There’s nothing quite like the feeling of buying and breaking in a fresh new pair of sneakers. Especially to the sneakerhead who spends an inordinate amount of his free time looking at shoes, studying shoes, and thinking about which shoes to buy next, there’s a great, euphoric release in finally cashing in and copping.
So if you’re going to take pleasure in the grand consumerist exercise known as shoe shopping anyway, you may as well enhance your experience with a selection of good music to pump you up. Here are a few to consider for your next pair:
Kanye West ft. Rakim, Nas, and KRS-ONE - Classic
While The Life of Pablo (and everything after My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, to be honest) is fair game for anyone claiming to be a Kanye West fan these days, Classic is lesser-known among his critically-acclaimed songs. The song, which is about timelessness (“Ask the teenagers, OG's and nasty kids / What their definition of classic is”), references one of the most timeless sneakers of all: the Nike Air Force One: “Since I came in the door became one of y'alls leaders / In a fresh pair of Air Force One sneakers / Uptowns, we call 'em uppies when they're on divas.”
Mac Miller - Nikes on My Feet
The chorus on this Mac Miller song is an infectious declaration of branded pride: “The Nikes on my feet keep my cypher complete.” Mac even manages to squeeze in a lyric about a forgotten favorite: “I make ‘em so mad, they got no swag / Pippens on my feet they the throwbacks.”
Mike Will Made It ft. Miley Cyrus - 23
While Miley Cyrus’s authority in the field of Air Jordans is certainly dubious (who believes that she actually hits the club “in them Wolf Greys?”), there’s still a little novelty in hearing her squeeze in as many sneaker references as she can into one song. And while the corresponding music video might be cringey for real fans of His Airness, we won’t judge you if you enjoyed it just a little.
Run DMC - My adidas
This should be THE defining anthem for adidas, if not one of the first and most important songs about sneakers. My Adidas was released at a time when the cultures of sneakers and hip-hop had only just begun to intersect, and the song did a lot to foster that cross-cultural relationship. Plus, it poised adidas to become an even greater competition to Nike at a crucial time in the history of their rivalry.
Frank Ocean - Nikes
Nikes was the first single off of the highly-anticipated, long-awaited Blonde, in which Frank Ocean croons extensively. While the song isn’t really about shoes, and instead about money (“These bitches want Nikes / They’re looking for a check"), it’s still a solid song to mellow out to while wearing your own favorite pair of Swoosh-brand sneakers.
Drake ft. Future - Jumpman
Imagine re-upping on one of your favorite Air Jordan retros, then busting them out of the box for the first time while blasting this on full volume. That should make the hefty price tag feel a little lighter. Just make sure you’re alone when you inevitably start waving your new kicks in the air to the beat, lest you look like an utter tool in front of your friends.
Kanye West - New God Flow
Speaking of Jumpmen: If you happen to stand on the affirmative side of the debate about whether or not “the Yeezys jumped over the Jumpman,” then you might prefer to bust this song out when you cop a new pair. Save this one for when you finally get those 750s you’ve been waiting on.
Quad City DJs - Space Jam Theme
This one’s also a very specific sneakerhead song, in that you only really get to play it when you’re wearing a pair of Space Jam 11s. But damn, would that feel great.
Wiz Khalifa - Black And Yellow
Copping yourself a pair of sneakers in a Wu-Tang colorway? Lighting 4s, perhaps, or Old Love/New Love 1s? Put on a Wiz banger and resist the urge to jump around on your way out of the store.
The Pack - Vans
You’d think that if a hip-hop artist were to make a song about Vans, it’d be Tyler The Creator. And while that sounds like it would be a real banger of a song, for now, we’ll have to make do with this one, by The Pack. Never were Vans so absolutely ‘hood than in this corny music video, but it might still make for a good theme song for fans of the Jazz Stripe.
Carl Perkins - Blue Suede Shoes
This one goes out to all the geriatric sneakerheads! And also maybe to the guys who bought those Blue Suede Lebron 11 EXTs. Put this on when you slip on your new kicks, but try not to break a hip while swingin’ to it.
Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks
Since we’re breaking away from hip-hop anyway, we’d be remiss to forget "Pumped Up Kicks," the indie artists’ hit single from their album Torches. While the song actually discusses a pretty morbid story (the Columbine High School massacre of 1999), not a lot of Reebok fans would be able to resist the song’s appeal. How can you own a pair of Omnizone Pumps and not like this song?
Post Malone - White Iverson
It’s easy to relate to the tone of resignation in Post Malone’s "White Iverson." When he starts talking about “spending all his fuckin’ pay,” any irresponsible sneakerhead can already relate. But he brings it home when he says “Started rockin' the sleeve, I can't ball with no Joes / You know how I do it, Concords on my toes.” Anyone who re-upped on the Concord 11s back in 2014 should consider playing this song while breaking them in.
Vic Mensa ft. Kanye West - U Mad
The Kanye verse off of U Mad goes “I don't fuck with fake dudes wearin' fake Trues / I just talked to 2Chainz and he said, "TRUUU!" / I feel like MJ, I'm in his shoes.” By “Trues,” he means True Religions (the brand of jeans that 2Chainz endorses), but it’s easy to forget that and just pretend that he’s talking about guys in fake True Blue 3s, especially considering that the next line is about feeling like MJ (which actually happens to refer to Montell Jordan, but again, you don’t need to ruin it for yourself).
Big Sean ft. Kendrick Lamar - Control
Control was a fairly controversial song when it first dropped, because it was a tasteful revival of the old disposition of hip-hop: violent, adversarial, and confrontational (Kendrick Lamar raps, “I'm usually homeboys with the same niggas I'm rhyming with / But this is hip-hop and them niggas should know what time it is / And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale / Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake / Big Sean, Jay Electron', Tyler, Mac Miller / I got love for you all, but I'm tryna murder you niggas.”) But before that, Kendrick made another big declaration in the same song: “And I ain't rocking no more designer shit / White T’s and Nike Cortez, this red Corvette's anonymous.” If that isn’t a theme for anyone who loves the Cortez, we don’t know what is.
A Tribe Called Quest - Can I Kick It?
Okay, so this one’s not so much a song about shoes, as it is a song that guys who love shoes would appreciate. It’s one of those sit-back-and-relax jams to play when you get home from a day of sneaker shopping, or maybe while brushing your sneakers clean.
Nelly - Air Force Ones
And then of course, there’s the sneakerhead anthem above all sneakerhead anthems—the most ludicrous, most impassioned musical dedication to the love of a single pair (or two purrs) of sneakers: Nelly’s Air Force Ones. It’s a song every sneakerhead needs to know, if for no other reason than its hilarity. The corporate mind-control is palpable, the hooks aren’t even that good, the song rhymes “those” with “those,” and the music video is downright ridiculous. But hey, everybody loves Air Force Ones!
Public Enemy - Politics of The Sneaker Pimps
And now, a sobering epilogue: Back in 1998, Public Enemy dropped their sixth studio album, He Got Game, also the soundtrack of a movie of the same name. Among the songs in it was Politics of The Sneaker Pimps—a long and sanctimonious track about sneaker violence, socioeconomic insecurity, and the inhumane working conditions of factories that produce shoes. So now that you’ve acquired a new pair of shoes and done all your celebration dances, take a long hard look in the mirror. Feel good about yourself?