words & interview // Ray Polanco Jr.:

Remember when Kanye West was on stage with Jay-Z and proudly started a freestyle by rapping, “And I’m the newest member of the Roc-A-Fella team,” as Dame Dash blessed him with a chain? Yeah that moment was iconic because we all wanted our own opportunity to be down with the Roc. Hell, Fabolous just turned 40 and was excited as ever to receive his Roc-A-Fella chain. The movement itself is more than a chain, more than a diamond in the sky, and more than three guys who rose from the streets of New York City. In fact, it’s a lifestyle just like the Nike Air Force 1.

Nike is no stranger to recognizing icons. Their catalogue includes Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and more. But their taste for culture shifters isn’t limited to just sports. Roc-A-Fella founders Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Jay-Z, and Dame Dash were nearing the height of their careers in music, fashion, and liquor industries in the early 2000’s when they landed on the radar of the Swoosh. As the unofficial faces of the new generation of Air Force 1, Nike paid homage to the crew by embroidering the Roc’s famous logo on a pair of white on white Uptowns as a way to pay respect. Who knew it would become a unicorn sneaker coveted by sneakerheads and Hip Hop aficionados alike?

The impact of this partnership still remains and led us to being able to cross off a childhood dream on November 30th. With Kareem “Biggs” Burke spearheading the project, Nike will be globally launching the Roc-A-Fella Air Force 1. It’s officially chaining day for us all.

Read ahead as I sat with Roc-A-Fella co-founder Biggs for a deep dive on his perspective of the label’s come-up, pitfalls and triumphs in business, their impact on culture, buying $ 16,000 worth of Uptowns at once, and more just before the launch of the shoe.

Kareem “Biggs” Burke, photographed by Ray Polanco Jr.

Ray Polanco Jr: Biggs, it’s a true honor. I’m glad sneakers brought us together because what you all did as a label helped shape me into the creative and business mind I am today. So first and foremost, thank you. Rocafella impacted people and still influences culture today. We all have our own stories of what Rocafella means to us individually, but as one of the three founders, what does Rocafella mean to you?

Kareem “Biggs” Burke: Man… in the beginning Rocafella was a bridge and that bridge took us out of one situation into another. Being from New York and having a Brother who fell to the streets, as someone who I looked up to in those surroundings, I saw a lot of other people from our communities who saw the same fate. That bridge started with Dame first getting into the music business and coming up with the name Rocafella with Tone Hooker (of Original Flavor) and inviting me in. It was going to take us to the other side without looking back after that. Building Rocafella, it started to become something that revolved around family, friendship, relationships, and brotherhood. It wasn’t just a logo, it was something that was etched in our hearts. It was something we believed. The name Rocafella is still with us today. The movement revolves around all the people who helped build it. Everyone knows about the trifecta, Jay – Dame – myself, but also TyTy, Emory, B High, Irv Gotti, DJ Clark Kent, Kenny Burns, and a host of other people that believed in us as we started to building that company.

RP: Would you say Rocafella, in terms of business, is one of your greatest accomplishments?

BIGGS: Yeah, I would say that. That was the genesis of how everything started. Without Rocafella, it’s hard to say there would have been a Rocawear clothing line, Armadale Vodka, and that independent spirit to do all these things and start co-ventures and want to own everything. We might’ve ended up with jobs working for somebody, but with that mindset and having that competitive spirit to always win, that pushed us to do things outside the box. That all started with Rocafella.

RP: I like what you said about independence because when I look at the logo on your Air Force 1, for me, that’s what Rocafella means — Independence. You all were preaching about that idea since day 1 and I know that’s something within our own culture that wasn’t too widely spoken about especially in the mid ’90s. Lots of time we would wear brands and logos, but the owners of these companies didn’t have our people’s best interests in mind or in some cases flat out don’t want those of us of color to wear their clothing at all. Growing up, Rocafella felt different in that sense where you all made me pay attention to the little things even from the way you built your business. I recall you mentioning a “build to sell” seven year plan.

BIGGS: That “Build to Sell” formula started in 1997 and probably because we learned through failure. From having Reasonable Doubt the album, which we still own together, and signing a deal that wasn’t advantageous to us because we thought we were getting 80% of everything and it was through bad paperwork we found out we lost $ 3 Million. Through that failure we learned how to come up with that formula that started in 1997 with the first release In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 on Def Jam. In 2002 we sold 50% of the company and then in 2005 we sold the other half of the company.

