This interview appears in issue 23 of the monthly HYPE ezine available for purchase here.
Lwazi Madonsela chats to HYPE about documenting South Africa’s sneaker culture through his YouTube show, SNKR COAST. “I created SNKR COAST to make sneaker content that anyone can enjoy anywhere in the world.”
Written by Boitumelo Molamu, Photography: Aviwe Xaluva
Sneakers and hip-hop have one of the most interesting relationships in the culture. Just look at the greats and their history with sneaker partnerships – from Run DMC with their Adidas partnership to Jay-Z with Reebok, Travis Scott with Nike, and by far the biggest being Kanye West with Adidas and Cassper Nyovest with Drip.
This history is one future generations are going to look at as the blueprint for brand partnerships. One person who is ensuring this history is documented is Lwazi Madonsela with his YouTube show, SNKR COAST.
“SNKR COAST is a satirical journalism show that delivers unfiltered, unapologetic, and unruly hot takes directly to your dome,” reads the description on the show’s YouTube channel.
In the show, Lwazi breaks down sneaker culture, from drops to the history behind some sneakers, and relevant personalities.
We sat down with Lwazi to catch up about the success of his show and also his in-depth understanding of the relationship between sneakers and hip-hop.
Please give us a young intro of who you are and what exactly SNKR COAST is.
Creatively, I’m uLwazi Madonsela, formerly known as “Umsindisi we Siko”. I’m an original content creator for a global brand, but that side of me I don’t really disclose a lot. SNKR COAST is a YouTube sneaker show that can resonate with any- and everyone internationally. For me, I believe everyone wears a sneaker, from the homeless guy with the beat-up Converse to the hype beast with their Jordans. Basically, if you can put it on your feet, it’s a sneaker.
When you first started SNKR COAST, what was the objective behind the concept?
As I said, I created SNKR COAST to make sneaker content that anyone can enjoy anywhere in the world. The show is meant for anyone to watch it and at least enjoy it with their mom. Also, a big deciding factor for creating the show is I knew of two major brands that are looking at Africa’s sneaker culture scene and the content that comes out of it. Brands are watching and are recognising the content; a perfect example is our partnership with sneaker retailer and clothing brand Archive.
You partnered with Archive on your second leg of the season. How did that come about, and what are the dynamics of the partnership?
With Archive, it’s a joint partnership; more of a content-led collaboration. From the conversation we had, we made it clear what we want from them, and were also able to negotiate on a way to create a return on investment for the viewer. Hence, we are doing a R2k voucher giveaway every week. I was a consumer before this, so I know how much that matters.
You recently released your eighth episode in partnership with Archive, which touched on the relationship between hip-hop artists and sneakers.
Right now, you can’t mention sneakers without looking to a rapper. It’s crazy how we were able to decipher the history in one episode. It’s a long timeline to break down, from the Run DMC era with just the endorsement, to now – there is a whole partnership between Yeezy, a Kanye West brand, and Adidas, also giving props to Cassper Nyovest with his brand partnership with Drip Footwear. If you look at the relationship between rappers and sneakers, it’s getting to the point where it’s their biggest income stream yet; why do you think labels introduced 360 deals?
When you look at the innovation that Kanye West has put into the design, do you think it’s fair to mention the likes of Travis Scott and Cassper Nyovest in the same breath? They just switch colourways on already existing silhouettes.
I think it’s fair – if you think about it, if you slightly tweak something that’s already there, you can consider it to be a good design. If you look at Virgil Abloh, he was infamous for that; you only have to change 3% of something to consider it a new design. If you at it for what it is, the difference between art and design is that one serves as decoration and the other serves as form and function. So, Drip and Cassper are doing exactly that; they offer comfortable shoes, and also shift the perspective and landscape of the relationship between music artists and sneaker brands.
Throughout the years, we’ve had a lot of sneaker collaborations, especially in South Africa – from PRO with Loxion Kulca and AKA with Reebok, to Cassper with Drip. At what point would you say the sneaker brand/hip-hop artist relationship is at its peak?
I think Cassper’s deal is by far the best one. The only thing we are fighting right now is us, the sneaker community, not understanding that we are not the target market. I think with us sneakerheads, we want to be represented by someone with sneaker lineage, and a partnership that’s not in vain. I think the closest we got was the Stilo Magolide and Vans partnership.
With so many sneaker brand/hip-hop artist collaborations happening, although you are not a rapper, do you imagine SNKR COAST working on a sneaker brand collaboration, considering the show’s impact on sneaker culture?
This year, we are planning on dropping our first collab – not a sneaker collab, but it’s something cool. In terms of a sneaker collab, God-willing, next year it could happen.
Where do you see SNKR COAST and 348SELECT being in the near future?
Right now, our motivation is to go international – we’ve tried talking with the local brands, but not all brands are a match for us. To answer your question, where I see SNKR COAST is that it will be similar to Complex Networks, and 348SELECT will be similar to A24.