With musician sneaker collaborations becoming a dime a dozen recently, it’s about time the UK Grime scene got a turn. 90s Air Maxes are synonymous with grime and Nike worked with Skepta to create an Air Max 97 Ultra, inspired by Morocco and an earlier Air Max model dear to the MC. Best grime sneaker collab ever or just trash? Read on for the full review.
Air Maxes are a de-facto part of the grime uniform and this probably has to do with their functionality and popularity among criminals in the UK (5 out of 10 footprints left at crime scenes are made by Air Maxes). But man cannot start talking about Air Maxes and Grime without mentioning this gem of an album from 2003, the first grime album I ever heard in its entirety, at a time when machine bleeps and harsh bass were alien to my ears. Take one peek at the album cover and what stands out most, thanks to the black Nike tracksuit and the two-tone backdrop, are the two white swooshes on Dizzee’s Air Max BWs. Dizzee Rascal brought grime to the world and went on to get several Nike collabs including a pair of particularly rare Air Max 180s and an unreleased Air Force 1. I’m not sure if they ever released to the public, but last year Skepta got a pair of BWs to commemorate his 2012 mixtape, Blacklisted. However, the best grime sneaker collaboration yet has to be Dizzee’s Air Max 90 “Tongue in Cheek”. Now let’s see how the Sk Air 97 fares comparatively.
Inspired by Morocco and the Air Tuned Max 99, the first pair of Air Maxes Skepta ever owned, the Air Max 97 Ultra Sk Air has an iridescent, polyurethane-coated, rose gold leather upper with mesh from the Tuned Max 99 sandwiched in between the swirls. Ultra tooling makes this shoe lighter and the yellow air unit is another nod to the Tuned Max. Traditional Moroccan braids used for embroidery make an appearance on both the tongue and heel pull tabs, accompanied by a Morocco inspired print on the insole and the packaging. A special Sk Air logo that resembles the TN Air logo but rendered in the shape of UK electrical plugs, is printed on the insole.
But for a shoe with such good detailing, the colorway is pretty weak and wouldn’t work well with anything but a #tracksuitmafia approved black Nike tracksuit. Maybe they were meant to be worn that way but without the Skepta cosign, this shoe would go straight to outlets. Don’t get me wrong, I bought this shoe purely because of the Skepta affiliation (Mans a big fan and ting) and the Moroccan bits, not because of the colorway. Iridescent shoes are hard enough to pull off and this one won’t do you any favors other than matching your iPhone perhaps. I think Nike could have done a lot better while working with someone as iconic in the grime scene today as Skepta. They had a pretty dope launch event though, inspired by a Moroccan souk.
Full length air and Ultra treatment make these pretty comfy and the upper is quite breathable. These are narrow up front and fit extremely true to size so do not go up or down when buying.
The details on this shoe and the fact that it was relatively limited save it and I wouldn’t say that its a bad release overall for Skepta but I can’t wait to see what comes next from this association. Hopefully Adidas gives Stormzy his own shoe so that the swoosh has some competition in this arena but can you even count the number of swooshes in this video? Nike got the grime scene on lock.
Photos by Gaurav Karki