Kish Kash is a lover of sneakers and hip-hop and he possibly owns over 2,000 pairs of kicks, from his instagram account you can tell his love for both is at an all-time high. He is known as a brand marketing consultant, sneaker connoisseur and radio DJ for the All City Show and Soho Radio. He is also the U.K. Country manager for Sneakerness. We spoke with him to talk sneaker culture growing up as a kid in London, the current state of hip-hop and his pick between the black cement 3’s or the Nike prestos? We also talked a bit about SneakerCon, the biggest gathering for sneakerheads since 2009. The event usually draws about 500 vendors and over 19,000 people at the Jacob K. Javits Convention in NYC. Everybody loves sneaker and hip-hop conversation and who better to talk sneakers than the sneaker OG himself. He dropped some gems along the way.
Get into the exclusive interview with Kish Kash below.
RESPECT: Explain Who You Are.
Kish: My Name is Kish Kash, I’m not originally from London but just from a small town called Aylesbury which is 45 miles outside of London. I grew up playing football which you guys call soccer but its actually called football (laughs) That is the street sport in the UK and majority of the world actually. It’s so easy to play as you just get a football and whilst wearing a pair of kicks you can have a ‘kick about’ anywhere either in the street or in the park. I’d say that the US equivalent (especially in New York) street sport is basketball where again you rock a pair of sneakers whilst shooting some hoops. So there’s a correlation there between both countries as to why we have footwear in the mix. Also because in those days you would only rock one outfit for the entire day, your footwear became part of your everyday look and of course we all wished to dress fly at all times, so we were just trying to wear and flex something in a different way to anybody else. So it’s kind of a different take to say how kids in the US would look during that era. The other thing is I’ve been into basketball since I was a kid as well because I have family in Houston, New York, Canada and was fortunate to travel and visit them so that influence and also that of my love of hip hop influenced my look. I was all about my sneakers, it was all about what looked good because there’s a whole movement associated with football over here, which is older than me and is referred to as ‘The Casuals’ and that street culture has been documented in various books.
Basically when football fans used to follow their league teams within the various inter league European level competitions in Europe, their team would be contesting against a team from another European city and this would be referred to as an ‘away game’. They’d go to other cities in another country and see so many shoes that weren’t available back in the UK. So they would boost and come back to London, Manchester, Liverpool as well with different colorways and brands that weren’t available or generally distributed in the UK. So you’d find adidas and they’d be coming back with some crazy colors and be like “Woah, you ain’t got these” and all that kind of stuff – it was all about one-upmanship. The ‘Casuals’ also co-opted Italian and French sportswear brands into their look way earlier than hip-hop adopted them. This was all going down in the 70’s so basically I don’t think New York was even looking at Italian fashion brands until the 80’s. So we’re talking about your FILA, Diadora, Sergio Tacchini, Ellesse etc, plus French brands such as Lacoste and Le Coq Sportif that set the levels kind off on that flex. But then hip-hop came into the mix and left an interesting sort of a twist because then you had the hip-hop look that was fueled by basketball. But yeah, it really took off for me when I used to see rappers wearing stuff and I’d be like “Wow”! It would be stuff that you couldn’t easily get and you’d have to know where to get it.
First time I ever saw Air Force 1s was on record covers with Lord Finesse and Rakim. They both wore Air Force Ones and I didn’t know where those were available and I was like “Woahh”! I had never seen them before, I hunted those down when I came to America but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I later found out that you could only get them in two cities New York and Philly and then you would have to go to the hood to spots such as Jew Man, which doesn’t exist anymore but I would’ve loved to have see that store. I didn’t get a chance to get my first Air Force 1s until the mid 90s and when I got them I was like “Woah”! It was a good feeling, really good feeling to finally be able to rock a pair. But what was dope about coming over to the states and going to Houston and going to New York when I was a kid, was that it would allow me to come back to the UK with models ahead of their releases in the UK, or in colors that wouldn’t get release here and sometimes even models that were never distributed here!
So I’d be able to flex in a different way to everybody and occasionally it also kind of kept me ahead of the game. There were a few of us on that tip, such as my boy Robi the producer from a rap group called Caveman, we grew up together and his group got signed to Profile Records the home of Run DMC, Special ED etc at the time which was a big deal. This meant that he could go to the New Music Seminar which was an music convention that happened in the late 80s and really 90s in NYC. It was primarily focused on Hip Hop with attendees politicking together and connecting as it was a seminar for new music and emerging artists to perform. A&R’s would attend looking for new talent, labels would be showcasing their new artists, radio and TV pluggers would be in the mix and so forth. Also there was an MC battle kinda like the ones you see online now but DJ Clark Kent used to organize the NMS DJ Battle. That and the older and more international DMC World Championships were the two respected DJ battle championships so to win that was a really big deal. Some of the best DJ’s came out to test their skills, Clark Kent had his Superman DJ crew which consisted of DJ Daddy (Ritchie) Rich from 3rd Bass, DJ Scratch etc. and then there was the rival crew called the X-Men with Roc Raida (R.I.P.), Rob Swift and all those guys plus other entrants.
