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Kareem “Biggs” Burke and Roc96 co-founder Emory Jones. Photo Courtesy of Kareem “Biggs” Burke

Roc-A-Fella Records Co-Founder Talks Building Fashion Empire

He found success in the music industry, fashion and the spirits world, but now one of the founders of Roc-A-Fella Records is setting his sights on the sneaker biz.

Kareem “Biggs” Burke, considered the brains behind Roc-A-Fella Records, is channeling his success at the helm of the iconic label into new sneaker and clothing collaborations: a limited edition “Roc-A-Fella” Air Force One as well as a capsule clothing line inspired by Jay-Z’s 1996 album “Reasonable Doubt” with Urban Outfitters.

“We wanted to do something quality and something relevant,” Burke said. “90s hip-hop is on fire. The consumer dictated that, not me.”

Burke said he got the idea for the sneaker after learning that a few of the custom-made Roc-A-Fella Air Force Ones that Nike gifted Roc-A-Fella friends and family back in 2002 had made their way onto the resale market – and were going for as much as $20,000.

“The sneaker is something that they can take away, and still be part of the lifestyle and movement that we created 20 years ago,” Burke said. “With Bella Hadid rocking (the Roc-A-Fella Air Force Ones) in Vogue, that opened up doors and created opportunities.”

Nike Roc-A-Fella Air Force Ones signed by Kareem “Biggs” Burke.
Photo Courtesy of Kareem “Biggs” Burke

The shoes won’t be released to the public until Nov. 30, but Burke has created a social media campaign around gifting signed sneaks to Roc-A-Fella staff and celeb friends.

“Even when I gave Jay his sneakers, he said, ‘Mine’s not signed!’” Burke said, smiling. “I had to go to his house and sign them. Now, I have like 500 requests.”

The sneaker deal is the mogul’s latest project to reinvent Roc-A-Fella Records and “Reasonable Doubt” aesthetic, a process that Burke said works because it was down to remaining genuine.

“It’s the authenticity that we’ve built over 20 years,” Burke said.

Photo courtesy of Kareem “Biggs” Burke

Besides the sneakers, Burke just launched a “Reasonable Doubt” capsule with Urban Outfitters. The nine-piece collection is comprised of t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies and hats decorated with the “Reasonable Doubt” album cover art, song titles, quotes or the original Roc-A-Fella logo.

A t-shirt from Urban Outfitter’s “Reasonable Doubt” collection.

Burke said the new Urban Outfitters collab grew out of his first streetwear collection commemorating “Reasonable Doubt’s” 20th anniversary, which he debuted in 22 pop up shops around the country last year. The pop-ups each came with their own experience, like the recreated D&D Studio where Jay-Z recorded “Reasonable Doubt,” complete with the original soundboard.

“Everything I do, there has to be a story to it,” he said. “There has to be an experience.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 31: Rihanna and Roc96 co-founder Kareem ‘Biggs’ Burke attend Madeworn x Roc96 Pop-Up Event at on May 31, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images)

Burke is also preparing to relaunch his denim brand Fourth Of November and has a bunch of other upcoming projects that he declined to discuss in detail. Maybe his own “Reasonable Doubt” sneaker?

“I’m getting courted by everybody now for that,” he said. “There’s a lot of things to come.”

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