It’s no secret that Hip Hop icon Lupe Fiasco is a sneakerhead; we’ve heard him name drop sneakers in tracks before, for instance, the “Kick, Push” SB Dunk reference. On this track, we see Lupe and streetwear powerhouse Virgil Abloh weave between sneaker references and a far bigger picture.
The track is quite deceiving. As it begins you assume the song is about sneakers. However, the topic slowly transitions throughout into the trials and tribulations that black people in America continue to face.
With sneaker references and powerful statements in abundance, I thought it would be best to take a look at 5 of the lyrics I found most impactful. These do bounce between the less severe sneaker references I can sympathise with and the far more severe, significant references that both Lupe and Virgil are indicating.
“Been standing in line since Thursday.
I heard a rumour they might be dropping them early.
Should have ’em just in time for your birthday.”
“Got one of those three-leg folding chairs.
I am what you call prepared for the campout.
Evening brings the battery-powered lamps out.”
We’ve all been there, sat in a queue wondering if the stores going to have your size by the time you are granted access. Lupe is highlighting a struggle many sneakerheads can recognise.
“With that, these shoes that we are about to design with words
Starts with a sole
Not a sole, but soul, you know, what touches you to earth
That’s floating in nowhere, the soul.”
A play on words the first time we hear from Virgil. A quote showing how, above all, Virgil Abloh has an emotional connection while designing his sneakers or creating in general.
This quote is the first time we are teased that there is going to be a more profound meaning throughout.
“You’re limited to two, so that means I’m buying them twice
One pair to wear, one pair on ice.”
Every sneakerhead has been there, loving a pair of sneakers but not wanting to wear them, worried you’ll ruin them. This quote touches on something all of us plan on doing for a release we love. Getting one to rock and one to stock so you’ve always got a pair as back up.
“I get applause as I step outside the pop-up
The shop resembles the unfinished house he was in before they shot us
We fell down; then we got up
Pick Pac up, pick Nip up
This is the type of tripping that scuff kicks up
Traditionally creases was a style to refuse
But now they represent every mile in your shoes.”
As the song nears its end, the track again takes a turn towards the more profound meaning I touched on previously. Lupe moves away from sneaker culture. He again begins to mention some of the issues we are facing in the world today.
“The shop resembles the unfinished house he was in before they shot us.”
This line sees Lupe possibly reference the Ahmaud Arbery shooting, a theory solidified by Virgil’s final statement. His lyrics begin to intertwine between sneaker culture to the difficulties Black people are facing.
“Air Ahmaud, Air Arbery
What colour are these shoes? The upper of these shoes
Maybe white, maybe black, pick your favourite
But, you know, the world’s black and white anyways
So might as well limit the whole colour palette to that
Signed, Virgil Abloh, in quotes of course
Oh yeah, there’s a red zip-tie on this thing, it makes it our own
It’s tied into a history of art that’s now
As you reach the final statement by Virgil Abloh, you start to piece the song together and realise what it is Virgil is considering. Abloh is describing the hypothetical design that may have went into the sneakers that Arbery was running in on the day of his death. The words by Virgil shows the connection between himself and his creations. He highlights the Black struggle throughout the terms he speaks.
In true Virgil Abloh fashion, he signs off the theoretical sneaker creation with what he is known best. “VIRGIL ABLOH” signed on the shoe and a red zip tie to finish it off, a look that is synonymous with the OFF-WHITE creations he is best known.
This song is one of Lupe Fiasco’s best releases in some time. SHOES features on his upcoming LP HOUSE, which sees Virgil feature again once more.
HOUSE is set to drop on 24th July, will you be keeping an eye out for the release?