So let’s start by talking sneakers. Through various references in your tracks, it’s clear you’ve been a sneakerhead since day one.

Let me tell you like this; sneakers and cars get the same priority from me. I think of shoes like tyres. We actually use the analogy that when you put new rims on a car, you say ‘I just put some new shoes on the car’. I’ve always been the type of dude that respected the way you rock your sneakers. I’m obsessive compulsive sometimes about my sneakers. I like to see them clean, they give me a cool sense of well being. I got hundreds of pairs; Nike, Adidas, I got Prada stuff, Reebok. For some reason, I believe that when people look at your outfit, they fixate on the shoes for longer than the shirt and the pants. I think they’re the most important piece of an outfit.

So we’ll start with the earlier part of your career, the early 90s. What sneakers were really poppin’ at that time in Compton, or specifically in the Treetops?

The hot shoes were Air Max. When the Air Max first came out, everybody was on it. The price didn’t even deter people; you had to be a baller to have them. Nike Cortez will always be a classic shoe, and everyone was into them, but my favourite Nike shoe was the Huarache Trainer. They were like $125 back in 1991, and they were the lightest and most comfortable shoe you could ever wear. It felt like you were wearing house shoes. They were porous so they let the air flow through, and you could jump super high in them. They were the best shoe in the game, to me.
There was another shoe though, that all the ballers used to wear, the Diadoras – people used to wear a lot of Diadora. Fila, Ellesse, everybody loved court shoes, that European tennis shoe vibe … that was it.

Did a shoe determine your status or role in the neighbourhood?

It did. People judged you by your shoes and it determined your status. You knew when people were starting to ball when they had cowboy boots with some crocodile; real fancy shoes. In the sneaker world, it was real icy white shoes – Air Force 1s. Even though Air Force 1s kinda went out for a minute and it was hard to find ‘em, when they came back, they came back bigger and better than ever. So Air Force 1s kind of defined you, they put you in a category.
Cortez were associated with drug dealers, the Air Max was associated with hustlers, which is kinda the same thing, and obviously the first Flights, like the Jordan Flights, meant you were a basketball player. Shell toes were a part of hip hop gear, you know with the sweatsuits and everything. Even though they were generally for athletic purposes and warm-ups, people out here rocked them like they were suits. The shoes really defined you, you were gonna be categorised by what you wear.

What about the shoe strings? Were people flipping their own style there too?

Yea, back then it was all about how creative you could be with the lace-up. People used to go across and do the straight lace-up, you know like the breakdancers, which was always a little complicated for me to do, but it was dope. Or people would do double shoe strings, which made your shoes hard to get on and off, but it still made you fly. It made you different to the guy who just laced up his Converse. But if you were rocking a pair of shell toes with the big red fat laces, everybody knew you were the hip hop guy, you wanted to breakdance. So it was just that extra little step that people took to define themselves.

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Words and interview thanks to Woody, Sneaker Freaker Magazine