A look into the partnership that sent the Jumpman to Astroworld. 

Travis Scott is a rapper and record producer who has been thrust into the cultural zeitgeist thanks to a list of hit songs from “Sicko Mode” to “The Scotts”. Drawing on a range of influences has led to the Houston native curating a unique sound, mixing elements of hip-hop with trap and psychedelia with a distinct autotune effect. Scott’s ability to hand-pick collaborators from Drake to 21 Savage creates a positive response amongst eager-eared fans. The musician’s creative projects have earned him several accolades, including a Billboard Music Award and eight Grammy nominations. 

Beyond music, Scott has wielded his creative influence over other industries, notably footwear, partnering with Nike in the summer of 2018. While collaborating across a roster of Nike silhouettes, including the Nike Air Force One, Dunk and Air Max models, his work on the Nike Air Jordan has created the most interest. Before officially partnering with the Jordan Brand, Scott regularly sported the basketball shoe, joining a list of rappers who have worked on the hardwood sneaker as official collaborators. With eight collaborative endeavours under his belt and a new colourway of the Air Jordan 1 Low OG SP x Travis Scott set to be his last, the hype around the collaboration shows no signs of slowing down. 

“The thing about Scott is, he doesn’t need a massive marketing campaign to advertise his sneakers or a big budget promo video to show off his latest colourways,” says Adam Cheung, a writer and editor who specialises in sneakers and streetwear, “All he has to do is walk out in a pair, and social media will naturally do its thing. The reason why his releases are so hyped is because he doesn’t need to hype them up at all. We, as sneakerheads, do it all for him”.

From fashion week to festivals, the rapper has played a role in accelerating the coveted basketball icon into the mainstream. Punctuating a classic streetwear wardrobe with high fashion statements, the Texan artist has effortlessly weaved his way from box logos to Balmain, often completing his outfits with a Swoosh statement. When it comes to fashion inspiration, Scott looks to a variety of different sources, including the late Steve Jobs and Robin Williams. Speaking to GQ, the artist cites Shia Labeouf and graffiti and drum and bass legend Goldie as further influences on his style. The latter has been seen as a pioneer of modern streetwear and someone who Scott has been known to admire, having him feature on his lock screen. These wide-ranging influences are reflected in the diverse projects he has worked on with the Jordan Brand. 

The first Jordan silhouette fans were greeted with was the Air Jordan 4 x Travis Scott Retro Cactus Jack, paying homage to the colours of the Houston Oilers, an American Football team formerly representing the rapper’s hometown before relocating to Tennessee. The familiar Jordan 4 model is a favourite of the rapper and arrived dressed in the popular University Blue that is associated with a range of Nike models. The fourth style to be released as part of the Jordan brand lineage resembles the infamous Eminem ‘Encore’ release. This now extremely rare sneaker demands exceptionally high prices on the resale market. 

Air Jordan 1 Retro Low OG SP X Travis Scott Reverse Mocha. Credit: Laced Studio

Scott’s fast-paced performances ride the line between chaos and control, bringing an energetic metamorphism to stages worldwide. Cheung feels this energy has transferred into the rapper’s brand and collaborative projects. “Travis Scott’s music has always been big and bold, and I feel like this has perfectly translated to his sneaker design. Rather than following trends, he creates them from scratch. Just take the “Black Phantom” for example. While “Triple Black” trainers are certainly nothing new, what makes La Flame’s pair so legendary is that it’s contrasted with clean white stitching throughout which makes it pop even more. Not only does this design language extend towards the accessories, it’s also reflected on the shoe box itself. Copping one of Travis’ sneakers is like an all-encompassing experience, just like his tunes.”

Scott’s original take on the Air Jordan 1 silhouette has recently piqued the interest of fans, starting with the May 2019 release of the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG x Travis Scott Mocha. Constructed from a blend of white leather and brown suede, fittingly nicknamed ‘Mocha’, the premium take on the Air Jordan 1 reflects Scott’s creative reign with the sportswear brand where an inverted Swoosh adorns the side panel of the artist’s collaborative Air Jordan 1 sneakers to set it apart from regular releases. 

Speaking to Complex, Scott’s DJ, Chase B, who has worked with the rapper on the partnership, shared the reasoning behind the playful take on Nike’s signature branding. “We wanna have our thing. Virgil had the orange tabs, we gotta do something–push this whole Jordan thing to the moon”. In the same interview, he credits Nike for being one hundred percent supportive. If it is celestial heights the ‘Astroworld’ producer is aiming for, he’s on the right track. According to Forbes, his partnership with Nike has reportedly earned him around $10 million a year. 

While in-demand collaborative silhouettes, such as the Air Jordan 4 and Air Jordan 1, are popular, the artist’s creative partnership with the brand has led him to work on styles such as the Air Jordan 6. Designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield and released in 1991, the sneaker was based on Michael Jordan’s love of cars. Scott’s iteration incorporated a cargo pocket and was promoted through a campaign that fused the worlds of hiking and basketball. NBA legend Richard “Rip” Hamilton was featured in a dystopian desert-themed video to promote the release. 

Air Jordan 1 Low X Travis Scott X Fragment. Credit: Laced Studio

For Cheung, these design features set the shoe apart. “Travis Scott is the purveyor of some of the most hyped sneaker collaborations ever. Over the past couple of years, he’s dropped some truly amazing Jordans, and every single one of them sells out literally within seconds, and it’s easy to see why. Obviously, Scott is a modern icon, so anything with his name attached will automatically be extremely popular. But he also adds little details and features across all of his Js which make them stand out from the already-oversaturated crowd. The reverse Swoosh is just one of those things that make La Flame’s sneakers so unique, but the stash pockets on the Air Jordan 6 are also game-changers in their own way.”

Whether sending fans into a frenzy with Fragments or collectors into chaos with an Air Jordan 4, Travis Scott injects his infectious on-stage energy into timeless silhouettes. Like it or not, he is one of the sneaker industry’s biggest collaborators, and with his partnership with Jordan Brand ending, the hype surrounding these silhouettes will only continue.