“Way back in the early days of Twitter I tweeted Pos from De La Soul a picture of my De Las,” says Jazzy. “He responded, and we became Twitter friends. He’s super juiced just to be talking to somebody that’s into sneakers. Pos — from f****** De La Soul — was the moderator on a sneaker forum. He’s like, ‘I’m coming to L.A., I really dig your style. I’m not swaggy, can you take me shopping?’ And I’m like, ‘Okay?…’”
“I wasn’t even from L.A.! I had just moved there — this was the first year I was at Kicks on Fire, 2007-08. De La Soul is my favorite — Native Tongues was my s***!! So we go shopping. I take him to Undefeated; I walk in with him and they’re losing their s*** in the store but I’m trying to act so regular because I have no idea what I’m doing — I’m not a stylist! And I’m f****** shopping with De La Soul for his Coachella outfits before he goes to Indio! Afterwards, he took me to P.F. Changs — he never hit on me, he was super cool!
“I was ready to chalk that up as the best thing that ever happened to me. Then, Girls Got Kicks calls me — Rocky Rivera, a rapper, knows the photographer and says, ‘If you want to shoot a real female sneakerhead my friend is the realest one.’ She shoots me, my very first photoshoot, for the Girls Got Kicks book.
“The book releases two years later, and Pos hits me again. ‘Yo, do you have a copy of that book you did that the sneakers are in? I have a studio session in L.A. this weekend, can you bring me a copy?’
“I go to the studio and I bring the book — the whole De La is in the studio — and there’s this old white dude at the board. Pos is like, ‘Can you sign the book for me?’ So, I’m signing my book at a De La session where they’re cutting an album — and I’m mindf*****. Then they’re like, ‘You wanna help? We’re working on a Pink Floyd sample.’ And I f****** love hip-hop, so I’m like, ‘Yes I want to help!’
This old white dude is teaching me how to work the board. I’m f****** making music with Pos and this old white man who’s smoking a joint — I’m smoking pot and like, ‘What the f*** is my life about right now?!’
“A long time later I’m watching Beats, Rhymes and Life and I see this old white man and it’s Bob Power! F****** Bob Power, Native Tongues engineer, was the dude in the studio teaching me to work the board!! Moments like that make me believe that anything can happen.”
Jazerai Allen Lord, otherwise known as NerdLikeJazzy, has done some incredible things — far too many to include them all here. Jazerai is by far one of the most fascinating people I have ever spoken to, and she has experienced more in the last twenty years than many of us do in our entire lives, making her what I call a “life sensei.”
Jazzy has flatlined three times, sold over $100,000 worth of shoes to a certain well-know collector, toured with her poetry, and trained Ben Stiller’s wife for the Girl Scouts. She used to drag race her B16-swapped EG9 four door JDM’ed out Civic with a baby Sparco seat in the back; she’s interviewed Kendrick Lamar and opened a store for adidas and Run DMC. And even after selling most of her collection, she still has a sneaker room that s***s on what most of what these shoe-lebrities flaunt on Instagram.
Jazzy knew Jon Wexler before he was Wexler, has been personally sued by Frank Thomas, has over 2,000 bylines in the books, and has managed to persevere through the devastating losses she has suffered. She has repeatedly made fantastic lemonade from the shitty lemons she was handed.
I drove down to Edgewater, New Jersey — known nationwide for its ties to reality T.V. and celebrities of all types — to find out how Jazzy got there from the West Coast and what she’s doing now. Her new book For Creative Souls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Art Wasn’t Enuf is almost upon us. Soon, she will be hosting a podcast with Jay Corbin (SneakerSensei) for Inked Magazine, and her new website JustJazerai.com is now live.
Her penthouse is decorated with portraits of some of the greatest rappers ever — Big L, The LOX, Big Pun — colorful art, and skate decks. There was over $40,000 of Supreme in all stages of being photographed and itemized when I was there, and the view of Manhattan from her living room is breathtaking.