RP: That’s powerful. You should write a book. Did you ever think doing music would open up the door for you all to do so many different business ventures on a larger scale?

BIGGS: I didn’t know what we were doing was going to effect culture the way it did. I knew the influence we had previously as the collective The Best Out in Harlem was impacting the world. We knew we would do things Roc related, but I didn’t know the music would be the platform where we could say things and people just gravitate towards them. We learned that throughout the process of Reasonable Doubt, then by In My Lifetime Vol. 1 we started to perfect that. It wasn’t just naming stuff like Louie the 13th or Cristal, it was really stuff we were doing a year or few years before and just introduce it like Robb Report for people in our neighborhood would fall into something new. We were just introducing a luxury lifestyle through music. For us, we had that gift of discovery and doing things outside the box because we always wanted to reach higher and higher and higher. It was like man how to do we jump 80 feet to get to that. Once we got there it was like how do we jump higher. It was always about trying to reach outside the box, like Jay talked about it, pulling pop culture over to us without us crossing over.

(from left to right) Biggs, Jay-Z, Dame Dash — Reasonable Doubt Photoshoot

RP: It’s really dope to hear the process. Did the lifestyle you all were living prior to starting Rocafella instill that mentality of independence when doing music? And was music looked at as your next hustle?

BIGGS: Yeah because we had this mindset that we could do anything. Dame, Jay, and myself equally thought about things from a business sense, we just had different roles. Even though Dame was the mouthpiece, it wasn’t to say he wasn’t the business mind or same with Jay creating the music, he was still business minded. Both of those guys are super geniuses. The things that we talked about and put together behind the scenes were all like chess pieces, then we would execute. It was a lot of failures along the way that we learned from. That not only helped us gain strength, but we learned a lot of lessons from failure too. Our minds were getting shaped to plan our next move and not make the same mistakes again.

We didn’t target music as our next hustle. It was something that happened by chance and ordained by the Lord. Everything happened too perfectly. Dame got into the music business first through his cousin Darien Dash and Darrin Chandler. When certain doors closed, I built a relationship with Dame outside of just The Best Out or just friends. We became brothers, then I got introduced to Jay. Eventually we all filled each other’s voids. Those rubberbands we wore on our hands were circles of success. No one could fall because everyone be each other’s crutches. We knew we would win and lose together. It was a belief system. Back then, I would say Dame spearheaded that whole belief system ten fold because he was a great motivator and business mind. Because he was treated so wrong with the first group he managed, he was able to learn so much in the music business through every single department. Dame taught Jay and myself a lot, then from there we took on different rolls.

RP: The way you explained it, the lyrics from “Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)” came to mind:

Labels turned me down, couldn’t foresee
Clark sought me out, Dame believed

Ty rolled with a nigga, V.A. spot
Tone, Mike ‘Zo and them niggas, V.A.’s locked
Biggs fucked with a nigga, wassup Hoff’?

It’s interesting to hear you explain how things happened and how Jay-Z was able to take what you all were doing and summarize it in a rap that sounds great. Some people have autobiography books, but do you think Jay’s discography is your version of that, but on wax?

BIGGS: 100%. Jay’s genius and being the wordsmith he was and still is, he knew how to say things in a way. The music still means so much to me today because it’s all of our lives in all of those albums. Those are all stories from all of us. “We don’t drive X5’s we give them to baby mommas,” I remember buying an X5 for my baby’s mother who’s my wife now for Valentine’s Day. I drive it one time and said, “I can’t drive this, man. This is my baby’s mother car.” That ended up in a song that goes platinum. We had so much fun making all the music and hanging together. All we did was laugh, make music, plot, shop, and go to restaurants… that was our life back then.

RP: That line was so fly and made me feel so broke, haha. What was your first reaction when you would hear Jay reference something you did in a song?

BIGGS: It was crazy. Even now, when I hear Jay’s stuff it makes me want to sit down with him and find out where his mind was at when he thought of certain stuff. With as close as I am to him, I’m still amazed by not only the way he makes the music, but also by the way he puts things together.

RP: I could feel that Brotherhood connection by the way you’re expressing admiration for his craft. What was one of the most memorable lines or verses from Jay that directly ties back to you personally?