So anyways when my dude Robi was attending NMS he naturally wanted to buy stuff to look on point, plus it was cheaper than back home and of course you had that exclusivity aspect. In the UK you had stores that carried brands such as Nike, Reebok etc but we wouldn’t get the full range and shoes would generally be half the price to that of here due to the exchange rate. So if you had the chance you made sure you got dipped up in the states. He came back with the Air Jordan 3s in 88 and the whole crew was bugging out as that shoe wasn’t distributed in the UK and it looked so ill!!! (Strangely enough the Jordan 1 was available in the UK a few years earlier because I remember going to Harrods with my parents (which was a store you went to but didn’t buy from because it was so expensive and was like an adventure) and seeing the Air Jordan 1 on the shelf and going I want those. I think they were like £70 or something back then so basically my parents were like you ain’t getting those as they were too much.) So Robi was the dude as he had that and some other things that he brought back from New York. I went to Houston in 88 to visit my family and I came back with the Air Trainer SC ‘Medicine Ball’ (which is now renamed the Air Trainer III for some stupid reason) and they hadn’t came out over here yet so I was first. So I was flexing wearing those. Robi and I were the dudes as we had that game along with our good dude Preesty who had mad flavors of rare adidas. Back then I used to get the train to London to get other stuff and peeps would snap necks as no one had seen them before and would ask what were they and where did I cop and wherever Robbie stepped rocking the IIIs everyone would go crazy! Then the next year in 89 I went to Houston again and I saw the Air Jordan 4s in black. I’m bugging, I’m seriously amped, i’m like “OMG.” No one had seen them.
What made you gravitate towards the culture of sneakers?
If you’re into football and hip-hop, it’s all about the details, everything with your look has to be super well considered. It comes down to that really at the end of the day. You might have the flyest outfit but if your shoes are busted and just wack, then you’re a toy man. It was one of those things where you just wanted to look official. So when you played football and then later went to the jam you could dance in them and also look so fresh, it was a hard look. They accentuate an outfit in a certain way, nothing compares to how a pair of kicks can make you look. Some people say “You can always tell so much about a gentlemen from their shoes”. It’s something like that. You can have the flyest suit, the most impeccably tailored suit but if your shoes are wack, your f*cked.
Some people say “You can always tell so much about a gentlemen from their shoes”. It’s something like that. You can have the flyest suit, the most impeccably tailored suit but if your shoes are wack, you’re f*cked. – Kish Kash
What was your first Pair Of sneakers?
They were Nike runners with a herringbone gum sole, the upper was suede and mesh in sort of light brown/brown color. I would probably be right in assuming that the tongue tag had the Nike logo with the orange swoosh on it, which is old school. Talking like Nike Waffle Racer, Elite, Internationalist kind of era. That’s what I can recall but what they were called I don’t know. So I really need to look at a catalogue from that era and see if I can identify them but I reckon they might’ve even been kid shoes because I was super young and similar to Nike Oceania. I was fascinated by the box. It was a box that had the world map on it. It shows you where Nike is going. It was an incredible graphic. You have the world laid bare with all these different branches emerging out from Portland. It spreads out like a chart that’s kinda how it looked. If you google you might know what I’m referencing to. That was my first pair.
Being A DJ, What do you feel is the current state of hip-hop at the moment?
It has never been more tougher for you to be successful because their is so much more competition now. I use to work in record stores. We used to get a couple hours every week. I remember the Source Magazine being able to list their top albums of the year and list singles. The amount of albums that you guys use to listen to in a month probably came out in a week. So now you’ve got like 50x the amount of releases and maybe more. Then there’s mix-tapes and so many underground releases its crazy. The amount of singles that come out every week again is crazy and things are now dominated by singles. So the harder thing is hitting that level where you tip-over into the major leagues. That’s the critical thing.
