Jacques Slade is a sneaker documentarian. If you’re a connoisseur of the latest, greatest kicks, you’ve probably seen the California native breaking down the nuances of new releases, unboxing exclusive drops, hosting events and more with his insightful commentary and engaging delivery on YouTube channel.
The actor, host and former rapper went from flipping an album that underperformed into choice film and TV placements and hustling his words about kicks into becoming basically his own sneaker platform (at the moment his YouTube channel has almost 500K subscribers). Not a bad place to be in an industry that continues to expand exponentially with no limit in sight.
Besides a YouTube channel that will have you envious of his sneaker collection and his assortment of plugs, Jacques also hosts Restock on Complex, had the honor of holding down the first Nike Basketball podcast, routinely blesses his followers with giveaways and other “cool guy works” on the regular. So getting Jacques to give Hip-Hop Wired some wisdom for our The Sneaker Game column was essential.
CASSIUS: What was your first “job” in the sneaker business?
Jacques Slade: My first job was a writer. I was writing for KicksOnFire.com back in 2009. I rose up the ranks there then I started doing video at KicksonFire and that’s what got me known I guess. This was before NiceKicks.com was doing [“Sneak Peak”] with George Kiel, before Complex’s “Sneaker Shopping” with Joe LaPuma, any of that stuff. That kind of gave me a little notoriety and that’s how I rose up the ranks and I started getting invited to events and stuff like that. No one else in our circle was doing video at the time. I had no idea, I was just making stuff up.
C: I remember you were one of the first people in sneaker media to be really purposeful with the video, was that by design?
JS: There was some video online but people were doing reviews and it just wasn’t professionally done. Not that what I was doing was professional but it was very grassroots—kind of what everybody else was doing. I wanted to up the quality a little bit. Because I had done some stuff on TV and film I had an idea of what it would look like and how it should feel. So I taught myself how to edit and started shooting it. My idea was to create an entertainment news sort of segment for sneakers. At the time no one was doing that sort of thing, that vibe is what I wanted to capture and bring to the sneaker world.
C: Let’s jump backwards for a moment, didn’t you dabble in music?
JS: That was the original dream. The original dream was to be a rapper. I did a lot of stuff in college, me and my boys did a lot of music. Got out of college [and] did an album called Before The Hype. It did terrible, it went double wood. From there music supervisors got hold of the album and they started pitching it for TV and film. I ended up literally making more money from my music being in TV and film than from releasing an album.
From there I started getting calls to create something custom for this show, or can you come on set and coach these actors how to rap? That was the business side of it for me. Things bubbled from there and that’s continued to this day. That lead to connections I wouldn’t have had otherwise. [Besides some acting credits, Jacques has had music placed on ‘Neighbors 2,’ ‘Brooklyn Nine Nine,’ ‘Community,’ et. al]
C: So did your film and TV experience, or your experience on stage, have an influence on the aesthetics of your content?
JS: Being able to be on set of a movie or a TV show puts you in a different mind frame, especially when it comes to creating. Because I wasn’t a “star” I had to learn to navigate that world a bit so that definitely helped me in dealing with brands and talking to people
That music experience definitely informed the experience of me being a video creator and writing about sneakers and then being a host on shows. That skillset is definitely something that I bring to the videos I create because I know what it takes to get a crowd hyped up, and how speak to a crowd and make eye contact and things like that. That comes from those years of being on stage, either with a DJ or a band…you gotta be able to relay that energy. I’ve been able to transform that into what I do on YouTube.
C: What would you say to a young Black kid who wants to get into the business?
JS: I think a big part is doing something different than what you see everyone else does. We all talk about the same thing, we all talk about the same sneaker. So you have to bring your own style and personality to it. That is what’s going to get people to watch.
Unfortunately, I shouldn’t say unfortunately, there’s just not a lot of Black people that are doing it. I don’t know if that’s just because they don’t want to or they see it as corny or they just don’t know that there’s an opportunity for them. If that’s the case—that last one about opportunity—it’s wide open. The sneaker thing is just starting to happen. There’s so much room in sneakers for more voices to speak to sneakers. Especially as sneakers grow and it’s becoming more and more popular, there’s more and more room for different voices to step into that gap and fill that need for the audience or for the consumer.
C: There’s definitely room for everybody.
JS: I feel like it’s one of those things even I still deal with—and I’ve had a moderate amount of success at doing this—we don’t feel that we’re worthy. As Black people I feel like a lot of times if you come from a certain type of neighborhood, you don’t feel like success is something that you should have. Or that these opportunities or windows aren’t going to open up for you.
You have to take that risk and step outside what’s happening in your neighborhood or step outside of what you’ve always been taught or what people have always told you, and know that there are opportunities out there for you. [With] social media; Youtube, Instagram, and all that stuff, it’s a totally different playing field now. There are opportunities to do whatever it is you want to do. Look, step out and do something, you’ll be surprised at the results.