IS THIS HARD RAP?

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Because everybody seems to care about Air Jordans nowadays, including the post VII versions that the people of Britain used to let gather dust in the select stores that carried them and because I’m being exceptionally lazy right now, it’s a good time to dump some lesser-discussed Jordan ephemera up here. I maintain that in terms of sub-cultural shoe spotting, from Heavy D to ‘School Daze’, ‘Warlock’ and beyond, the Air Jordan II is deeply underrated and easily one of the greatest Jordans ever. To this day, I’ve seen every other Jordan crop up, but only handled an original pair of IIs once. Every reissue misses the point because the Made in Italy status of the shoe that pitched it perfectly into a world where high-end brands were making their own hustler-friendly sports footwear and swatted them away with one of the definitive designs that bore so much power that it didn’t even bother with a swoosh. For that reason, there’s only one issue of the Jordan II that’s any good and those highs and lows in the two colourways are no longer wearable. Both those colours crop up in Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ video and the recent ‘Bad25’ documentary got a good shot of them in between all the PUMAs and fawning talking heads.

But that’s not my favourite Jordan II moment in popular culture — ‘Sports Illustrated’s final issue of 1987 was a picture special, with a close up shot of Walter Iooss Jr’s overhead shot of Mike. The odd thing is, despite it being the year of the II, Jordan isn’t wearing a pair – he’s wearing a deeply nondescript pair of the low-priced Court Force Low. Not the strangest thing. What is strange is that if you flip the same magazine to the back cover, there’s a man in a Winston cigarette ad, sat on a stoop taking in those tasty carcinogens while wearing a pair of…Nike Air Jordan IIs. It’s as if somebody painstakingly took the time out to switch the footwear in the photos.

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With the XIII on the comeback trail this weekend, they should have retroed the September 1997 NikeTown launch party for that shoe (bearing in mind that it was the dawn of the spin-off Jordan Brand too), complete with Dwayne from ‘A Different World’ and BLACKStreet’s Chauncey. I think Jordan Brand could probably get them to attend for a not considerable fee, and I’m sure I’ve spotted Mike in that suit in recent years. Around the same time, Bobbito caught up with Jordan for ‘Vibe’s ‘Sound Check’ and MJ suddenly aged when ‘In the Ghetto’ by Eric B & Rakim (the Jordan of rap) was played, professing to have never heard of the god and claiming to never listen to rap at all. What would Heavy D have said? Still, his, “Is this hard rap?” query is something I occasionally use when an unfamiliar artist is blared in my direction. Strange to think an athlete who’s so namechecked and linked to hip-hop never actually messes with rap. In a curious way, that makes Jordan even more hip-hop, just like Scarface when he revealed he listens to Enya and Pink Floyd instead of rap.

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Mr Salehe Bembury is a key mind behind the Cole Haan Lunargrand shoe, which has been widely imitated but not yet bettered in its mix of the weird and the traditional (I maintain the grey with volt was the truest, purest example of that impure blend at its most effective) and he put me onto an image that’s on his blog via Jeff Henderson (it’s a veritable chain of image sources and I’m assuming Jeff is the same Jeff Henderson who was integral to the design of the excellent Lunar Eclipse and Air Max 2009) of a possible prototype of a high heel that seems to use Lunarlon. What happens to Lunarlon and Cole Haan now, post-Nike? I have no idea. What I do know is that it’s a pretty cool addition to a high heel.

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