Reebok Kicks Around With Basquiat, Swizz Beatz

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The New England Patriots’ Chad Ochocinco, David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, retired Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, professional golfer Greg Norman, and … deceased neo-Expressionist artist Jean-Michel Basquiat?

Well, OK, Basquiat may not have endorsed Reeboks like all the others, but his name is going to be all over the company’s shoes this fall as a new Basquiat-inspired line of clothing and footwear (“I am Basquiat!”) hit store shelves as part of the ongoing “I Am Reebok” campaign. It’s all thanks to the artist’s renaissance among hip-hop artists and Reebok’s visiting creative director, musician/producer Swizz Beatz.[more]

The New York Times, in a piece on the resurgence in interest in Basquiat, says Beatz fell for the artist’s work when he was a young artist (graffiti) himself in the South Bronx. People kept telling him about the places Basquiat had left his own graffiti tag throughout the city. When he was 18 and furnishing his first home, Beatz, whose real name is Kasseem Dean, was drawn to Basquiat’s work. He now owns six Basquiat originals.

“I’m putting my hand in and influencing the brand, influencing the culture and influencing everybody to be a part of something that’s new and fresh,” says Swizz according to SLAM Online.

Basquiat’s rise in the world of hip-hop even after his death is partially due to his longtime friendship with “hip-hop impresario” Fab 5 Freddy, whose real name is Fred Brathwaite, which was highlighted in a documentary last year. “It made people in the hip-hop community realize we were tight,” Brathwaite told the Times.

This actually marks the revival of Basquiat designs for Reebok, with a fresh crop of the artist’s tags debuting on a limited collection of Reebok Classics this fall under Beatz, who has been talking up the collaboration and Basquiat on his Swizzworld website.

“Sure, it could be a fad,” Beatz commented to the Times about the renewed interest in the artist known as “Samo,” who died of a heroin overdose at 27. “But let’s make it an educational fad.”

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