From Run-D.M.C.'S ode to ''My Adidas'' to Nelly's tribute to his ''Air Force Ones,'' sneakers have been essential to hip-hop style and swagger. And while clothing lines are already de rigueur for big pimpin' moguls-on-the-make, now rappers are rocking the footwear -- and making some serious bank: Jay-Z's preppy S. Carter Collection enjoyed healthy sales when it launched last spring; Nelly teamed up with Nike for the limited-edition ''Air Derrty'' in June (all 1,000 pairs produced sold out in hours); and 50 Cent's G Unit Collection by Rbk will be in stores Nov. 11 (with a retail price of 80 dollars and 50 cents, of course).
Sure, hip-hop stars lend their fame to all sorts of products from vodka to pit bulls (yes, pit bulls). But sneakers are different, says Bobbito Garcia, NYC DJ and author of Where'd You Get Those?, a history of New York's sneaker culture. ''The hip-hop lifestyle emerged from street basketball,'' he says. ''So sneakers have always been crucial to the hip-hop look.''
No one understands that better than Rev. Run, of Run-D.M.C., who helped kick-start the trend in 1987, when Adidas collaborated with the trio on a series of shoes. Now president of Phat Farm Footwear, Run's designing his own sneaker, debuting next year. His sartorial advice? ''Sneakers are like your teeth, they gotta be white. If they're dirty, get a toothbrush and start brushing!''