John Gotty is one of the most respected OG sneaker + hip-hop bloggers and one of the best at what he does. Growing up on on hip-hop culture in Tennessee and being one of the first to present the idea of re-selling kicks online. We got a chance to catch up with him to talk about sneakers, the new-school rap scene, his favorite new-school artist, the most influential sneaker of 2018 and how LeBron James has revolutionized the sneaker game + more.
Catch up on the interview below.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Winchester, Tennessee. It’s a small town east of Nashville. But I’ve been in Nashville since ’94, all my adult life since college, so it’s pretty much home.
Early you started off blogging, what made you gravitate towards blogging about sneakers and hip-hop culture?
I started out doing sneakers online, we actually had one of the first sneaker re-selling websites and this was in 2001. This was even way before The Smoking Section. This was even before shoes was thing, back when everything was like a very small community. So I started doing that and selling shoes online, doing the re-sell, going out and finding rare stuff and selling it online. I did that for a couple years until sneakers just kind of blew and it became very big and almost saturated to a degree.
So sneakers kind of went down for me in that sense, being able to make money online. But I was so used to being online, I wanted to continue to doing something online because its 24/7 365 and I love it. I love being connected to people around the globe, the whole nine yards. Sneakers and music have always been my two main loves and the most consistent things in my life. So it was like “Yo, what can I do online now?” and at the same time blogging was on it’s own thing and this was probably 2006. I was like if I can’t do shoes why not do music? So I was like I’ll give it a shot. It’s always been just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, being at the front of certain trends.
Any thoughts on the new-school rap scene right now?
The mainstream stuff is up here getting all the headlines. But they are still really good artists popping up all the time who may not be getting tons of exposure. I’m still finding new artist everyday, every week. I mostly find new artist by word of mouth and keeping my eyes and ears open.
Who is your favorite new school artist?
It changes by the day (laughs). I really listen to so much music and it’s so much material out there. I’m like this week I’m zoned in to the kid Saba’s newest project. Before that, it was a kid named Vince Ash because I really enjoy his project, Do or Die. J. Cole’s new project has been getting a lot of burn. Griselda Records is loaded with talent. My man Mike Floss has been putting out loose songs that are tough. Chuck Strangers new joint caught my ear. So did Rich Homie Quan’s latest. Skyzoo. Mozzy. Frank Leone. This could go on for days (laughs).
It’s so many different ones. There’s always some good material out there. I think the problem is that we find good stuff and we want to hoard it. We don’t want anybody else to know about it. Nah, it has to be the opposite. If you find good stuff, you have to talk about it. Speak loudly for it to sort of balance out the other s*** that’s getting all the headlines or whatever.
Which NBA player do you think has revolutionized the sneaker game of this generation?
You definitely have to say LeBron James. When you go back to say the LeBron’s 6,7 and 8s and really with the 8 he kinda pushed shoes from being strictly performance-based, basketball shoes for on the court to where they kind of took on a life outside the lines and in the streets again. That may have been something that we haven’t seen since MJ. I think we’ve always seen basketball shoes worn but again he took it to another level where everybody was kind of interested in having the South Beach’s. You could go to the club and see somebody wearing South Beach’s or you see em wearing the Christmas 8’s. Then also, I think Kobe is one of those guys who definitely pushed the envelope. It was sort of similar to MJ. He knew exactly what he wanted out of the shoe. So that led to alot of technological style changes when you think of a low cut basketball sneaker. Nobody was doing that before Kobe, he bought it to the game. I think those two guys definitely deserve a strong nod for what they’ve been able to do.
Do you have a favorite sneaker designer right now?
Not really by name. I think what Virgil Abloh is doing he kinda bought that energy back to Nike. I think Nike was in the lead and nobody was pushing them so they got kind of lazy. So adidas pushed them and they bought the best out of Nike. Nike had to get back on their grind. Virgil and some of those other guys like Don C gave them good energy. Now it’s like ‘Okay, now Nike is cranking back up and doing more creative stuff again, connecting to the streets.’ It took that push from adidas and now they got this renewed energy and it’s competition going on.