Jazerai is a very petite woman with enormous energy that fills the entire penthouse. She has big, vibrant eyes that stare intently into yours when she speaks. She is an extraordinary multi-tasker and mom — she can stay on top of ten different situations all at once while keeping a cool head. Her sons are independent and flourishing; Zion was just accepted to a culinary academy while Sevyn hosts a YouTube show called The Toxic Dog.
Jazzy takes care when preparing her cannabis; she picks the strain she wants, empties a Backwood, and effortlessly rolls a perfect blunt. Now, she’s ready.
“Kicks on Fire. How did that originally happen?”
“It all started because of my friend — he will be so excited because he says, ‘Nobody publishes the part of the story where I introduce you to Khan!’ When I was 17 I went away to school and he was the RA of my very first dorm. We didn’t really know each other like that, but years later I moved back to L.A. when I got married and my ex-husband was in the same circle of friends of my RA. So we talked and he remembered me, we get to be friends.
“That same group of friends was working on a radio show called Costa’s World that ended up being picked up on Sirius. They also had a hip-hop show that I was helping them with called Zombie Radio. They were getting ready to interview K-Dot, Bishop Lamont, and a whole bunch of people. Devi Dev was the host of that show with my friend Eric.
“One day we’re developing a bunch of scripts because the whole network had gotten picked up by Sirius. They were going to start running select episodes so we were going through everything. He was like, ‘This guy keeps hitting me, he owns this little sneaker website, it’s whack as f*** but like…’ I want to say I was 25-26, and right when it happened I had just come off my poetry tour.”
According to Jazerai Allen Lord, the only thing consistent in her life has been words. She began writing when she was nine and her pen never stopped scribbling. She was, at one point, very passionate about cars; she was the moderator of a forum called Honda Tech, and had a B16 engine swap in her EG9 four-door JDM’ed out UPS brown Civic. Her first screen name before NerdLikeJazzy? “B16 Ms Lady” — pulled right off the back of her custom pink satin track jacket. After she sold her car and became the mother of a kindergartener, she had tomes worth of passionate words.
“I was in college – Black History was my major, I was super revolutionary, I was at all of the marches, and I was super passionate about my community. That’s something else that’s been consistent. At that time I’m a poet but still into sneakers — I’m a girl that’s camping at Kendo on Melrose.
“Eric says, ‘This guy keeps bothering me he’s asking me if I know anybody that likes sneakers and out of everybody I know you’re the only one who really likes sneakers. But you’re a bitch so I don’t think he’s going to be into that. I’m going to send him your wedding photo and just see.’
“He sent Khan, who owns KoF, my wedding photo. Khan sent the photo back and was like, ‘Do you know that girl? I saw that picture on Tumblr, I’m looking for that girl!’ To put that into perspective, we couldn’t find a bitch in sneakers in 2006.”
“And you’re wearing what in your wedding photo?”
“The Nike SB De La Soul Dunk High.”
“That’s a very serious sneaker.”
“I had to fight for that for my own wedding! Everybody was like, ‘That’s stupid, you’re going to hate your pictures!’ I said, ‘I’m not wearing heels all night on what’s supposed to be the happiest day of my life — I just want to keep it G and real to me.’ And I always wanted to wear the big dress but I was going to wear the sneakers too. So I did.
“God is great, and connected Eric and Khan — who only knew each other on AOL messenger, they had never met in real life. Khan had just sold a hip-hop website for $1 million. He used that to start Kicks on Fire. He was always into sneakers. Khan’s older brother was a software developer, so he built everything out — and this was when WordPress was fresh, people were still using BlogSpot.
“Khan hit me on AOL messenger with the photo like, ‘Is this you?’ And I say, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘Do you have any other pictures of you in sneakers?’ I didn’t even have a digital camera at this time, it was so long ago — I had a Trio, and maybe a Blackberry.
