Lil Wayne’s Upcoming Sneaker Stands on the Soles of Hip-Hop Giants

14. Lil Wayne

His album Tha Carter IV was the biggest debut of the year, moving nearly a million units in its first week, and Lil Wayne did big numbers on the road, too. His 69 shows racked in $46 million.

After four Grammys, nine albums, 13 years and countless mix tapes, Lil Wayne has effectively conquered the hip-hop world. In 2012, he’s literally stepping into a new one as he revealed plans for a signature sneaker, and not one that’s a part of his Trukfit streetwear line.

Speaking to Vibe Monday, Wayne revealed that he is about to sign a contract with a "well-known company" to endorse a shoe. “I do have a shoe coming out soon but it won’t be Trukfit,” he revealed. “I have shoe with a well-known company. I just don’t want to say yet because I haven’t dotted the line yet. But it’s done.”

Wayne didn’t say which company would be producing the shoe, but he did reveal that “it’s not a Nike or Reebok.” When the reporter pointed out that he’s frequently been seen wearing Supras, he demurred, “Uh-oh. Watch out.”

While Wayne’s fans eagerly await the announcement of which brand will soon bear his name, the news advances an impressive, decades-old lineage of rappers championing specific styles as an integral component of hip-hop culture. Check out a list of just a few of the iconic hip-hop figures whose names have adorned the footwear of their fans.

Run-D.M.C. (1987)

The godfather of all hip-hop endorsement deals, the trio’s 1987 contract with Adidas produced the very first sneaker produced in conjunction with a rapper. Following the mammoth success of “My Adidas,” the lead-off single from their third album, Raising Hell, Run-D.M.C. demanded $1 million from the company, and then proved they were worth it when fans turned out in droves at a concert wearing the same lace-free Superstars that became synonymous with the group’s look. Naming their shoes after different styles of Cadillacs, the group made history – and made it look good.

Check out a commercial for Run-D.M.C.’s Adidas line:

MC Hammer (1990)

By 1990, MC Hammer was one of the most popular music acts in the world, so it seemed like a no-brainer to enlist him to peddle, well, just about anything. British Knights paid him a reported $138 million to sell their shoes, and you’d better believe that the Oakland rapper sold the hell out of them. He never had a specific style named after him, but evidenced by the commercial below, the company just wanted to create any association between their products and the pop phenomenon:

Jay-Z (2003)

Reebok made its first foray into hip-hop endorsement in 2003 when the company offered the artist formerly known as Sean Carter the opportunity to create his own signature shoe. The S. Carter sneaker went on to become the fastest-selling shoe in the company’s history, and paved the way for other endorsement deals, including with 50 Cent, who produced a whole line of G-Unit kicks within the same year.

Kanye West (2009)

As Jay-Z’s protégé, it seemed inevitable that Kanye West would eventually follow his the footsteps and secure an endorsement deal. But as with everything West-related, the rapper wasn’t merely content to sign a contract and collect the cash; in 2009 he designed Nike’s limited-edition Air Yeezy, a shoe that took not just sneaker deals but sneakers themselves to the next level. Borrowing design elements from both the annals of Nike’s design history and the world of high-fashion, West created a singular design that was not to be surpassed – or even matched – by another hip-hop sneaker. That is, until West created the Yeezy 2, which is due out in 2012.

Swizz Beatz (2011)

Much like Kanye West, producer-rapper Swizz Beatz had more in mind for his shoe deal, evidenced by a history of plumbing fashion for inspiration and naming his 2012 style after iconic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. His 2011 line, the Kamikaze, owes a significant debt to Nike’s Air Jordan VI, but the unconventional performer released it in unique colorways and added enough flourishes that it feels like far more than an homage or ripoff of a sneaker from another era.