Rapper, producer and Dreamville Records founder J.Cole is making a career out of creating paths in unmarked territories. The performer out of Fayettville, NC has teamed up with luxury footwear brand Bally to release a special pair of hiking boots, the “JC Hiker,” and limited edition backpacks and trekking poles as part of the shoe’s fall collection.
Cole, a Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist responsible for the critically acclaimed gold-selling LPs Cole World: The Sideline Story, Born Sinner and the platinum-certified 2014 Forest Hills Drive, partnered with the Swiss brand’s head designer, Pablo Coppola, to create a structured shoe made out of leather, suede and even python skin. Coming in seven colors, the “JC Hiker’s” stylish design is equipped with gripping arch support, waxed laces, silver hardware along the body and a jagged quadrilateral-shaped sole. The water resistant backpacks come in black and python.
The collaboration began when Cole visited Bally’s London offices over a year ago. The St. John’s University alumnus and Jay Z protégé under Roc Nation was looking through photo archives when he came across a black-and-white still of music legend Bob Marley wearing similar Bally hiking boots. Cole knew instantly that he wanted to venture into custom footwear.
As part of the collection, Bally released Off the Grid, a five-minute short film chronicling Cole’s visit to Jamaica as a means of escape from his fame, public persona and technology. This year alone, the rapper known for his autobiographical lyrics and narrative-style delivery sold out Madison Square Garden, gave a highly praised performance of “Be Free” on Late Night with David Letterman and visited both New York City and Ferguson, MO following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
In a brief July 8 interview with New York Times, Cole gave slightly more insight about why he focused specifically on hiking boots and backpacks. He says:
“As I’m getting older, I’m learning more about what my true style actually is. Becoming more confident in what I like. And I love simplicity and comfort. Comfort is king. I feel at home in a pair of comfortable boots, and I always have a backpack with me. I keep my life in my backpack. Current books I’m reading, my notebook with all of my rhymes written inside and my laptop that holds all of the music I’m working on.”
Cole’s new venture with Bally extends the shoe brand’s presence in the hip-hop community. Since the late 1980s, Bally has been worn and mentioned by a host of names like Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Rakim, Busta Rhymes, Kanye West, Jay Z, Raekwon the Chef, Nas, Nelly, Lil’ Wayne and Foxy Brown.
Cole’s involvement, on the other hand, allowed him to be involved in the creative process as opposed to simply namedropping. “I always had an interest in what goes into designing footwear,” says Cole. “Fortunately, the opportunity presented itself, and I got the chance to work with such a well-respected brand with a long history of making product of the highest quality.”
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for the Burton Wire. He is also contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.