Merch is so ingrained within the world of album releases that practically every new record also gives birth to a T-shirt line. (In recent years, the practice of bundling limited tees with album purchases to goose chart numbers has given rise to even more merch.) Lots of artists have done it: Travis Scott, Taylor Swift, and Tyler, the Creator, just to name a few. It got so out of hand, Billboard changed how album sales are counted so merch bundles weren’t included.
Naturally, Drake is up to something else entirely. Forget merch—the guy is, outside of Kanye, basically unparalleled when it comes to fusing his artistic output with his status as one of the world’s most insatiable and eclectic shoppers. In January, he and Future released “Life Is Good,” which was basically a love song for his latest cop (a Virgil Abloh-customized Patek Philippe Nautilus.) The video for his latest track “Laugh Now Cry Later” is quite possibly one of the greatest Nike commercials ever made. And now, on Instagram, Drake is teasing a line of merch, seemingly made in collaboration with Nike, for his upcoming album Certified Lover Boy.
Not content to release any old album merch, it appears as if Drake connected with Nike for something serious—a collection of sorts, consisting of at least the following: a quilted jacket with a heart pattern on it, a white cap kissed with lipstick, T-shirts featuring a drawing of a stealthy cupid wearing a balaclava, and socks with the Nike Swoosh floating inside a heart. Other pieces more closely follow the traditional album-release template: hoodies and T-shirts printed with lyrics and the album title or its initials. The relationship between Nike and what we’ve seen so far of Certified Lover Boy feels so entwined it’s hard to tell what’s meant to promote what. (For what it’s worth: we are 110% onboard with the idea of dropping an album for the explicit purpose of promoting your streetwear line.) Unfortunately, it’s possible that the merch may not even see an official release—sources describe the collection as strictly for friends and family of Drake.
This is a heavy-artillery drop to correspond with an album. Typically, Nike reserves its collaborations for massive shoe drops, or cozies up with A+ fashion designers like Virgil Abloh, Matthew Williams of Alyx, and Dior’s Kim Jones. The only other artist we can remember getting Nike merch to go along with an album and tour is Kendrick Lamar, whose DAMN was released alongside some very excellent hoodies. Ever since Kanye released must-have fashion alongside his The Life of Pablo album, the expectations for what constitutes merch have gone way up. Even Justin Bieber partnered with Barney’s on $1,600 leather jackets. It’s no longer enough to screenprint a bundle of Gildan tees and call it a day. The partnership between Drake and Nike is a byproduct of that environment. Also, the biggest and most exciting drops in the streetwear and sneaker worlds typically run through Nike—why shouldn’t one of the year’s biggest album releases feed off that same hype?