BIGGS: “I Seen It All” his feature on Jeezy’s song, Jay was explaining a crucial time that happen to friends of ours and obviously “Lucifer” is dear to my heart because of that last verse. I just worked out to that song, it’s about my Brother Bob. I remember at that time not wanting to hear it. Jay warned me that he did something for Bob to see if I was ready to hear the song and I really wasn’t. Now it means so much because I could listen to that, his kids can listen to that and remember how special of a guy their Father was, you know? That name lives on through music. People probably hear his name and wonder who’s Bob? So for Bob to live on, that’s one of the most memorable things Jay did for me.

RP: I pulled up the verse while you were explaining it. Reading the lyrics and hearing the importance of every bar further speaks to the type of relationship you and Jay built together. Much respect.

BIGGS: Every word he said was true. My brother got shot eight times, got in the car and tried to drive away. He did drive away, but the car ended up slowing down because he was losing blood and just crashed into another car. Reverse the day, reverse the car, reverse the crash, and there you are Bobalob. It was like a movie the way Jay put it together. I work out to that song almost every single day because it means so much. It took me a long time to get over that situation, but now I’m always inspired by it. My brother was always someone who pushed all of us. He was real motivational and a leader in the way that Dame was too. He was someone I looked up to.

RP: You know, now that I continue re-reading the verse… I feel like I’m watching a Quentin Tarantino movie. He has a way of captivating you with the meat of the story first, then pulls you in back to the beginning. Jay gave me that vibe here on “Lucifer.”

BIGGS: Exactly.

RP: Honestly, I got introduced to his movies through Rocafella. To further understand the lyrics and certain references of each Hov album, I would go back to movies like Pulp Fiction, Donnie Brasco, Goodfellas, The Godfather and others. Those are still some of my favorite movies ’til this day. Moving a bit forward… let’s talk about that first time Nike Air Force 1s showed up to the office with the Rocafella logo on them. What happened and how did it happen?

BIGGS: My memory is a little foggy and I’m not sure how it happened, but I just remember getting them in the office. We were in the moment and seeing so much success, we weren’t really surprised by too much. But I do know it was really dope to have because we were buying hundreds and hundreds of pairs of white on white Air Force 1s. So, we spoke about the time when people were closing doors on us and how we started something of our own, Iceberg didn’t want to work with us, neither did Belvedere, and Cristal was talking about they don’t want certain people drinking their champagne. So for a company like Nike to recognize the impact we were making and reach out to do something like that was really dope and special at the time.

RP: Damn. I can’t even imagine, haha. At this time Rocawear was really poppin’, you all were coming off of the major successful album Vol.3 The Life and Times of S. Carter and you bought Armadale Vodka as well. This was arguably the hottest we’ve ever seen anyone in Hip Hop before. Would you say Rocafella Air Force 1s from Nike was just icing on the cake at that point?

BIGGS: I would say that. Again, they were a really lucrative company who reached out to us. They recognized our impact on culture and us being leaders in the movement of Uptowns especially for me and Dame being from Harlem. It was an honor. As dope as it was, I didn’t think it would impact sneaker culture for years. We didn’t know there was going to be a resale market 10 years down the line. Nike recently was telling me how coveted our Air Force 1 was and I was like, “WHAT?!” During the 20th Anniversary of Reasonable Doubt, I really started to relive the moments because I was talking about them. I got to reflect and see how things changed through time. You don’t know what’s going to be a classic when you make it. We always think everything is going to be a classic, but the true measuring stick is if it stands the test of time. To see what the Rocafella Uptowns did for sneaker culture, I was blown away. For Jay to call me and say come to the crib to sign these sneakers for me, I mean that’s an honor. That’s my brother, but he wants me to sign his boxes. Now everybody hits me up asking for signed boxes. To think my signature means something, the guy who’s been behind the scenes not looking for anyone to see him to meaning something in the culture… that’s an honor as well.

RP: I can definitely feel your energy and appreciation for how things worked out. From 15 years ago just getting this shoe for the crew to now getting to share the moment with fans all over the world, it’s crazy. I call November 30th Chaining Day. Everyone I knew wanted a chaining day moment. I remember the video of Kanye West being on stage and Dame handing over a chain to him. That was special. You know growing up in an urban community, seeing those images of success made all of us want to strive to reach that. It was cool seeing people we could identify with set a standard for making something out of yourself, so naturally we all wanted to be down with Rocafella. You also made a reputation for putting other people on. It just wasn’t about the success of the big 3, it was making sure everyone was successful. This sneaker which I’m happy to be one of the first people Nike gave them to, represents all of that. I wear them proudly. Nike recognizing you all shows why Nike is Nike. They have a distinguishable taste for icons — Michael Jordan, Penny Hardaway, Ken Griffey, Roger Federer, and even Rocafella.