So I just did my radio show and I’m having a conversation with one of my guests Arveene and he’s said, “Yo, Kish! That stuff that you’re playing now, there’s kids out there that if you play this to them and you tell them it was hip-hop, they wouldn’t even recognize it as hip-hop.” But there are also kids who would recognize it and that’s just to qualify the answer. So you have kids that are into say Migos, Rae Sremmurd, that kind of stuff (I love those groups btw) and Lil Yachty etc. Then you got other underground styles of hip-hop now like say Westside Gunn, Action Bronson etc and that particular group kids might not gravitate towards it as they are more into the popular stuff, they might not understand and it might be too complex for them. Then on the flipside you’ll find a group of kids that do appreciate the underground. As we know Hip-hop started off in the projects and I guess it was all about uplifting the brutal environment and celebrating life. When you listen to say ‘Rappers Delight‘ its a sing-a-long type of song and it’s a easy thing to rap along to. The rhymes aren’t super complex. So guess artists such as Travis Scott are the contemporary parallel as the tunes are more accessible like they initially were, which is why that style has become popular. Rap got complex in the late 80s with the emergence of MC’s such as Rakim, and Kane and all those guys. They took the levels of lyricism to a whole different plane. You had Kool Keith from Ultramagnetic MCs talking about some crazy s*it, going super complex. Then you also had the political aspects of your Chuck D’s and of your KRS-One’s and all those kind of things in the mix. It got taken many ways. The DJ was thrown back a bit and they weren’t as important and rappers became the focus. The rhymes are dope the rhymes are tough. But when you break it down they take it to somewhere else. When you hear ‘Walk This Way’ your mom and dad might start jamming to it. But if you play ‘Black Steel in The Hour Of Chaos” by Public Enemy how many mainstream people at that time were breaking down Chuck D’s rhymes? It was a sub culture. Yes they went platinum but they didn’t sell multi-platinum and now how many people are streaming their music in comparison to say Jay-Z? Even though we’re talking about Public Enemy’s first three albums, three of the most important albums any genre by anyone at anytime ever. ‘It Takes A Nation To Hold Us Back,’ The Fear of a Black Planet what’s being said in those albums is like WOAH! What’s been said is still super relevant now and people are still having to ask the same questions.
So how many of the generation that listens to Rae Sremmurd know who Public Enemy are? There is a huge disconnect. How many kids today know who Jadakiss is and that’s crazy because he’s not that old. So there’s a whole generation of kids that’s growing into hip-hop but so much coming out. Time is getting super saturated so what used to happen in a year way back, happens in a day now! Do they have the time to discover and go back or are they just going to keep looking forward? I suppose it’s life choices there. But I haven’t read magazines for awhile now as I find it hard to find the time and I’m unsure to what they focus on as events move so rapidly. Everything gravitates towards what’s the latest thing so boom I’ll make my own opinions from what I observe. There’s some fantastic music coming out in the underground still. Some of the most stimulating and independent, whatever sound you’re looking at. You have your emergence of your goon rap in New York, your westside guns and king pens.
How many kids that listen to Roc Marciano know that he use to roll with Busta Rhymes and he’s on some of the albums in the late 90s and 2000s. You got other young dudes coming through like my dude Superbad Solace who works for Steve Stoute’s company Translation. He just dropped his album Sol Controller and maybe it will only sell like 1000-2000 copies but he is an artist. He’s not concerned with selling a million records its for the art of doing it, the passion!
There doesn’t seem to be that many leaders and the ones that are leaders are really superficial is how I feel. I mean Kanye West for example, he’ll get political sometimes in a way I agree with and sometimes in a way that I disagree with – his comments about slavery being a choice were incredibly scary as kids listen to him and he needs to recognize the position of responsibility he is in – the whole world is watching!