What is the meaning behind “Gotty Knows”?
One of my favorite shoes is the ‘Chlorophyll’ Air Trainer 1, the old Nike model, and the Bo Jackson-“Bo Knows” ad campaigns that accompanied his kicks. Those two kind of came together and helped form or influence “Gotty Knows.” It kind of takes on a life of its own. I don’t have all the answers. I always tell people like I’m not just going to say anything or co-sign stuff. I’m not one of those people who talk out the side of my neck. When I say something or when I try to put some information out there, I usually have a very strong opinion on it based on facts, research or having experienced it. I feel like I have a good enough track record if someone says “Gotty says this so we should actually f*** with it. Maybe I need to take a listen or maybe I need to look at this differently.” It’s more about accepting the OG title people have blessed me with over the years and trying to be a voice people can connect with and maybe pick up some game from. To listen and share my experiences, the hurdles and such, so others don’t get tripped up in their journeys.
How many sneakers do you own right now?
I’m in the process of downsizing. Right now, maybe around like 70 or 80 pairs. It’s been worse but at the same time it’s so much stuff coming out. So when you get too many shoes, it gets to a point where you’re not even wearing half of them. You wear them like once every couple of months. So I’m trying to get rid of the clutter and get down to the pairs I really want to wear.
What was your latest sneaker cop?
The last thing I bought well I gotta pair of Reeboks in the mail the other day and I just picked up the Jordan Alpha Trunner, which is a super old shoe that was a random colorway. I never saw it at stores it just popped up at outlets. I started asking some of the guys at Jordan like “When does this shoe come out?” and they had no idea. First the shoe started popping up on eBay, then outlets. So I sent up a flare on social media like “Somebody get at me with a pair of these.” A guy from Jersey reached out to me on Instagram via DM with a pic of the shoe while he was in the store. He said “Yo, you want these?” I’m looking at a 13 right now.” Never responded to a DM so fast. Told him “Grab them shits.” That’s the power of the internet and helping people out. I try to help people out as much as I can. So I feel like that was some good karma returning back to me. I think I paid 30 bucks for them. In the day and age where everybody is paying $300 and up for a pair of shoes, that’s a big steal. But that’s the real beauty of things at their essence. You can’t buy cool. Anyone can put on the Off-White’s. But, if they’re a doofy, they’re not going to make the shoes look cool anyway. But if I’m a cold mother******, I could make these $30 shoes look fly as f***.
The Air Jordan 1 or Black Cement 3s?
I hate Jordan 1s. They’re bricks. I might as well wear Chuck Taylors. With all the technology out here…let me clarify – I love the Jordan 1s. I actually had a pair when they first came out. I was in maybe 3rd grade. I fully understand lore associated with the Jordan 1. But I always tell people “I’m not a woman I don’t wear high-heels.” You know how a woman will wear some six-inch heels to look good, but then toss them as soon as she gets home and walks in the door? I’m not going to try to look cool while wearing high-heels and that’s what Jordan 1s are for me comfort-wise. I can still appreciate a Jordan 1 and I love the hype but I don’t need them. They don’t work for me.
What sneaker do you feel is most influential?
Jordan’s use to be a thing but I can go out right now and certain Jordan’s that would of sold out five years ago are still sitting on the shelves today. I think one of the shoes could be the Zoom Fly some of those joints are amazing shoes that alot of people in the public haven’t tried. Those are one of those shoes that will have a lasting effect because of technology. My friend just got a pair of those and he was going crazy over them and I reminded him of when he use to clown me for wearing them because he said the soles looked like some Skechers (Laughs). I think a shoe like that could have a lasting effect. That particular model, for the performance, tech and design, could have effects for years to come.
What are your early predictions for the NBA Finals?
I would have to say the Houston Rockets on the West side. Does it really even matter who’s coming out of the East? (Laughs)