Kanye West and his very public break-up with Nike has been written about on a few occasions since it all went down a few years ago. Most notably, rapper famously spit some controversial bars on “Facts,” saying “Nike, Nike treat employees just like slaves,” then turned over a new leaf by going on record about Nike and the brand’s CEO Mark Parker during his Saint Pablo tour, saying “I’d like to thank you Mark Parker of Nike. For giving a kid from Chicago a chance.”
While we still don’t have the full story (and perhaps never will), Kanye West’s two hour long interview with radio personality Charlamagne touches upon that relationship and fills in some more of the details.
The comments start at around the 46:00 minute mark in the video below, but for your convenience, we’ve rounded up some of the juiciest talking points for you to scroll through.
From explaining how the first Nike Yeezy was designed, to apologizing to Phil Knight and Nike, West’s latest thoughts are the most candid on the saga yet. Read through them below and leave your thoughts on the topic in the comments.
West starts the section on his work with Nike by apologizing to Phil Knight: “Phil Knight, who I have the most respect for. I have respect for everyone at Nike. I just gotta speak out as a parent and apologize to this man for ever speaking ill on his name and his company.” This apology apparently stems from the fact that Parker gave him his shot by pairing him with Tinker Hatfield to design the first Nike Yeezy.
According to Kanye, the “squad” that helped him work on the first Nike Yeezy consisted of Don C, Mark Parker, and Tinker Hatfield. “[Mark Parker] gave me that first shot when we did the original Yeezy at Nike. I was on the plane with him and I was sketching and he looked at my sketch and he said ‘let me put this guy next to Tinker Hatfield’. So it’s me and Don C making the first Yeezy with Mark Parker and Tinker Hatfield. That was the squad.”
West names the moment that Parker gave him his shot as the moment, “along with Louis Vuitton,” that “turbo charged” his career as a designer. “If Mark Parker hadn’t given me that moment then, he helped turbo charge me and the combination with Louis Vuitton. They helped turbo charge me.” West admits he would not have reached the heights in sneaker design were it not for Mark Parker and Louis Vuitton placing their trust in him.
He may not want to admit it outright, but Kanye still loves Nike: “I loved Nike. I have to put the ed on it for the stockholders. When I was young I used to sketch the Swoosh and everything. It was heartbreaking for me to have to leave Nike.”
“They refused to allow me to get royalties on my shoe. And I knew I had the hottest shoe in the world. Yeezy was the hottest brand in the world. They said I could make 5,000 – 10,000 shoes and they would give some of the proceeds to my favorite charities but there was nothing to build. Royalties. According to West, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and led him to leaving the company for greener pastures.
A “friend” allegedly told ’Ye that he got royalties from Nike because his collaborations were done via a store – something Kanye did not think was fair.
More so than the royalties, West claims Nike “wouldn’t let [him] build anything.” Now, he claims, he’s got factories for his Yeezys, something that, in his opinion, would not have been possibly at Nike.
While a free agent, Kanye was talking to PUMA and adidas and joked that the “guy that didn’t sign [him] at PUMA deserves to lose his job.” He goes on to say that it wouldn’t have mattered which brand he landed at because “Yeezy is a unicorn, it’s a billion dollar company.”
Ultimately, what convinced West to move to adidas was the fact that he was given the chance to “build something.” He claims to have a direct line to adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted, something he did not have at Nike, “Mark Parker wouldn’t even get on the phone with me.”
In his opinion, a big mistake, as “everyone who worked with [Kanye] are now the hottest people at Nike.” ’Ye goes on to claim that the likes of Don C and Virgil Abloh got their Nike deals because Kanye “left and ripped [Nike’s] head off.”
There aren’t any hard feelings though, as he claims those friends “have families” that they need to provide for.
For more anecdotes about his time at Nike, watch the rest of the interview above (starting at 46 minutes in).
In other news, Kanye West has taken to Twitter to explain his controversial comments about slavery. Read more on that here.
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