Posted: Monday August 28, 2006 2:49PM; Updated: Monday August 28, 2006 3:51PM
SI.com:One of the biggest influences sports has had on hip-hop fashion, besides jerseys, has been sneakers. It seems like the sneaker game has been blowing up ever since you were with N.W.A. almost 20 years ago.
Cube:Back when I was really coming up, it seemed like everyone couldn't care less about what you were wearing on your feet. It was more about getting into a car. Now shoes are the new cars. It seems like everyone realizes they can't afford the super fly cars that they see, but they can afford the shoes, so now shoes are just as big as cars with the youngsters.
It's really about style. It's taken these shoe companies a long time to realize that they need to really identify with the style makers and not just athletes. Most of the people who buy shoes are not going to play in them. But I understand where the shoe companies are coming from; they really want to get behind the athletes. We've only seen Reebok and Puma get behind the hip-hop community, and they realize we can sell shoes just as good as the athletes.
SI.com:What was the turning point in the relationship between hip-hop and the NBA? Do you think the emergence of Michael Jordan and the popularity of the Air Jordans made the NBA "cool" to younger fans?
Cube: Hip-hop made Michael cool. Understand that. Hip-hop made Michael cool. The only difference between Michael and Magic is the hip-hop generation. Magic is my favorite all-time player, but he's of the late '70s/early '80s generation. Michael Jordan came in as hip-hop was starting to rise above the underground. We let people know that when you got a game like that, that automatically makes you cool and then what you do is cool, what you wear is cool. I'm not saying Jordan had nothing to do with that -- Jordan's style is top of the line -- but his style wouldn't be corporate without the hip-hop community embracing him. It's both; it's hoop and corporate.
SI.com:I can't let you go without reminding you it's been seven years since you graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with your boy Shaquille O'Neal. What do you remember about the shoot that day?
Cube: Man, I can remember it like it was yesterday. For me it was the biggest honor in the world to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, one of my favorite magazines since childhood. Not being a professional athlete, or even a college athlete, I never thought in a million years that I would ever have a reason to get on the cover. It was amazing. I still have it blown up, hanging in the den of my house.
That day, we shot at the Wiltern Theatre on Western and Wilshire, a real famous theater, and we had a lot of extras there. I remember thinking I should wear Shaq's jersey since we were flipping styles, but I didn't have one so they had to go to the mall down the street and grab one. I remember flipping chains with him. I remember during the shoot how excited all the people and all the extras were to be there. I remember the photographer [David LaChapelle] laying people down and pulling people up and telling people what to do and making this freeze-frame moment that looked like we just ran out of the arena. Just seeing him put all that together and seeing the final product was amazing. I kept thinking Shaq looked like a mountain standing next to me.