“So I sent him two other photos I had online and he asked, ‘How good is your writing?’ I’m like, ‘Bro, I’m a writer.’ He says, ‘Would you be interested in writing for this thing called Kicks on Fire about sneakers? I’ll pay you $5 an article.’ And I’m like, ‘All you want me to do is read about sneakers, write it in my own words, and you’re going to pay me? F*** yeah!’
“That right there was the start of something that I never imagined would be my life. It is the same reason I do the work now — I can’t believe I was so starstruck over $5 an article.”
“You might’ve been underpaid.”
“Might’ve?! Might’ve?! But I was juiced, and that’s where so many people go left. We get so juiced just because Nike hits us and wants to send us a whole box of stuff — but where the f*** is the check? They need you, you don’t even recognize that. I’m so blessed. I was definitely underpaid but if I didn’t have that platform I would not have the rest of my life.
“Towards the end I was only making $1,000 from Kicks on Fire, but I was collecting $4,000 from all the brands that knew who I was because of the articles and my opinions that they read on KoF.”
“Truthfully, you were the very first Internet sneaker person I ever saw on the web.”
“No, just the first one! You were the most famous sneaker person at that time.”
“It wasn’t until five years in that all that happened. Nobody knew who I was — my government name is ambiguous so people would email me like, ‘Hey man blah blah blah’ and I’d have to say, ‘I’m female!’
“Kicks on Fire wasn’t a big part of my life. I was a marketing specialist and ended up being a marketing director for the Girl Scouts of L.A. doing marketing activations and training moms to be Girl Scout leaders. I used to train Ben Stiller’s wife, Blair Underwood’s wife — my specialty is in special needs education and building special needs programs to include kids. I was making programs for girls with special needs to be included in activities, as well as providing resources for colored communities to have Girl Scout troops — particularly Hispanic and Black communities.
“That’s what I did during the day and I was super passionate about it. Kicks on Fire was something I did for fun at night. My ex-husband was a very successful rapper so it wasn’t something I had to do at the time.
“In 2010, I lost a son. And had a bunch of reconstructive surgeries. I ended up on my couch for three months not being able to walk — I had a lot of time on my hands, and I was paranoid being away from my kids after that. At the time, my husband said, ‘Look, you don’t ever have to go back to work if you want to just do this Kicks on Fire thing.’ He told me to go hard at it, and I did.
“Five years in, Mashable is running this contest for the most social small business and Khan’s like, ‘Do you think you can do something with this? I’ll give you a huge bonus, I’ll let you get off any idea you want, and give you a budget’ — which was a huge argument point for us for years. Me, Juan, and John [Clayton] ended up being top eight and we made the Twitter and Instagram run like a radio show. We would have personalities sign on specific days — Tuesdays would be Chicks on Fire, Sundays would be Art on Fire. We would hold specific discussions surrounding topics and then prep those topics throughout the week with articles.
“The very first Tuesday I logged on — ‘Hey guys, this is Jazzy Rae from Kicks on Fire’ — they clicked Jazzy Rae and saw it was me. I went from 500 followers to 5,000 Instagram followers in one day. My whole phone was shut down for the rest of the day. It was the craziest f******* experience I ever had.
“It was life changing. All of a sudden it went from nobody knowing about this thing I did at night to not being able to go into Foot Locker ’cause they’re all like, ‘Yo can I get a wristband?! Can I get a t-shirt?!’ — you don’t know the power of your voice when you’re used to speaking to five hundred people. Then you’re talking to a million people, it’s a totally different thing.”
Things change when you become known, and Jazerai realized this quickly when things got real.
“I’ve had Frank Thomas sue me personally because I wrote something about the Big Hurt –”
“When it came back a few years back?”
