November 2, 2023

Celebrating 50 Years of Hip-Hop with Reebok

Elhadji Mare

Elhadji is a Creative Content Strategist & Writer @ StockX

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop. It’s hard to put into words the significance of the genre. It has transcended music to become a true lifestyle, with the ability to introduce new talent, produce incredible art, and create long-lasting trends that shift popular culture. Alongside fostering new art, hip-hop has introduced the world to style – most notably through sneakers. Sneakers have been a vital addition to the infectious nature of hip-hop, giving each fan the ability to bring their own personality to the genre while still being associated with a tight-knit community. 

Reebok was an early adopter of hip-hop. The brand saw it as a new pulse of popular culture and was hungry to show support and admiration for the genre. From their partnership with Jay-Z to their fabled commercial with Allen Iverson and Jadakiss, we take a look at some of the key moments where Reebok took hip-hop and rap as key elements to their brand ethos.

Reebok Freestyle Hi (A.K.A. 5411) – 1983

Ironically, Reebok’s intro into the world of hip-hop comes in the form of their aerobics-focused Freestyle sneaker from 1982. Reebok has always been a brand that put athletics first and back in the 80s, they found a new market in avid female athletes. The Freestyle was made solely for women during the hyper-exercise craze that swept the world in the 1980s. It was a shoe that was not only loved for its function but also for its unique look, which attracted a more casual wearer. In 1983 a high-cut version was released, which became a staple within hip-hop-centric New York City and was nicknamed “5411” after its total price tag with NY state tax. Rappers like DMX and Redman highlighted the sneakers in their music, further expressing the reach of the Reebok Freestyle. The sneakers were so popular that they were responsible for more than half of Reebok’s sales by 1984. The 5411 marks one of the first times Reebok entered the lifestyle field and would be their entry into hip-hop.

Reebok Workout Low & The Hot Boys – 1999

Legendary rap group The Hot Boys was “taking over for the ’99 & the 2000” with their star signees including Juvenile, Lil Wayne, and B.G. The group’s billboard charting hits put New Orleans on the map, not only from a musical POV but also showing off the city’s love for the Reebok Workout Low. In a 2017 interview with Complex, Juvenile stated that he “was wearing it every day, and [he’d] see two busloads of people pretty much looking exactly the same. People just started doing it…it was trendsetting.” The rapper’s love for the shoe got enough buzz to the point Reebok gifted the Hot Boyz with custom pairs of the Workout Low for the 1999 “I Got That Fire” music video.  

Reebok Answer V x Allen Iverson x Jadakiss – 2001

Today, the dress code for basketball players is fairly liberal and part of that has to do with Allen Iverson. In the early 2000s, the NBA put up strict guidelines on how players could dress, but Iverson went against the grain and let his love for hip-hop come through with every outfit. He can be seen courtside wearing everything from baggy tees to Pelle Pelle hoodies, each having a distinct tie to hip-hop culture. AI would soon bring that same appreciation for the genre into his Reebok contract. After signing his new lifetime deal with the sportswear brand in 2001, Iverson and Reebok introduced the new Reebok Answer V with rapper Jadakiss in one of their most iconic release campaigns. The commercial featured a verse by Jadakiss specially made for the release. This further solidified Reebok’s affiliation with hip-hop and opened the floodgates for more collaborations with the genre.

Reebok S. Carter x Jay-Z – 2003


In a major step towards mainstream attraction, Reebok made one of their biggest deals yet when they signed rapper turned mogul Jay-Z in 2003. As Reebok was looking to expand their footprint and the unfortunate miss of not getting then rookies Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James to their brand, the sportswear giant leaned more towards non-athletic cultural icons. Alongside adidas’ major signing of Run DMC in the 1980s, this deal was one of the first of its kind where a rapper got their own line of shoes with a major apparel brand. It was here that the classic model of relying on athletes to sell shoes shifted towards musical talent. Jay-Z’s first release in 2003 sold out in a matter of hours, which, later, paved the way for other rap artists to be seen as ways for brands to connect to their consumers even more.

Reebok G6 x 50 Cent & G-Unit – 2004

Alongside S. Carter, 50 Cent and his G-Unit cohort were another dominating force within hip-hop, which attracted Reebok to work with 50 on his own collaboration in 2003. After building up a solid foundation of hype with their Jay-Z partnership, the G-Unit signing only put gas on the already bright fire of Reebok. The collaboration brought in the G6 silhouette, which became one of G-Unit’s most successful releases. The G6 was dished out in multiple colorways and eventually outsold Jay-Z’s S. Carter collection with time.

Reebok Ice Cream Flavours x Pharrell – 2004

Previous collabs from Reebok’s other signees, Jay-Z and 50 Cent, were simplistic in their design DNA. But when Reebok partnered with multi-hyphenate artist Pharrell Williams in 2004, there was nothing simple about the collection. The shoes were in tandem with Pharrell’s Billionaire Boys Club/Ice Cream clothing line which boasts bright colors and shapes. Pharrell brought this same energy to his Reebok collab, creating bold colorways and forms to their brand new silhouette: The Ice Cream Flavour.

Swizz Beatz Becomes Global Creative Director of Reebok – 2011

In 2011, Reebok signed producer Swizz Beatz as their creative director. During his time, he helped bring back some of Reebok’s classic silhouettes like the Shaqnosis, Kamikaze II (renamed Hurrikaze), and DMX Run, all of which were popular drops in the early 2010s.

Reebok x Kendrick Lamar – 2015


Right off the heels of his highly decorated album To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar announced his partnership with Reebok in 2015. Signing on K Dot to the sportswear giant ushered in a new wave of popular artists of the 2010s to join the Reebok roster and leave a memorable impact on the brand similar to Jay-Z and 50 Cent. Kendrick left his mark on the Reebok Ventilator and Classic Leather, with each release paying homage to his West Coast upbringing.   

Reebok Club C & Question x Curren$y – 2017/2018

The Hot Boyz did it back in the late 90s and early aughts as we discussed, walking in their ‘Boks so that another New Orleans rapper could run and receive their own recognition. In 2017, the “Hot Spitta”, Curren$y, got his own shine with Reebok as he debuted special editions of the Club C and Question. Both collabs represented the rapper’s affinity for marijuana and old-school low riders.

Reebok x Cardi B – 2018


Cardi B dominated the late 2010s. The rapper was playing on every radio station nationwide with her undeniable hit “Bodak Yellow”, and was becoming one of the most prolific female figures within hip-hop. Reebok inked a deal with Cardi in 2018 which birthed multiple collections of products, from footwear to apparel. It was a major shift for Reebok as Cardi B’s collection brought in a new generation of female consumers to the brand.

Reebok Pump Omni Zone II x Anuel AA – 2022


Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA worked with Reebok on pairs of Classic Leathers, Pump Omni Zone II, and Questions. This collaboration brings Reebok into the world of Latin rap as Anuel AA is one of the biggest stars within the genre. Recently, they just inked a long-term deal with the artists, which will bring more attention to, not only Reebok and Anuel AA, but to the growing Latin rap genre.

Reebok 50th Hip-Hop Anniversary Collection – 2023

This year, Reebok celebrates the 50th anniversary of hip-hop with a brand new collection of culturally inspired pieces. Inspired by the contributions of Black and Brown communities to the genre, the release is filled with new colorways of Club Cs and Classic Leathers. In addition to products, Reebok will also be donating $35,000 donation to Hip Hop For Change, an Oakland-based nonprofit that is reclaiming hip-hop culture as a vehicle for education, empowerment, and cultural innovation, to support the hip-hop icons of tomorrow.