5 Top Artist-Brand Collabs of 2020 From J. Cole, Jaden Smith & More

Mahlik Campbell music /
CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 17: J. Cole performs at halftime during the 68th NBA All-Star Game at Spectrum Center on February 17, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Run-DMC's collaboration with Adidas – commemorated on wax via the group's 1986 hit "My Adidas" – paved the way for artist-brand partnerships, especially in hip-hop.

This year alone has produced heat from J. Cole and Puma, Jaden Smith and New Balance, and more. Here are Daquan's 5 favorites...

1. J. Cole x Puma

J. Cole's love for basketball reached a new level when he worked with Puma to craft his own signature basketball shoe called the RS-Dreamer.

Arriving in late July just days after the first two singles from his upcoming album, The Fall Off, the low-top sneaker marks the two parties' first footwear release since revealing their sub-brand "The Dreamer" together back in February.

An extra layer of meaning was added to the name of the shoe with this commercial narrated by Master P – not only a rap icon but a former NBA player – in which Cole hints that he's training to make the league. (The Pistons later offered him a tryout.)

The RS-Dreamer is built for pro-level play, too, as Puma Hoops players like Kyle Kuzma, DeAndre Ayton and Rudy Gay have practiced in the shoe while inside the NBA bubble. 

Via Puma

Peep the red, blue and white colorway inspired by Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. franchise that recently dropped at Foot Locker.

2. Travis Scott x McDonald's

One of the most anticipated (and unexpected) collabs of 2020 has been Travis Scott x McDonald's. Riding the wave of a leaked company memo, the Golden Arches officially unveiled the first phase of what to expect.

Starting Tuesday, Sept. 8, this special meal curated by La Flame himself will be available at many U.S. locations: A quarter pounder with cheese, bacon and lettuce, accompanied by medium fries, BBQ dipping sauce and a Sprite.

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technically not until 9/8 but we’ll be ready

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The last pop culture figure to have their name featured on Mickie D's menu was Michael Jordan in 1992 with the McJordan Meal. (Apparently, both Travis and MJ enjoy BBQ sauce.)

It's not totally clear what else will be offered for purchase, but employees are already starting to resell their Cactus Jack gear on sites like Grailed. The partnership will reportedly stretch across food, fashion and community.

3. Jaden Smith x New Balance

Fans of Jaden know he loves his New Balances, so his chunky Vision Racer sneaker with the brand feels like a full-circle moment.

Jaden's favorite models, the 1700 and X-Racer, influenced several elements of the Vision Racer. His "((VISION))" motto subtly appears on the mesh and suede upper and in pink under the translucent outsole.

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Vision Racer. July 24th.

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The mid-July release was the first from the pair since announcing their connection a little over a year ago, which also involves community efforts like providing water filtration systems for the town of Flint, Michigan, and donating food and clothing to the homeless in Los Angeles.

Highlighting the 22-year-old's commitment to designing solid shoes made of various recycled and vegan-friendly materials, he participated in a two-day “sneaker school” tutorial at a New Balance factory in Maine. 

Via New Balance

If you're not feeling the original Wavy Baby Blue, a clean white, navy and yellow look dropped early last month.

4. Drake x Nike

Though it hasn't hit shelves yet, Drake has been everything but secretive about his Nike collection pending the release of Certified Lover Boy

He's recently been reposting photos and videos from those he plugged with an early care package of heart-themed apparel via Instagram Stories. 

The most eye-catching piece is the red lipstick-stained cap that pays homage to this infamous selfie.

Other standout samples include heart-stamped white and black socks, a gray hoodie with "CLB" pressed on the front, a shirt featuring cupid in a ski mask and a Nike bomber jacket that Drizzy debuted in pink in the "Laugh Now Cry Later" video.

Be on the lookout for a possible OVO x Air Force 1 Low during the early months of 2021 as well.

5. Conway the Machine & Alchemist x Patta

A handmade EP like Conway the Machine and Alchemist's 7-track LULU – based on the persona of the drug dealer Luis “Lulu” Lujano from the 2002 film Paid In Full – deserves merch of the same high quality.

Enter Dutch streetwear boutique Patta, which worked with the rapper-producer pair to commission four offerings: security jackets in either black or navy blue carrying a velcro Patta chest patch on the front and cover art on the back, a vinyl copy of LULU and a snapback hat.

Via Patta

With Conway being the first Griselda artist to do a full mixtape with Alchemist, these collector items hold value beyond just looking sweet. No wonder the jackets are reselling for several hundred dollars above retail.

According to Alc's personal merch site, more LULU styles are on the way!