Jeen-Yuhs Part 1: The Sneakers Kanye West Would Be Wearing
Part one of the hotly anticipated Jeen-Yuhs docuseries has officially landed on Netflix. Directed by Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah, the rare footage takes viewers on an insightful and heartfelt journey back to Kanye West's formative days. Kicking off in 1998, the series explores how West found his feet in the music industry and ultimately landed his first recording contract with the legendary Roc-A-Fella Records. Navigating both peaks and troughs, we're not only guided through Ye's music journey, but his style journey too – and that of course has to include his sneakers. The sneakersphere doesn't often talk about the kicks that Ye used to wear, or the kicks he may have worn. So we're doing exactly that.
Pre-1998 – adidas Superstar
While the first part of Jeen-Yuhs may kick off in 1998, Kanye West’s foray into music began well before then. West had been producing and rapping since he was in high school and even rapped with his group the Go Getters. While West may have been just a youngin’ in 1985 – the heyday of Run DMC – the group sent adidas’ Superstar sneaker to the stratosphere for years after that, with their adidas endorsement, their track ‘My Adidas’ and also from their legion of loyal fans rocking adidas head to toe. Did the Run DMC influence reach the feet of West in the late 80s and the early 90s? There’s every chance.
1998 – Timberlands
Timberland’s relationship with hip hop (and with sports stars for that matter) requires no introduction. The infamous workwear boot ended up carrying strong ties to a number of key 1990s rappers including Tupac, DMX and more, with Timbs extending their reach from New York to Detroit and West’s hometown of Chicago. As an up and coming producer at the time, having made tracks for Jermaine Dupri, Foxy Brown and Harlem World – the Timbs couldn’t have been better placed on West – who would one day go on to be a larger than life name just like those who went before him.
2000 – Nike Air Force 1 Mid
It’s no secret that the old Kanye loved an all-white sneaker, Ralph Lauren Polo bear crewneck and baggy jeans combo. The then burgeoning artist can be seen wearing whited-out kicks at many times throughout his early musical journey, even at the stage where he was relocating to New York in a bid to secure a record deal. He’s even seen wearing them when he hangs out with his mother Donda, outside his childhood home. Were white Nike Air Force 1 Mids his bag? Yes: crispy clean and tongues popped to the max.
2002 - Air Jordan 6 ‘Infrared’
After producing The Blueprint for JAY-Z in 2001, he continued to navigate the New York scene, producing for more artists including Mos Def and Talib Kweli. Kanye West had been a fan of obscure adidas sneakers, frequently hitting up the store Sportie LA to keep his rotation fresh. But aside from the Three Stripes, he did dabble with Jordans, a rite of passage being from Chicago. He would reveal this a couple of years later in 2004 on his track ‘Last Call’ from his Grammy-award winning The College Dropout album. He rapped, ‘I was stayin in Chicago, I had my own apartment, I be doin like, just beats for local acts just to try to keep the lights on, and then to go out and buy, get a Pelle Pelle off lay-away, get some Jordans or something or get a TechnoMarine, that's what we wore back then.’ So what Jordans was West wearing? The early 2000s being a big time for Air Jordan retros, there’s every chance he was rocking a pair of Air Jordan 6 Infrareds.
2002 – adidas Samoa
Kanye West would eventually get his foot in the door in 2002 – a huge year in both his life and career history – going on to sign a record deal with Roc-A-Fella Records. His moment of pure victory is not only highlighted in the moment when he actually puts pen to paper in New York, but when he steps onto the stage of the Roc-A-Fella Dynasty Tour show in Chicago to acquire his Roc chain. West can be seen rocking a red adidas zip-up jacket on stage, very easily paired with adidas Samoas to complete the fit – perhaps an all black pair like he’s seen wearing at the Hip Hop Immortals Party.