Nelly rapped “I need two pair” in his 2002 hit Air Force Ones, which declared his love for the classic Nike shoe. Now nearly 20 years later it’s being reported that he believes his song is the reason for significant uptick in popularity and price of the classic piece of footwear.
“Everybody that got Nike shoe deals need to be thanking us right now,” he said in an interview with Complex’s Sneaker Shopping series. “We opened Nike’s eyes to a lot of that. At that time, they weren’t doing it. They were basically on some ‘they’re gon’ win regardless.’”
For decades, the Air Force One was the signature shoe for the rapper, and even snagged the brand as a name sponsor for his Nellyville Tour.
The Air Force 1 Low was released in mid to late-90s and for years was priced at around $60, Complex points out. Now they sit at $110/pair. Nelly is saying it’s because of his influence.
“When we first started rocking Air Force Ones, they were $59.99. We did the song. Eight months later, they were $100 […] and we ain’t get no residuals.”
This isn’t an atypical complaint from the Black community.
Among the millions of self-professed Black consumers are the key drivers of revenue within the $70 billion industry as of 2020, according to the market research company Statista.
What’s even more concerning, only 5 percent of sneaker retailers in America are Black.
“It’s a white boys’ club, like most things,” said James Whitner, in an interview with CNBC. “There are people aware of it, but their privilege doesn’t force them to have to change it.”
He added: “My saving grace was I had a good ecosystem of a few Black people who taught me the ropes. But on the other side are white gatekeepers who are keeping us out. Changing it is an individual choice, especially for white Americans because they’re part of a system that has been created to keep us out.”