Veteran New York emcee Emilio Rojas cops the latest and greatest sneakers as quickly as he churns out new music. The “20 Bands” rapper is an admitted Nike fanatic who favors the classics — and draws a hard line when it comes to Kanye West’s designs.
As Rojas readies a steady stream of music in the coming weeks, the artist spoke with FN about fashion’s prevalence in hip-hop, his sneaker buying habits and why he won’t wear Yeezys or Balenciaga.
FN: Is hip-hop too focused on fashion?
Emilio Rojas: “Hip-hop has always been aspirational and even if the focus on the surface level may seem to be about fashion or superficiality, it’s really about upward mobility. It’s about coming from nothing and these are symbols of success, it’s not just about being materialistic. These things represent something to our communities — we’ve grown out of something that was difficult and we’ve been able to achieve something and the way we show that and inspire other people is through fashion and the flashiness. These are trophies, they represent victories in our lives.”
What are your thoughts on the amount of rappers getting sneaker deals and the rappers who are getting the deals?
ER: “I think it’s tight. I think hip-hop has been setting the fashion trends forever and it’s about time the fashion industry recognizes that. If I wore Adidas I would really like the Pusha T joints. I’m just super Nike loyal, it has nothing to do with the actual designs. I really like the silhouette of Pusha’s Adidas shoes, those are tight. I really like what Puma and Meek [Mill] have done, especially the things for prison reform, it’s really good to see people give back to the community and bring awareness to issues that impact our community disproportionately.”
How invested are you in sneakers today? Do you buy as frequently as you used to?
ER: “I used to cop a pair a week, we used to go down to Soho, we used to go to Dave’s Quality Meats, go to Supreme, all those spots. All those spots used to have dope limited releases. When the culture got really saturated with the reselling and stuff, I checked out and started sticking to the classics. I used to be a really big [Nike] Air Max head, at one point I probably had at least 100-plus pairs of Air Max 1s. I had [Nike] Dunks – the ‘De La Souls,’ the ‘Hufs,’ the ‘Reese Forbes’ — all that s**t. And, of course, I always liked Jordan 3s and 1s. I used to enjoy buying sneakers when you could go in and pay a little over retail for a pair, but now you’ve got people buying 15 or 20 pairs and selling a $140 pair of sneakers for $700 on GOAT. That made me check out, it took the discovery out of it. It’s not as much about personal style. Now it’s just like, ‘This is expensive and I want to show people how much money I have on my foot.’ Look at those ugly a** dookie Balenciagas people are wearing, s**ts are ugly as f**k. That’s not fashion. It looks like some s**t that ‘Frasier’ would wear.”
What sneakers won’t you wear?
ER: “You won’t catch me rocking Yeezys, you won’t catch me rocking those Balenciagas — I’m not going to spend $800 to put colorful cinderblocks on my feet. I think Kanye [West] is a genius and one of the greatest artists on our generation, but I think as he’s exposed more of his personality I want to engage less with the brand. And it’s a shame because I think he’s brilliant. He’s dealing with a mental illness, obviously, I don’t know how well he’s dealing with it but I think there’s a lot of negativity with the things that he promotes. I happen to be of a race of people that’s been directly impacted by the people he promotes actively. I can’t rock with people that support people who deport people. I think Kanye is smart, I don’t think he’s an idiot, but I think him and [President Donald] Trump have a good relationship not because one has an acute understanding of the other’s policies. I don’t think it’s an ideological bond, I think it’s an ego bond. That’s trash. [President Barack] Obama wouldn’t let Kanye sit in the White House, so Kanye didn’t ride for Obama, but Trump does, so Kanye wears a MAGA hat. So I won’t rock Yeezys, I refuse.”
What music releases do you have coming up?
ER: “I am starting to drop a bunch of collaborations with the homies every week. I’m really excited about that. I have a bunch of loose records that are super fire, we’re going to do a lot more Spanglish records, I’ve got a record called ‘No Mas’ that’s going to be dropping in the spring that I’m really excited about. A lot of dope things are happening, I’m just blessed to finally be back in a good situation where I’m putting out probably the best music of my career with the best people I’ve been around.”
Watch behind-the-scenes action from NBA star Carmelo Anthony’s cover shoot below.
This Is the Most Rapper Locksmith Has Ever Paid for a Pair of Sneakers
Rapper Locksmith Gets Candid About Kanye West, Sneaker Deals & the Influence of Hip-Hop