Kendrick Lamar subtly tried to unite 2 notorious gangs through a pair of sneakers

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Kendrick Lamar isn’t an icon just because he’s a gifted lyricist for the generation. It’s because he uses his talent to talk about the hardships and pleasures of predominantly black communities overlooked and disrespected by American society. Lamar’s desire to be a voice for the voiceless has been a commercial and critical success, making his albums cultural events for listeners seeking answers. The hip-hop entertainer’s conscious mindset also extends to his brand endorsements. Lamar’s shoe deal with Reebok included a call for Compton’s biggest gangs to unite and get rid of the violence.

Kendrick Lamar talks about compelling topics in an easily digestible way

Kendrick Lamar collaborated with Reebok in 2015 | Mike Windle/Getty Images for Reebok

The artist has always aspired to be more than a rapper. Before Kendrick Lamar became a household name, he invoked Tupac’s spirit as a role model to manage his career.

Spitting out nuanced tales of life in Compton has been the foundation of Lamar’s music. His debut in a major, in 2012 good kid, maAd city, is rightly hailed as one of the best debut albums in hip-hop history. Lamar uses the scrapbook to create three-dimensional portraits of the person he was and the people he interacted with during the chaotic upbringing he and other children experienced in his hometown. It tackles serious topics – systemic racism, the effects of gang warfare, religion and mental illness – without becoming too didactic.

mad city made Lamar a star, but the 2015s Pimp a butterfly raised his profile to a new level. He continued to speak about black life with skill and emotional intelligence, and the sprawling jazz-influenced album’s lead song, “Alright,” has become synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by several high-profile deaths at the hands of the police.

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Lamar’s third album, 2017 DAMN., is his most radio-friendly project so far, but it hasn’t watered down its social commentary. The rapper often displays the anger and fatigue with the state of the world that many people feel by mocking conservative pundits who have deliberately misunderstood his point of view. The album won him the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music, making Lamar the first artist outside of the jazz and classical genres to win the honor.

His most recent work — the insular and complex Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers – reveals that Lamar is ready to leave the pulpit. But even that choice gave listeners a reason and a template to dig through the mud of deep trauma to find the best version of themselves and their families.

Kendrick Lamar released a pair of sneakers that aimed to calm tensions between local gangs

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In 2015, Lamar collaborated with Reebok for a special edition of the company’s Ventilator shoe line. The subtle off-white sneakers stand out with their accents.

The left shoe uses blue on the tongue and inner lining, while the right sneaker uses red for these features, with the corresponding details embroidered on each heel. The colors align with LA’s most infamous gangs. Blue is traditionally the main color of the Crips and red is associated with the Bloods. Lamar used similar iconography for the cover of the Pimp a butterfly unique “I”.

The limited-edition shoe didn’t cause a revolution on the West Coast, but some gang members appreciated the call for unity. Lamar’s then-label Top Dawg Entertainment released a video promoting the sneakers where Bloods member G Weed and Crips member Jigga discussed the power of Lamar’s words.

“The message behind the new Kendrick Lamar shoe is to unite red and blue, where we can all exist, respect and love each other,” said G Weed.

“Kendrick really gives us a reason and gives us an understanding of why we should have unity or why we should really want to do this,” Jigga added.

The origins of the Crips vs Bloods rivalry

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Like most American origin myths, you can’t talk about the creation of the Crips and Bloods without discussing the consequences of racism.

In 1948, the Supreme Court case Shelly v. Kramer ruled that any racially motivated practice discouraging black people from living in white neighborhoods was unconstitutional. But that decision hasn’t stopped people from burning crosses on lawns or abusing other forms of power. William H. Parker, LA’s police chief from 1950 to 1966, is known for stoking the rift between black and brown South Central residents and the cops, Grunge reports.

Gangs sprung up to protect local communities, but young men and teenagers started committing crimes. Raymond Washington is the founder of the Crips, formed in 1969. The name allegedly refers to a time when his older brother injured his ankle and then walked with a limp. The Bloods formed in 1972 in response to the murder of Robert Brooks Ballou Jr., who died after members of the Crips beat the high school student for refusing to give them his leather jacket after a Curtis Mayfield concert. (Leather jackets were part of the Crips’ uniform at the time.)

The conflict between the gangs grew wilder as guns and drugs flooded the streets and economic opportunities dwindled, leaving Kendrick Lamar and other children to deal with the fallout.

RELATED: Kendrick Lamar’s Producer ‘Wouldn’t Be Surprised’ If Rapper Recorded 400 Songs While Developing His New Album

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