Beef between the laces: When Kendrick Lamar ditched the Big Three for a Reebok sneaker collab

Kendrick Lamar has always been an outlier throughout his career, not just in the rap game.

65th GRAMMY Awards - Show
65th GRAMMY Awards - Show / JC Olivera/GettyImages

Rapper Kendrick Lamar, a 17-time Grammy winner, is well-known for not shying away from rap beef and often makes bold statements. Lamar has found himself in the spotlight of attention on all of hip-hop social media over the weekend, thanks to landing a feature on the latest hit "Like That" from producer Metro Boomin and fellow rap star Future. In his portion of the track, Kendrick delivers an aggressive verse targeting his top two competitors, Drake and J. Cole. Lamar has been in a long-standing feud with these two artists for 11 years, which has extended beyond just rhymes and the microphone.

Lamar, who burst onto the rapidly growing rap scene in 2011 with his debut album Section .80, arrived with a point to prove. On his first project, he was already proving to be an anomaly from the norms of rap music at the time. Offering a unique, conscious, yet upbeat perspective to the rap scene was rare in a space where most contemporaries were striving for the next big hit as streaming was just getting off the ground and finding its place in the music world.

In 2015, after the success of his highly praised album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and leading up to the release of To Pimp a Butterfly, Lamar surprised fans by announcing his first official sneaker collaboration. Breaking away from the traditional big 3 sneaker brands of New Balance, Adidas, and Nike, Lamar partnered with Reebok, a lesser-known competitor in the industry despite being a subsidiary of Adidas.

The collab began with the Reebok Ventilator, a classic Reebok sneaker model, featuring a blue and red detail on each shoe symbolizing the gang lifestyle theme that Lamar often raps about being surrounded by since his youth.

Moving only a little over half a year later, Kendrick returned to Reebok shelves with his variation of the Reebok Classic Leather. This shoe featured the same color scheme, uniting the two rival gangs just on a different model as well as a "Perfect Split" pack giving fans five colorways to choose from. Kendrick sported these during an infamous performance at the 2016 Grammy Awards. A variation of this shoe made its way to Lamar's design resume with the Classic Leather Lux model. This was an all-leather look combining the red and blue into a full olive green covering the leather and laying on top of a gum sole.

The Club C would be the final shoe in the rotation during Lamar's time at Reebok as a collaborator. This shoe featured a unique leather upper on a white sole with red accents giving an all-around easy-to-wear look, especially in 2017.

Kendrick had a brief stint at Nike in 2018, creating four designs but ultimately not establishing a long-lasting relationship in sneaker collaborations. However, in 2022, as the release of his highly anticipated project Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers approached, Lamar reemerged in the sneaker game. He introduced pgLang with business partner Dave Free, a media company that partnered with Converse to collaborate on the Chuck 70 and Pro Leather models.

Despite briefly joining the biggest of the Big 3 for a short period, Lamar ultimately stood out in his aura.

No other sneakers have been released from this collection yet, but Under the Laces will keep up with the latest scoop on any news regarding upcoming silhouette releases.

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