Childish Gambino has evolved immensely. He’s political and very important out of the latest generation of major artists who have gotten extreme exposure shall I say. In fact Gambino is arguably the most important. If anyone was to run for president out of any of the new breed of hip hop artists I would implore people vote for Childish Gambino over Kanye as I feel that Ye is flawed for that position. We can see how disturbing it is when a person of a high level of emotional character runs the US today. That’s no disrespect to Kanye as his influence has changed and actually shaped a lot of society and a lot of current trends. Sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a negative way. He definitely provokes and is a huge figure of debate and it is important to stimulate. If you look through hip-hop history who else has done that? He’s the first when you think about it. The flirtation with art + hip-hop is not new as you can go back to the days of Basquiat doing the cover for Ramellzee’s classic track ‘Beat Bop’, the EPMD ‘Business As Usual’ cover by Bill Sienkiewicz, the BDP Sex and Violence cover by Robert Williams for example. Though I’m unsure that what Kanye did was by deliberate intent or what but Kaws wouldn’t be as big if it wasn’t for the ‘808s & Heartbreak’ cover. That was a big co-sign which took Kaws onto another level. I was already familiar with the work of Kaws but the mainstream wasn’t, the Uniqlo collaboration wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the Kanye cover, he wouldn’t even have hit the level to do that if it wasn’t for the Kanye co-sign. Ye has got the attention of millions people and just he saw this dude’s work, appreciated his art, felt that it complimented his vision and commissioned him to do the cover. The key criteria is he wasn’t doing it because he thought Kaws would get massive, he had a genuine appreciation for his work as a fellow creative. You have other conversations springing off the back of that. But Kanye wasn’t the first to flirt within art which is something we have to establish. But he’s the one that has been in position to have that level of influence. When you think about it when you look at other influences by Kanye, whether you agree with him or not Virgil is now the head of the most revered fashion house in the world, the most prestigious one and he’s in Kanye’s camp. Don C is designing shoes with Nike. Kanye is doing adidas + Don C is doing Nike +Virgil is doing Nike and now Virgil is doing LV. Pretty awesome. Pharrell is another person who has dominated star wise and has a massive influence on culture. You know and he’s had a positive one. I’ve met the guy a few times he’s a nice guy and he’s the kind of guy that you want to win because he’s so humble. So when you look at the state of play in hip-hop today the amount that exerts in terms of influence now globally is unbelievable. You would never have foreseen that. But at the same time it’s exerting that movement globally. It’s just so weird because that’s the total opposite of how things are moving politically around the world.
But yes we need more leaders and Nas he’s a fascinating, yet flawed dude but he is real and incredibly open and observant. He’s my favorite rapper on a par with Rakim. What he just dropped, those seven tracks on Nasir, burn anything anyone else done this year. His lyrics and subject matter are on another level to everyone else. Occupying space within a generation where lyricism is not valued by the mainstream. He’s the rappers rapper at the end of the day. (Laughs)
Have you ever been to sneakercon?
I went to SneakerCon in London, I went at the end of last year. It was interesting if you’re into Yeezys or Off-White it was the event for you. The one thing I copped wasn’t even a pair of sneakers it was a Wheaties box with Michael Jordan on it. I’ve always wanted one. A dude had it and it was un-open and I was like “OMG!” I think I paid 30 dollars for it, I didn’t know what the going rate was but I didn’t really care. I hadn’t seen one before and I didn’t know when I would ever see another one again. That’s what I brought from SneakerCon a definite highlight.
Sneaker events are really a funny thing. I manage the London edition of Sneakerness which is Europe’s leading sneaker convention and hits about 10 different cities. We get about 4,000 or 5,000 people at each one. It goes from anywhere from Amsterdam to Johannesburg or wherever. People really appreciate what we’ve done as it brought a lot of people out that don’t normally go to these type of events and they appreciated seeing everyone and vibing. SneakerCon didn’t have as much of community atmosphere but it had a lot of sellers. It was massive, it was huge. It wasn’t about finding those rare sh*ts you want, your grails. It wasn’t about that, it was more about finding the latest hot products and trying to get a good deal. I haven’t been to the one in New York though but my dude Dallas Penn speaks highly of it. I haven’t been to ComplexCon either, but I’ve been told was that it’s an an extremely well presented event to launch and market products.
How many pairs of sneakers do you own?
I’ve never counted them. I would say about 700 but then I have the other room. Then I got other spots and then I have the storage situation. Some peeps seem to think I have 3,000. But the one thing I say it’s not about how many I own, it’s about what I have and that’s the big consideration. I’ve got some stuff that’s hot and some stuff that’s not. I have some stuff that’s not regarded as dope. Alot of stuff that just sits because there’s no hype but I managed to buy because it was on sale. I just scooped a pair that people are going to say “I should’ve got those” in a few years.
The Air Jordan 3 or Nike Prestos.
Oh man! That’s a tough one. The presto was so revolutionary. But then again the Jordan III really set the levels when it first came out, there was no other shoe that looked like it. It was just crack! It looked just like hip-hop because it complimented the legendary double goose jacket (as worn by virtually every rapper who was anybody in the 80s – Run DMC in particular), it had the same buffalo leather (elephant print is what everyone calls it now) as the double goose jacket was made from with the cracked pattern. It just looked hard! It still retains that neck snapping quality now. I remember when the Prestos first came out. Nike made shoes that were sized as T-shirts from XXS to XXXL which was revolutionary and in myriad of colors. The scale of that project was next level and what a concept! But the winner is unquestionably the Air Jordan III.
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