The journey didn’t end there though. Like I said, the influence of what you all did can still be seen today in many industries including music and fashion. Something I know that means a lot to you is the Resonable Doubt Family Tree which you put on a t-shirt for the 20th anniversary of Reasonable Doubt. Within this tree there are so many megastars and platinum records, it’s crazy. From Cam’ron to Rihanna, Kanye, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Beanie Sigel, and more, that’s a beautiful thing. I know you made this tree based off music, but when I look at the Resonable Doubt Family Tree I see how your influence shaped partnerships with entertainers and footwear brands. Kanye was killing it with Nike and now adidas, Rihanna has the game on lock with Fenty x Puma, Big Sean and 2 Chainz work with many brands, Cam’ron is successful with Reebok. Every major brand was touched. Man, y’all did an amazing job.

BIGGS: That’s crazy, I’ve never thought about it from a sneaker perspective. When I talk about it, I always refer to music, fashion, film and spirits. Even tech somewhat… but I never thought about the Family Tree and how it spread to everybody getting these sneaker deals. As you were saying it, yeah I agree that’s huge.

RP: Yup, that doesn’t happen at all. These are not just colorways, people from this tree legitimately have their own shoes created for them. For me what ties music and fashion together is authenticity and a passion for being fresh. I previously sat with DJ Clark Kent and he said you were the Air Force 1 guy. He bought a lot, Jay bought a lot, but you definitely copped the most white on white Uptowns. It was your uniform. Is he correct in saying that?

BIGGS: Yeah. I’m sure sure how it started or if I started wearing them first, but I know I was buying the bulk first. 50 and 100s at a time. It just made sense because it wasn’t a sneaker anymore it was a uniform. Uptowns were something I threw on every day with every thing and I just knew I was fresh out the gate. I didn’t have to think about anything, it was instant fresh.

RP: When you were doing the bulk buying, what’s the most amount of money you spent at one time?

BIGGS: I would say 200 pairs at one time, so whatever that amounts to.

RP: If each pair was say $ 80, that would be like $ 16,000. Thats wild, haha!

BIGGS: [Laughs] Yeah. You know when we got the Rocafella Air Force 1s back in the day we may have not appreciated it as much until a few years later. We had so much success at that time, I remember it being a great feeling because like I said the company was a monster in the business, but it wasn’t until years later I would like back like, “Damn we actually had this and that.” Just recently I went to Atlanta to a storage spot I have and pulled out a ton of marketing books and decks we created for all the companies we had. I mean there’s stuff in there I don’t even remember doing. We had the RocBox Mp3 player in these booklets, watches, jewelry, all types of stuff. Looking back we had a lot of stuff and were all over the place. I think things were just happening so fast that it was even harder to appreciate.

RP: I bet! Now that you explain it that way, I totally understand. There’s this dude on Instagram named @PGKnows who has almost every Rocafella family Nike Air Force 1. From the original joints to the icy bottoms, Black Albums and all of that. Nike continued to support, it wasn’t just a one time thing. They even created an Air Force 1 in honor of the grand opening of the 40/40 Club.

BIGGS: Clear bottoms were the Blueprints, yep. At that time it just felt like another one and another one. It became normal. Just like flying on private jets, after the first one it just became a blur because we would fly everywhere. I remember having all those Roc sneakers in storage and looking back now I’m like, “Damn I really gave all of those away.” I just had too many sneakers. I’m learning now to appreciate stuff in the moment, haha. This time around I’m seeing real time impact. I saw kids lining up for Rocfella AF1s at ComplexCon, it wasn’t just for me there were four other collaborators as well, but I saw the sales and heard the demand from Nike about the messages they get from people trying to get pairs. I think I get like 500 messages a day from people asking how can they get a pair because they grew up with Rocafella. It’s crazy. I’m enjoying the ride. Nike has been a really good partner. People like Dawn, NQ, Nicole, Lena, MBJ at the brand make it a great experience.

RP: We spoke about your run music and now that you’re embarking on a new journey in the sneaker industry, do you see any similarities between both games?

