Hip-hop is arguably the last true American art form, dating back to its “Rec Room” roots on August 11, 1973, in a massive 102-unit apartment building in the Morris Heights section of The Bronx, New York. 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, to be exact. A half-century after that “Back to School Jam” that Saturday evening, what evolved was well beyond any of the partygoers’ imagination. Now, in its golden year, you’d be hard-pressed not to see hip-hop’s impact every second of the day. Things come and go (remember when this was supposed to be a fad?), but within the culture, some elements are simply iconic mainstays—from the music to the fashion.
Like, say, the Original Timberland Boot. It’s as synonymous with hip-hop as butter-soft leather jackets, denim jeans and a Yankee fitted. A point of emphasis that the New England-based company’s Senior Footwear Designer, Chris Dixon, doesn’t want anyone to forget as the fashion staple turns the big 5-0. “What I wanted to do was go back to the essence of where it started,” he says in a sit-down convo with DJ Miss Milan when revealing his baby, the Timberland® Hip Hop Royalty Boot. In celebration of its 50th birthday, the iconic Premium 6-Inch Boot is reimagined with intricate design details that incorporate the pillars of hip-hop. The gray sole that represents “The Concrete Jungle” (breakdancing). The silver mic cord lace aglets (MCing). A vinyl-inspired back and silver metal turntable hangtag (DJing). And a graffiti-stencil Timberland logo (graffiti). All of which compliment the boot’s purple color scheme (inspired by the BX mural honoring DJ Kool Herc, widely considered the founding father of Hip-Hop–and the host and deejay of that 1973 party–as well as signifying hip-hop’s regality). “This is a Black history tribute from Timberland—50 years of royalty,” Dixon, the founder and creative director of CNSTNT: DVLPMNT (Constant Development), a product, educational, and experiential brand inviting creatives on the journey of discovery, empowering them with opportunities for further growth, and catering to their creative needs, he proudly says. “This is not a boot. This is hip-hop. Everything about this boot is hip-hop.”
Sitting across from Dixon, DJ Miss Milan exudes hip-hop, from her style to ending sentences with “you know what I mean?” Brooklyn-born, Queens-raised, the self-professed “Fairy Vibe Mother” and official DJ for Saweetie, makes no bones about the icons behind the wheels of steel who influenced her while growing up. “The very first time I ever heard a woman DJ would have to be on the radio, which was Coco Chanelle and DJ Jazzy Joyce,” remembers Milan, who also credits DJ Mister Cee, Kid Capri and DJ Spinderella as influential. Listening to those legends rock crowds worldwide moved her to do the same. “I like to give people a taste of the Miss Milan experience,” says Milan, who will be giving a taste and more this summer at Coachella with her artist, Doechii. “My whole objective when I DJ is to make sure that not only am I the soundtrack to your night, but you’ll leave with the memory that you’re gonna have forever.”
What will be everlasting are the contributions Chris Dixon and DJ Miss Milan continue to add to hip-hop’s never-ending story. All while influencing new generations of creatives that will follow their blueprint. And while the BIPOC community has been instrumental in cultivating footwear culture, just 3% of designers identify as Black or Brown. Dixon plans to change that statistic with CNSTNT:DVLPMNT and Timberland is supercharging his mission. One of the objectives is consistency. “Core values, it all starts with the ‘C’ and the ‘D,’’ he says about how the future minds should think, as well as his company’s mission statement (Timberland and CNSTNT:DVLPMNT will host seven Youth Design Workshops and stop in six cities–Baltimore, Boston, NYC, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.–this spring and summer).“Creative disruption, conscious design, cultural diversity, and courageous devotion. All those things incorporated creates ‘constant development.’ It’s not about how fast you go; it’s not about how slow you go; it’s all about you not stopping,” he says. “Creating a consistency within yourself to build and get better every day.”