Nelly is a renowned name in hip-hop and will always be known as one of the kingpins of 2000s rap music. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, the emcee (real name Cornell Haynes) was one of the first artists from his city to crossover into the mainstream and achieve vast amounts of success.
As the frontman of the St. Louis-based collective St. Lunatics, Haynes was a highly visible figure in his city, and the renowned local taste DJ Kut would heavily play the group on Beat FM 95.5.
By independently flooding his area and engulfing states with exceptional high-octane mixtapes, before long, around the turn of the millennium, record labels were beginning to notice the traction Haynes was picking up, and in 1999, he signed with Universal Records.
In the early-2000s, one of Nelly’s biggest hits was ‘Air Force Ones’, which featured on his seven times platinum sophomore album, Nellyville. The song was released as the third single after ‘Hot In Herre’ and ‘Dilemma’ and debuted at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
However, the Missouri rapper believes he actually contributed to the rise in popularity and, subsequently, the price of Air Force One’s. In an interview with Complex for their YouTube series Sneaker Shopping, Haynes spoke about Nike.
During the interview, he revealed that prior to his track, the sportswear brand wasn’t engaging with hip-hop, stating, “Let me tell you something … everybody that got Nike shoe deals need to be thanking us right now because we opened Nike’s eyes to a lot of that. At that time, they weren’t doing it. They were basically on some, ‘they’re gonna win regardless.'”
He continued, “Now, did they donate? Yes, they did donate some to the tour. They did sponsor some of the things for the tour because one of our tours, we came out, we had a big Air Force 1 that used to go across the stadium and things like that, which was really dope. They did load us. I didn’t know it was a limited time, you know?”
But Haynes was insistent in his belief that his hit single caused the spike in price of Nike sneakers, divulging, “When we first started rocking Air Force ones, they were $59.99, when we did the song, eight months later, they were $100 … Now we ain’t get no residuals so holler at your boy.” You can listen to Nelly speak about his promotion of the shoe in the video below.