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Earlier this year Swizz Beatz spearheaded the launch of Reebok’s all-new platform known as the Reestyle Collective. Bringing together Swizz Beatz’s passion for creativity, the Grammy Award-winning artist was given a new medium in hopes of pushing the agenda of creative content. While sneakers were at the forefront of the launch, Swizz Beatz’s influence will result in a manifestation over dance, music art and style thanks to his careful curation. From a product standpoint there stands to be more than just footwear on the horizon, incorporating the sensibilities of Beatz’s own style.
We caught up with Swizz Beatz as he spoke about leading the charge with the Reestyle Collective and what he hopes to achieve with this new undertaking.
Prior to the likes of Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Kanye West, signature shoes were left mostly to athletes. What sort of influence do rappers/music artists offer that athletes don’t? Or what different angles to they have?
Athletes obviously make a lot of sense because they use the shoes for their lives – shoes are like their MPC. Rappers and recording artists are trendsetters and are connected to the people who make trends happen – the people that are fly in the streets, you look at them and say, “I want to be like them, I want to dress like them.” Music artists speak to style, and athletes speak to performance.
Can you talk a little bit about the model you ended up creating? What was its inspiration? Why a high top?
When I first saw the Kamikaze I thought WOW, I need those. The design and the colors were crazy! The Kamikaze is not my signature shoe – I’m working with Reebok to give my creative eye and approach to more than just product. This is a deep partnership.
Do you look into the Reebok archives for inspiration? What was the design process for you like?
I’m inspired by art and music. Growing up in the Bronx, I saw a lot of street art, and I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I knew we didn’t tag over a Keith Haring. Then I was introduced to Basquiat and Peter Max, I take a lot of my artistic inspiration from them. A couple of years ago I decided not to just invest in art but to invest in myself, and started taking art classes. So art is a huge part of my inspiration. Not to mention the fact that I’ve been wearing Reeboks since I was a kid, so I know how dope Reebok can be.
Among the colorways, you have some more understated ones as well as a really crazy version. What did you have in mind for the colors?
A lot of that comes from Reebok – the collection isn’t about standing back in the corner, they’re for people who want to stand out. I’ve been lucky to design and get some pretty amazing kicks – did you see those metallic snake-skin Kamikaze joints? Now those are sick. But in the fashion and car world we’d call those concept shoes. You know it’s showtime when someone has those on.
Part of your role is to head up the Reestyle Collective, can you tell us a bit more about this project?
The Reestyle Collective is a whole ‘nother project. I’m working with Reebok to enlist a group of mentors to help up-and-coming artists across the globe find their audience. The mentors will be people like me, leaders from the worlds of art, music, fashion, film and design, and they’ll help young people make their own footprints.
Beyond footwear, what else do you have cooked up with Reebok? How long is the partnership slated to last?
It’s a long-term deal. I’ve always been a big fan of Reebok – I wore The Pump all the time when I was growing up so this is full circle for me. R’s been a big letter for me from jump, so it makes sense to wear that R on my chest.
I treat this partnership like I do my music and art. My heart and soul goes into every aspect of the design and marketing process. I plan on taking Classics and Reebok to a whole new level. I am a monster; I go hard with everything I attach my name to so you this is going to be the hottest thing out.
And the partnership doesn’t stop at design. We are collaborating on a bunch of things. We just wrapped up shooting the new “Reethym of Lite” campaign – I was the creative director of that campaign. Reethym of Lite is a fusion of music, art and urban style and is a play on the Reebok Lite product. The song is from my upcoming album, Haute Living – slated to drop this fall.
Aside from making music, art factors into your own lifestyle. When and how did this start?
I am an artist, bottom line. Art is present in my music, my paintings, what I wear, what I drive and my overall lifestyle.
Are there any other mediums you look to be creative on?
Reebok apparel will be another element to my design portfolio…
Given your high visibility, you’ve often gone on to sell your artwork for the benefit of charity. Do you feel as though given your status you owe something back to the community?
I’ve been really fortunate in my life. People took care of me and looked out for me growing up, and I’ve had a lot of great opportunities. Giving back is a huge part of my life – recently the uprising and turmoil in Egypt and Libya really hit home. My wife and I are all about having light in our lives. If we can do that for other people, WE WILL.
Any big plans for 2011?
2011 is going to be big. I’ve got a lot going on with Reebok, and my new album is coming out this summer too. We are making history.
Interview: Eugene Kan
Photography: John Ong