BIGGS: I think the red line that ties them together is really the love. Music and fashion kind of goes hand-in-hand. Sneakerheads are always looking at what artists are wearing especially if they love their music. Virgil with Off-White and Don C with Just Don are offsprings of Kanye. Music just ties everything together with fashion and sports. I think also, the similarity for both is that gift of discovery. The type of kid who finds that artist first through Tidal, Spotify or searching around the internet falls in love with something before everyone knows about it is just like the kid who is up on all the hot sneakers before it happens and wants to have that first. The gift of discovery has changed the way everyone is thinking. That’s the thread that ties everything together.

RP: I totally agree. I would say music has become the new basketball. When I was growing up in the early ’90s everybody on the block wanted to play in the NBA, height nor skill mattered that’s just what we aspired to be because the ball was with us from day one. It seemed attainable. And now with computers and programs like Fruity Loops, Abelton Live, and Logic Pro, music is just as accessible as basketball was. It’s now that first passion profession for kids and now fashion is in that same lane as well.

You brought up Kanye and I don’t know if too many people know you worked with him on his entire first project The College Dropout. Do you look at him as someone from the Resonable Doubt Family Tree that took all the gems being given and really ran with it?

BIGGS: Kanye definitely utilized them all, but he was also a big thinker. He had his own way to do things. A lot of times we would bring things to the table and he would add his own twist on it. That’s why I liked him so much, he even made us think differently about a few things. Whether it was producing or making a record with, I mean who would have thought to get Jamie Foxx, a comedian, you know? [Laughs] His love for Polo was crazy and other brands he was wearing from Chicago. We embraced that. He brought his own independent spirit and lifestyle, we brought him on to emulate the formula we built on how to do it himself and own it all. To be at the forefront of marketing and creativity to help that infrastructure to think different, see different and introduce something new to the market. I think he still lives by that today.

RP: It’s great to hear feedback from someone close to him who is directly connected to his success. I may have not known any of you over the past 20 years, but there are values you set that stuck out to me and I still hold ’til this day. I was in Portland recently and started a creative groupthink called nurture* to help others on their journey into and throughout the footwear industry. At the end of the talk one of my closing points was — The power of learning everyone else’s job around you. To me, that was important to express as a closing point because during my come-up I wasn’t able to attend college at all, the only resource I had was the internet. That’s where I learned photography, branding, marketing, journalism and applied it. I learned to do things on my own. I knew about the Rocafella story and that was my motivation. I had no excuse after you all created an empire from doors closing. Eventually, I learned that the more I learned about different jobs, it made me better at what I do. Not only did Rocafella do it on their own, you used your platform to encourage others like Kanye, Rihanna, and the rest. I try to keep that in mind and apply it.

BIGGS: That’s exactly what its’s all about. We even told our staff use this as a springboard to jump into something else. One of our most important employees Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua was offered more money, we had to let him go. We could’ve came and asked him to stay, but we said, “Go get that!” Then he negotiated that he could still A&R albums for us, but it’s something he did on his own. We lost staff to different companies, but we always wanted people to grow and do their own thing. Almost everybody that’s around the industry has either interned or worked for us. That’s what I’m most proud of. Everyone has created their own space. It’s like that proud father looking back and smiling when I see Lenny S. building his own brand socially and being the Senior VP of A&R at RocNation, Shari Bryant, Latrice Burnette, and the list goes on and on. I met a guy at VICE who wanted to do a documentary and he admitted he was one of my interns, and I said, “What?!” Even the Vice President of Fox, he started out selling books and came to do an interview with us where we spoke on that independent spirit. He said it influenced him to do more books which ended up gaining him notoriety. Those are the stories that really make a difference when I look back to see what we created because I don’t know if at all times we were thinking of the right things, there was a learning curve for us too. But now, you can see the space that Jay is in, Dame is always trying to push independence whether people agree with him or not, as well as Emory and myself staying on the ground level communicating with people, it all means a lot to us. It means we are the OGs of the game and it’s time to give back to point people in the right direction.

RP: People can define influencer as a person who can introduce a product and get people to buy it or whatever, but I think true influence is inspiring others to be great if not greater than yourself. I see that message consistent with every story you told me today. Digging a little deeper, what influenced you? What influenced Rocafella?

BIGGS: We were inspired by things we could go outside and see. That was actually attainable. Imagine being in Junior High School with a person and two years later they’re driving a Benz. It was like, Damn, wow… I know this guy. We let our environment inspire us to a certain point, so between that and different movies we were able to come up in this lifestyle where we kept certain values like brotherhood, loyalty, being honorable, and never compromising integrity. You learn some things, but you take it with you and adapt and pivot then add it to something else. All of that became the circle of success. We created an unbreakable bond, like a secret society.

