The 90s and early 2000s were a defining era for hip hop, with the West Coast and East Coast engaged in a battle for supremacy. This period also saw the birth of many hip-hop styles and fashion statements. The sneakers worn by artists became an integral part of the hip-hop culture, and we will look at the top four shoes that defined West Coast hip-hop.
The Nike Cortez is a classic sneaker that has become synonymous with West Coast gang culture and hip-hop. Its sleek design and blue colorway made it popular with gang members, particularly the Crips, in the late 80s. The Cortez featured in music videos and lyrics of West Coast gangster rap, with artists like Snoop Dogg and Eazy-E embracing it as part of their wardrobe. Kendrick Lamar grew up in Compton, where the Cortez became a symbol of his background and heritage. In 2017, Kendrick partnered with Nike and released his first collab, the “Kung Fu Kenny” Cortez, which was a tribute to West Coast culture and his personal experiences.
The Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star is another iconic sneaker that played a significant role in West Coast gangster rap. Originally a basketball shoe, the All-Star became popular on the streets and was often worn by up-and-coming rappers and gang members, including Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. The Bloods and the Crips would wear red or blue All-Stars to showcase their gang affiliation. The All-Stars were prominently featured on the cover of The Game’s album, “The Documentary.”
The Puma Suede model left its mark on West Coast gangster rap culture. Released in 1968, the Puma Suede gained popularity among breakdancers, skateboarders, and hip-hop artists for its sleek design and comfort. Gang members could represent their affiliations, with Bloods often opting for the red-suede Puma Clydes. Nipsey Hussle, a West Coast hip-hop legend, was a brand ambassador for Puma before his untimely death in 2019. Nipsey’s partnership with Puma went beyond a typical celebrity endorsement, with the two working together on exclusive merchandise drops, charitable initiatives, and the revitalization of local basketball courts in his hometown of Los Angeles.
The Reebok Classic model gained traction in the West Coast hip-hop scene during the 90s and 2000s. Known for its simple design and comfort, the Reebok Classic was popular with artists, especially the nylon pair. It became a go-to shoe for many West Coast rappers, including Ice Cube, who was often seen wearing them in music videos. The Reebok Classic was a symbol of the laidback West Coast lifestyle.
In conclusion, the sneakers worn by West Coast hip-hop artists became an essential part of the culture during the 90s and early 2000s. The Nike Cortez, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star, Puma Suede, and Reebok Classic were iconic shoes that defined West Coast hip hop. These sneakers represented not only style and fashion but also the lifestyle and culture of the West Coast.