In the first part of two, surrounding the book, Sneakers x Culture: Collab, we spoke with Jacques Slade. We talk shoes, his California upbringing, and the delicate balance of work and family.
This is D3 The Concrete, bringing you fashion from the street.
The interview that you are about to read is the first part of a two-part series regarding the content of the book, Sneakers x Culture: Collab.
Long story short, I had it in my mind to reach out to the people in my career path (streetwear/sneakers) and conduct the interview that I wanted to see and read. One of the people, who I find myself returning to on Youtube, is sneaker documentarian, Jacques Slade.
This interview is more than just an interview. It is a lesson: The Internet is a powerful tool, if you use it properly.
Without any further delays, I present to some and introduce to others: Jacques Slade.
Greetings, Jacques and thank you for your time. Please give an introduction of yourself to our audience and give us a glimpse into your world: parents, siblings, where you grew up, etc.
My name is Jacques Slade. The internet knows me as “Kustoo” which is a take on the name Jacques Cousteau, the famous French oceanographer. I grew up in Pacoima, California and spent a few years in Baytown/Houston, Texas as a kid.
(Writer’s Note: Fun fact, for about ten years, my maternal side of the family lived in both Riverside and Oakland from about 1972-1982).
Growing up in Pacoima, California, what was the zeitgeist of sneakers then?
Cortezes and Chucks definitely had a presence in my neighborhood, but there were also a lot of Jordans. All of the boys in my family, cousins and all, were really into basketball, so basketball shoes became really important early on [in life]. I remember the older kids in the neighborhood would play ball in Jordans.
I was always an admirer of sneakers growing up, but I never got the chance to buy them, because we lacked the means to afford them. What was the first shoe that you were excited about receiving as a child and, if there was not one during childhood, when did you acquire your first sneaker?
I think the Air Jordan 11 was the first shoe I was excited about. I remember buying a few others like the Air Max 95 and also a pair of K-Swiss that my school basketball team played in. I’ve tried to find them, but I can’t remember the name.
Moving onto your teenage years and early adulthood: During your time in high school and at Los Angeles Pierce College, did the passion for sneaker continue to grow, or was there an ebb and flow of the presence of sneakers in your life?
It was more ebb and flow. During those years I was playing ball and trying to be serious about it so sneakers took a bit of a back seat to my dreams of making it to the NBA. As you can tell, those dreams were pretty short lived.
Many people know you as Jacques Slade, the sneaker reviewer/unboxer/guru/influencer, but you had a lengthy career as a hip-hop MC, rapping under the name, KU. Please share your introduction to rap music and how you came to perform around the L.A. area.
It started as just something that my cousins and I would do when we hung out. My uncle challenged us to make an actual song. We ended up doing it and my uncle put us in the studio. From that moment, until this very day, my love for music has never gone away. I performed quite a bit around Los Angeles and a few other places in SoCal. It was one of the most fun times of my life. There is nothing quite like having a crowd sing your lyrics back to you while you rock out on stage with a band.
As Trinidad James said in the “Full Size Run” interview, “Take us through the “Walk Hard” film opportunity: How did it happen? (Was Licensed to Chill the album that you spoke of in that interview?)
While I was making music, I had the opportunity to work on a few films and TV shows. One of those films was Walk Hard. I had worked with the Music Supervisor on the show [Community] and he asked if I would write a song for the movie. OF course I said yes and, after 3 or 4 demos, they liked it and it ended up in the movie and I got to play the role of the rapper in the film.
The thing that has always impressed me about your videos is the way that you are able to articulate your thoughts on the topics that you present on your platform. It has a very scholarly feel to it. Have you ever been a teacher or professor for a day job, before sneakers became the day job?
I was a teacher for a little while before I started writing about sneakers. I taught electronic music [at a charter school]. Fun fact, one of my students was Tyler the Creator.
