Kendrick Lamar on Reebok, Homecomings & Comfort Food

Kendrick Lamar electrified audiences last night at the Grammy Awards, where he also took home the awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance — on top of receiving a stunning 11 nominations.

The hip-hop star drew a standing ovation for his performance of “Blacker the Berry” and “Alright,” for which he wore a prison uniform, shackles and white Reebok sneakers.

This isn’t the first time Lamar has used his art and public persona to offer a social message. In July, he collaborated with brand partner Reebok on a special version of the Ventilator sneaker that aimed to promote peace between prominent gangs in Compton, Calif. — his hometown.

In a conversation with Footwear News last year, he recalled what it was like to return to his high school in Compton to film a short video for Reebok.

“It was like Obama was in town. It was crazy,” he said. “You got to understand, I was on the road on tour for three years straight. Being able to go back and say, We did it, we got the world to watch us and see how much talent we have here. That was huge for me.”

Lamar and Reebok first formed their partnership in 2014, always with a goal to offer more than athletic gear. “Kendrick has a real mission to inspire people,” said Todd Krinsky, global VP of lifestyle and entertainment marketing for Reebok. “This is where we are as a brand, too. We’re not trying to get you to jump as high as you can and make the NBA. We’re trying to make you the best you can be and fulfill your potential. This is important to Kendrick as well, so our values fit.”

Here, some thoughts from Lamar on Reebok, musical icons and the stars — both earthly and celestial.

So how did you hook up with Reebok?

KL: It initially started in middle school, just being a fan of the music and that people were wearing the Reebok Classic in all white. Now fast forward to partnering up now. [It was important to me to work on] something that has a history rather than just a great shoe. A lot of time, different opportunities were put in my face, but it had to be real to me.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of this partnership?

KL: Definitely the inspiration part — really putting something out that represents me and continues to represent my culture. That’s something I’ve always done. I just want to continue that to the highest potential, where it’s not only benefiting me or the company but it’s benefiting the people, who are getting inspired to do something other than wear a great shoe.

Why is that mission so important to you?

KL: It’s something I always wanted as a kid. I never got to see famous people or celebrities come to my high school. We always wanted that because we see them on TV every day and we wanted to know if they were real. When I say real, I mean you’re not a cartoon. When you see somebody on TV all the time, they become so idolized they become fake to you, like your imaginary friend.

So how would you define your fashion style?

KL: Sophisticated streetness. It’s clean but it’s edgy. That’s what I like about the [Reebok Ventilator OGs] that I’m wearing. It’s clean-cut but there’s an edge to it, and represents where I come from — that’s Compton. We have our good days and our bad days. That’s just life in general.

Are you a big sneaker collector?

KL: Nah, not like I used to. As a kid, I wanted all the shoes in the world — as many as possible. But not now. I’ve narrowed it down to just a couple of shoes. I’ve never been the type of guy who needed this particular shoe or this brand.

So tell us some personal stuff about you. If you weren’t a rapper and songwriter, what would you want to do?

KL: A psychologist or astronomer. That’s serious, too. I love everything about the moon and the stars and the galaxy. I’d sit and watch the Discovery Channel all day.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

KL: Enchiladas. Or tacos. [I like to get them from] a small place called Taco Pete’s, right across the street from my high school. It’s greasy, though. That’s the best kind.

Who are your music icons?

KL: Miles Davis, Isley Brothers, Al Green, Tupac, Snoop, James Brown. I have a wide range.

Do you have tattoos?

KL: Yeah, two. One for Top Dawg, the company I built. I’ve had this since I was 16. It was my first. [The other] says “Hustle Like You Broke.” I always had that mentality that no matter how far you’ve gone, don’t stop, don’t slow down.

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