Nobody Is Touching Drake, Even When It Comes to Sneakers: A Jordan Brand Story

There are words and names in certain fields that are associated directly with excellence. Thanks to their high-flying, legendary ambassador of the brand, Air Jordan and Jordan Brand are in that elite company. If you spot a passerby rocking kicks with the Jumpman logo, respect is gained rather quickly.

Drake’s name has come to represent the same in the music industry; people expect him to bring the goods whether he’s singing hooks, dropping his own projects, or doing guest verses for some of the rap game’s biggest stars. His recent beef with Meek Mill also allowed him to flex his muscles in the battle arena, gaining some additional cred for disposing of the Philly native.

That cache in his line of work gives Drake a platform to branch into other industries, and long before he partnered with Jordan Brand in 2013, Drake made it clear through his actions that sneaker culture was near and dear to his heart. Whether on stage performing or just on a casual stroll between tour dates, Canada’s top export has shown an affinity for the Jumpman.

But this is far from a fanboy-type relationship, as Drizzy gives Jordan as much as they’ve provided to him. One only needs to take a peek at his social feeds to see what Toronto’s very own is bringing to the table.

The value of his social feeds alone are enormous for JB–Drake’s accumulated almost 12 million followers on just Instagram–which allows him to give thirsting fans a preview of what’s to come. It’s as powerful as dropping a single or teasing snippets of a new album in advance, and Drake is well aware of the power he wields here.

Of course, it’s what he’s previewing that shows off his (no pun intended) golden touch for Jordan. Drake’s taken his October’s Very Own brand and merged it effortlessly into the sneaker giant. In the past, we got you hip to the Street Fighter-inspired addition to the collection that Drake wore on his co-headlining tour with Lil Wayne. While the shoe looked decidedly Jordan, from the black and red colorway to the leather upper, the tints of gold and Drake symbolism–as seen in one of his Instagram posts–are evident.

The latest public release in the OVO line is coming tomorrow in the form of the OVO Air Jordan X. While these special white and gold Xs have been spotted on (surprise, surprise) Instagram, they’ve gained some infamy from their first “public” release.

The OVO crew hawked these at a limited pop-up shop release in Los Angeles earlier this year, leaving many sneakerheads livid that they may have missed out on their only opportunity to cop a pair. Drake’s understanding of building buzz for his music has lent itself well in the sneaker market, teasing fans with a tightly-controlled initial sale sets up demand for the mainstream release.

Air Jordan 8 OVO Drake

Sometimes a sale isn’t even necessary; when he recently strolled onto the OVO Fest stage rocking a pair of previously unseen OVO Jordan VIIIs, the hype was palpable for another Drizzy/JB collaboration. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that in the weeks following their on-stage debut, Drake alluded to an eventual release via social media.

Much like his work as a feature artist, Drake’s key contribution to JB is updating existing properties and making them better, all without straying too far from the original formula. On a number of different levels, he has made an effort to be seen as part of the core Jordan experience beyond just the footwear.

When you see him on stage at events like the Jordan Brand Classic, an event put on to highlight some of the best high school ballers around the country, it traces back to the idea of promoting the brand’s overall theme of excellence. Calling yourself the Michael Jordan of your profession has become a little too common, but an artist with Drake’s stature can rightfully put himself in the mix. With Jordan gear, a brand ambassador, and some of the country’s best high school basketball players on display, JB positions itself (as always) as a key tastemaker across the industry.

Even when he’s not necessarily the center of attention, Drake manages to turn heads for his sneaker selection. While most viewers of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video were focused on the female rapper, the sneaker community spotted an as-then unreleased Jordan III on Drake’s feet, leading to a flurry of speculation on when (and if) the colorway would ever make it to retailers.

More dubiously, April Fool’s Jokes centered around possible Drake-Jordan collaborations have surfaced between release dates, such as this black-and-gold Jordan VI mockup that turned out to be fraudulent. The demand for these collaborations is so pronounced that counterfeit copies of a fake shoe were produced–that’s when you know you’ve made it as a force in the sneaker industry.

Above all else, Drake’s success is propelled by his desire to remain true to himself. Much like Kanye asserted himself with audaciousness in both the rap game and the sneaker industry, Drake’s ability to blend aesthetics has turned him into a runaway success for Jordan Brand. In a field many rappers have struggled to make a dent in, Drake continues to win.

Follow Kyle on Twitter at @kyleneubeck