In an interview on one of my favorite blogs, coiski, you stated that your Youtube channel did not become more sneaker oriented until you were fired for your job. Did you go from there, developing a scheduled regimen of content creation, or did you figure it out as you went along for the ride?
I figured it out as I went along. I didn’t jump into Youtube full time when I first started, I was doing a bunch of different things at the time trying to find something that would pay the bills and luckily, sneaker and YouTube was the path.
When did you get the call to begin working with Complex Media? Tell us about working with the biggest streetwear and sneaker media conglomerate.
I started working with Complex early on. When I started working with KicksOnFire, they had a relationship with Complex and that facilitated me working with them after I left the site in 2012.
Do you remember what the contents of your first unboxing were and if so, describe the feeling of receiving that package?
I was very hesitant to do an unboxing and my first one was a running shoe and a bunch of running gear. Nike sent it over and I didn’t want to do an unboxing at first, because so many people were already doing it. I decided to try and do a technology style sneaker unboxing and it worked out.
On your Youtube channel, you have a string of interviews from Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and even the opportunity to go to the G.O.A.T. himself, Michael Jordan. Tell us about that time in your career and how did it feel to meet athletes of that caliber, especially ones that have completely changed the way that we look at signature sneakers in both the fashion and performance realms?
It is surreal. I still don’t believe that I have talked to most of those guys. From Kobe to Kevin Durant, these are players I admire on and off the court and to be able to sit down and talk with them has been incredible. I have to catch myself in the middle of talking to those guys and make sure I am not being a fan and instead doing my job.
Speaking of sports, what is your favorite sport? (Basketball? Golf? Track & Field?)
Basketball is my favorite sport. Followed by golf, volleyball, Football, and then running.
You have the important distinction of having the 2 most endearing videos that I have watched from a Youtube sneaker content creator: second place goes to the video with Foamer Simpson and his brother. The number one video is the one with your mother (congrats to her and her victory over cancer!). Please tell us how that happened!
To be honest, those are two of my favorites as well. Nike reached out to me and asked about creating a shoe through NIKEiD. As with most shoes we love, the story telling is really what captures the imagination. With my Mom and with Foamer, the stories were easy to create and genuine. I think that is why the resonate so well with everyone.
Now that we have covered your music career, film placement, and your Youtube success, tell us about the next step: authorship! How did you get involved with the book, Sneakers x Culture: Collab?
I wouldn’t call myself an author. Elizabeth reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to write the foreword for her book. I was blown away. I can tell you that I never thought in a million years that I would be writing a foreword for a book, let alone one about sneakers. I am a very lucky guy.
For those who are unfamiliar, please expound upon exactly what the foreword of a book is and what role does it play in setting the tone for the upcoming contents?
The foreword is like the introduction to the book. It gives a brief overview of the contents of the book without spoiling it. It is almost like a teaser for what is to come, but written from the perspective of a third party.
When can we begin to look forward to reading the book about sneakers, authored by Jacques Slade?
I am not sure about that one. Hopefully, one day I can put pen to paper and craft a story compelling enough for people to want to read it.
Coming down the home stretch: with over 1 million plus subscribers on Youtube, how do you handle being encountered in the public?
I just try to be a regular guy. At this point, I am not famous enough that I can’t walk around, so interactions are pretty simple. Most of the time, people just want to say hi.
How do you maintain balance between your life with your family and content creation?
I don’t do a very good job at that balance at the moment. It is something I work toward getting better at everyday. You want to work hard, but you also have to make sure you make time for the family and for a little fun.
What advice to you have to an individual who is seeking to be a content creator for their career?
Create what you would like to watch. There are enough of the other guys out there. Create your own space and people will come.
What is on the horizon that you would like to share with the readers here?
Lots of cool stuff is expected for the next year. Nothing I can speak on for sure, but stay tuned [because] I plan on working just as hard to keep spreading the gospel of sneaker and showing we are much more than just folks that like shoes.
Feel free to follow Jacques on Twitter: @kustoo and purchase the book, Sneaker x Culture: Collab, on Amazon here.