we’re returning, I felt it was a good time for this song to be released.
Everybody's psyched for the AIs, what other retro Reeboks would you like to see come back?
The first Shaqs most definitely. The Question and Answers have been retroed. I owned the OG Answers and copped the retro Questions. But I remember Shaq having such an impact as a rookie. In New Orleans, the Reebok Classics have always been a popular local shoe, and it’s good to see them being retroed but most definitely, the Shaqs.
More Heart More Sole takes more than a few looks at the rampant consumerism reflected in sneaker collecting. Are you conflicted with your love of sneakers and sense of social responsibility?
Always. It’s the duality of man. I want to have a stripper give me a lap dance for one dollar bills but then I come home to teach my daughter to never dance for money. I feel the same way with the shoes. I’ve been blessed to use the sneaker game to my benefit as a rapper and as a business advisor/broker. At the same time, people are being killed and enslaved over shoes. It all comes back to people that would rather risk jail time than work for their material wants. I was taught that I could have whatever I wanted if I worked hard for it. So I saw the Jordan 4s and said I would do whatever it took to get those shoes. But the shoes never meant more to me that the relationships I’ve built through them. I talk with people of all ages and connect with them off a mutual love, regardless of the origin of that love. As my homegirl says, 'we’re solemates.'
In the wake of Katrina, have you noticed people are less materialistic after losing so much?
I know a lot of people who lost so much from sneaker collections to their entire home/car. It showed us to value every day and always be able to pick up and move if you have to. It also taught me to keep a solid collection in a place that’s not affected by hurricanes lol. I now keep a collection in Dallas and one in New Orleans. This isn’t limited to hurricanes though, a house fire or burglary can take away your prized possessions. I recommend insurance on anyone that has over 20-30 pairs.
More Heart, More Sole was dope. What's next from Lyrikill?
RETRO is the new series of free albums we will be doing. It will highlight some talents from New Orleans and surrounding areas and you will receive some notable songs from me as we prepare the scene for Nostalgia which will be my EP following this album. Allen Iverson is the first single, produced by 3M (from Washington D.C.) and we will be dropping a couple videos from both projects. Heart & Sole and More Heart More Sole are both available on iTunes, Amazon, and physical copy at Amazon. You can follow me on Twitter @lyrikill or my website www.lyrikillmusic.com. I’ll be touring this summer and fall to promote RETRO and look for a ton of collaboration with artists from all over the world. Shout to Sneaker Freaker, I am a fan of the magazine and am privileged to be featured.