Raekwon of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan kicked off his “Community Linx” project with Diadora and Foot Locker Inc. earlier this year. The multi-city series began in The Chef’s hometown of New York City, where an NYC-inspired Diadora N9002 was released and a group of 16 local artists were given the opportunity to participate in a beat-making course to hone their craft. “Community Linx” has now arrived in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.

For the second drop of the series, Raekwon offers a Philly-inspired Diadora N9002 dressed in a burgundy color scheme with 3M hits on the heels. Similar to the NYC drop, the shoe is accompanied by a local talent search. This time, 20 up-and-coming musicians from Philadelphia were selected to attend a Zoom seminar hosted by radio personality Mina SayWhat. The seminar included a conversation with Raekwon, where he spoke on his creative process and the art of storytelling through music.

This week, the group of 20 artists returns for an in-person opportunity to perform live in front of a panel of special guest judges, including Raekwon. The winner of the competition will receive one-on-one time with Raekwon following the event. The next city on the “Community Linx” tour is Detroit, followed by Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston.

The Raekwon x Diadora N9002 “Philly” will be available starting this Thursday, April 21st online via Foot Locker and Champs Sports and in-store at Foot Locker Philly’s Park West Community Store at 1575 N 52nd St. We spoke with Raekwon to discuss the “Community Linx” project and his connection to the city of Philadelphia. Check out the interview below (lightly edited for length and clarity).

Raekwon x Diadora N9002 “Philly”
Release Date: April 21, 2022
Price: $120 USD

Modern Notoriety: The Community Linx project kicked off earlier this year in New York. How did the meeting with that first group of aspiring artists go?

Raekwon: It went well. This program that I designed and curated, this is something that I always wanted to do. I wanted to connect with people from the inner city, the inner city youth, and people that are just trying to make it happen with their careers. This is a project that myself and Diadora and Foot Locker and Champs created we thought was gonna be nice for giving back to our communities. It was all about just getting kids to be a part of this opportunity, this platform to be heard and seen. Whether you’re a rapper or producer or somebody in the film world or whatever it is, we just wanted to make sure that we could be a part of their goals and their dreams.

Let’s talk about your history with Diadora. There’s the two “Cuban Linx” shoes you did with Packer. What is your personal relationship with the brand?

Raekwon: We’ve been wearing Diadora since we was kids. Around 18 years old, 17 years old, this was a popular shoe. I was always a fan of their colorways, the way they just designed their shoe, they always had different things going on with it. When I wanted to do my first collaboration sneaker, we reached out and they were big fans of what we wanted to do and they were big fans of mine, so we’ve been close ever since. I always wanted to work with Diadora, you know?

And believe it or not, around the time that we started to work with them, once I really put my name on it, and of course with their power, we were able to replenish this brand again in a way where hip-hop guys look at it the same way they may look at a Timberland or they may look at a PUMA or adidas or Nike. So Diadora, I just know that I was able to help them get some more awareness in that way. Ever since then, they’ve been in my corner. They’ve been down for me and showing their love and respect to the things that I wanted to do. So that was important to me.

I feel like the sneaker landscape was more diverse back in the 80s and 90s. Along with Diadora, you also had brands like Lotto and Etonics that had their fair market share. Do you agree with that assessment?

Raekwon: Oh absolutely. It was definitely brands doing their thing back then. It was definitely authentic on what they were bringing to the table. But us being the communities and being athletes, just like in fashion and sneakers and all of that, they were these brands that were paving the way for a lot of the brands today.

When you think of hip-hop, you think of people going out partying, breakdancing, doing whatever, having fun. You always had to have a fly pair of sneakers on your feet, or something that made people look down at your feet and be like “yo, what are those?” And that name, Diadora itself being an Italian name, we fell in love with that. Like “yo, these are Diadoras” or “these are Etonics” or whatever the case may be. We loved it. We loved what they were doing, cuz we knew that they represented fly stuff.

Is it safe to say that you’re the biggest sneakerhead in Wu-Tang?

Raekwon: Oh absolutely, by far. [laughs] I’m considered the more flashier guy in the crew. Of course all my guys they love sneakers as well too. I’m sure they probably even got more than me, but it’s just the way I expose things and you know… but I think I probably sit on a few more that the average Wu member though, cuz I’m always out buying sneakers and looking at stuff. It been like that for me for a long time, as a kid, and to me that’s kinda like part of some of my superpowers, as being an MC and being a legend. It had a lot to do with sneakers and stuff like that. It’s a part of me man. It’s part of my utility belt, you know?

So next up on the “Community Linx” tour is Philly. What’s the inspiration behind the Philly colorway?

Raekwon: Number one, I used to play sports a lot. I remember just always wanting back in the day, I told my mother when I was a kid I always wanted to have a Philadelphia Phillies jersey. I loved the team, I loved the way the letters was and the colors was burgundy. It was just something that I wanted to rekindle with my peoples and just let them know that that’s how far it goes back with the love that I’ve got for that city.

I think it’s a dope color, it’s a rich color. I didn’t want to go too crazy with being too design-ish on there. I want it to be something clean for the average kid that loves to put on hoodies to the average cat that may not be into too much going on a sneaker. Of course, I had to put my signature on the back of the shoe, which is the 3M reflective. I always love reflective cuz I used to always love seeing joggers out there jogging and you be like “yo, what’s that reflecting on the sneaker?” So all of these things were going through my head when we were curating this shoe.

Who are some of your favorite artists from Philly?

Raekwon: Oh I got tons of em. I mean everybody man. Especially brothers like Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Da Youngsta’s, Gillie Da Kid. There was a crew back in the day called Ram Squad. I have a lot of history with a lot of guys out there. So it’s a ton of them. And we friends today, we’re still friends today. I know what that city is capable of when it’s time to get on the mic. So I pay respect to all of those talented brothers out there. They do their thing.

Is there anything else you’d like to share on the “Community Linx” project?

Raekwon: Yeah, definitely. If you’re not doing anything, come down to the store and let’s check out some of these young guys that have hopes and dreams of being in the game some way and give them the platform. Let’s go out and support them. I would love to see everybody just come out. Of course, pick up a pair of these exclusive Diadoras that I made. And I just want to shout out all my business partners for putting this together with me as well. It’s gonna be dope, man. You’re gonna listen to some great music, you’re gonna have fun, and represent one of the most respected places in the world.