RP: You have a particular gangster film that’s your favorite of all time?

BIGGS: Right now… it’s probably Paid In Full.

RP: That movie is a classic. It’s one of the only movies that makes me tear up because Ace’s building looked just like mine in the Bronx. So it definitely touched home.

Let’s tie everything up nicely. I wanted to use this opportunity to discuss the story behind the sneakers because the shoe itself is pretty self explanatory. Within this deep dive your “Build to Sell” plan was touched on when it came to Rocafella, so what advice would you give to someone in the sneaker industry who wanted to build something and eventually flip it into something bigger?

BIGGS: Several ways to do that. You could raise money to do something you start yourself or getting with someone with an infrastructure that you can utilize to help bring your vision to life. I always look at both ways when I’m doing something now. The things we lacked back then was something as simple as creating a business plan and figuring out how to stick to that. Thinking about what you’re going to do in year one, two and three for growth. Even now when I look at acquiring companies, I look at the balance sheet, I wanted to know what the operating costs are, what the overhead is, the monthly burn, I wanted to look at the trajectory, if I could grow the company, what’s the multiple, what’s the evaluation of that company in that space, and more important than anything what’s the management team like. I’m a big believer in learning every part of the company that you’re dealing with. A lot of times people have these dreams and it can happen just based off of a thought, but they don’t know how to articulate that on paper to make sense of it all. When you’re talking to investors or partners, it can’t just be you saying, “Oh yeah we’re going to do this and this.” Learn the business from A to Z to make sure it’s something you want to get into. Study the pitfalls and how learned from the mistakes of people before you.

RP: Powerful. That last thing you said reminded me of the line “Hov did that, so hopefully you won’t have to go through that.” These types of conversations weren’t happening in our homes growing up because a lot of our parents were just trying to help the family survive. So, it’s important to have you expand upon a lot of the ideals that made you into the man you are today and what played a large role into the success of Rocafella. A lot of people aspire to be Jay-Z, but don’t understand the importance of being a Dame or Biggs. I hope people take that away from this discussion.

BIGGS: Part of that is time as well. A lot of people want to be Jay, but don’t understand all of the time it took pre-Rocafella and everything up until this point. I’m hoping to put a documentary together to show that process, the pitfalls, and hardships to build the company. Everybody just hears about the highlights, but I want to show the other stuff so people can really learn from it. People will understand it’s not easy. We were lucky to all get together, have the commonality of hardships, stamina to build, the thought process, the money, the business sense and the talent. It’s easy to talk about it, but it’s much harder to give time. That’s why I do these interviews so kids can take some gems.

RP: To end on a lighter note. Besides white on white Uptowns, is there anything else from Nike that is really ill to you?

BIGGS: I love Dunks and used to collect them just like Air Force 1s. My new favorite sneakers to wear are my Reasonable Doubt Jordan 1s and Jordan 4s to go with my Rocafella AF1s.

RP: I saw you wear those at ComplexCon and a lot of people were really interested in them. Do you want to continue doing collaborations with Nike to further tell the Rocafella story or is this one release going to cement the legacy and you’ll keep it moving from there?

BIGGS: I’m always open to more conversations. This Air Force 1 represents the genesis of the relationship. The Rocafella logo on that white canvas allows people to customize it however they want and I like that. If Nike wants to do more colorways, I’m open to that conversation. I don’t think it stops there though. I launched REDO96 which lets us pay homage to the past while moving into the future. I want to focus on innovation, it’s what is going to change the culture. I’m using REDO96 as a special design unit to do that. Also, I just launched Reasonable Doubt merch exclusively through Urban Outfitters. I look forward to doing more stuff like that.

RP: Before I let you go… if sneakers were as valuable in 1994 as they are in 2017, would you have been flipping sneakers?

BIGGS: In 1994? Most definitely. It’s better to flip sneakers than something else. It’s a legal flip.

RP: Facts haha. I appreciate your time, Biggs. That was more than an hour and worth every second.

You can keep up with Kareem “Biggs” Burke on Instagram and his design unit REDO96. The Roc-A-Fella Nike Air Force 1 is set for a November 30th global launch and retail price is set at $ 150.  Reasonable Doubt Merch collection is available right now at UrbanOutfitters.

Interview // Kareem “Biggs” Burke on Roc-A-Fella’s Impact on Culture, Buying 200 Pairs of Uptowns at Once, & Favorite Jay-Z Verses