“Yeah! I wrote about the Big Hurt and I included his name because I copied it from the press release. They issued a cease and desist to Khan, they named me personally in it, and that’s one of those things — you don’t even know that this little thing you’re doing for fun, now you’ve got to appear in court because of something you wrote. Words are so powerful. We did an edit, it was over, but it was a mind-f***. Like, am I really getting served for an article I wrote four years ago?”
Embracing the power of her words, Jazerai Allen Lord left Kicks on Fire and didn’t look back. Now, her words help others. She doesn’t call herself a feminist, but she doesn’t do much without empowering the women around her. In her creative endeavors, she’s chosen to work with women 18 to 27.
“Please tell me about Beauty, Brains & Hustle.”
“It’s a panel put on by a multicultural group of girls in Boston called Code Eclectic. It’s ten young women who are at that stage in their lives when they’re closing childhood and trying to figure out what they’re going to be. They want to start businesses and figure out how to make it on their own. They’ve thrown events and they go to things together, they write together, they work on projects together, and now they’re going to put on panels.
“The first panel they’re having has me, Dutch Rebelle, Zenovia King, a media queen who is also involved in TRILLFIT, an all-female workout — it’s Heather from New Balance’s thing — Liz Miranda, etc. So they’re having us come speak and do breakout sessions with young girls who are coming to listen to our story — and to listen to the piece of the story where we f***** up and had to figure out what to do. The key is to get one-on-one for some career advice.”
For Creative Souls is a mission that’s bigger than just the book. Jazerai had the Code Eclectic girls came to her penthouse for a weekend for real talk — how to manage their money, how to take time for themselves, how to make sure to constantly grow — and not to do free work!
“There were lots of lessons I wanted to instill in them. It was a time of sisterhood.”
Her videographer, Funny Julius, and her cousin, Franchesca, shot everything and cut together a short film about the weekend. Now, Jazerai is shopping For Creative Souls to BET and other outlets to find the appropriate outlet to host it. She wants it to make the biggest impact it can.
“The most beautiful part of it was that one of the girls in Code Eclectic knew of me because she’s been reading my articles at Kicks on Fire since she was in high school. She has a wristband I sent her in the mail, and she brought that wristband here when she spent the night at my crib. Now, they [Code Eclectic] just booked me and cut me a check to come speak at their event in Boston. Life is constantly coming back around, and I think that’s important.”
With everything Jazerai Allen Lord is doing for women, and women of color, I had to ask…
“The last election cycle in America told us a lot about misogyny –”
“That it’s so real?!”
“Yes. I’ve seen more blatant misogyny in the last year than I’ve ever seen. Would you call yourself a feminist?”
“No! Sometimes I’d like to. A lot of my poetry and the things I say speak to it, but I’m really a girl that believes we are supposed to be equally yoked. Not necessarily man-woman relationships, it can be same-sex relationships, business partnerships. What deters me from being a feminist is that I strongly believe that you need a partner in life. You each bring different and equal gifts to the table and sometimes that person is going to be a man — and that doesn’t make me better or worse than him, he’s totally different than me. Two people don’t make each other whole, you should be whole and then be working together to build something greater.”
“Is the definition of feminism [simply equality between the sexes] something that doesn’t allow for that?”
“Yes, especially the way it is displayed on Twitter. The whole thing about language being powerful — the minute that I say, ‘I’m a feminist,’ there are going to be thousands of feminists pissed off because I cooked dinner for my man that night. Why does that have to take away from the work or the love or the impact that I have on the female gender?
“I’m just all about empowering yourself and I happen to be female. I happen to be a female that was blessed to succeed in a male-dominated industry. If I can help other females do that — and not have to sell waist trainers or put their titties out with a pair of Jordans — I would love to do that!
“A lot of girls rely on pretty privilege. I was super scared — very, very scared — of pretty privilege. You will not find many videos of me on the Internet; I don’t do video, I don’t like photoshoots, I don’t want anybody to ever say that I got here or I have this because of pretty privilege. That was a big thing for me.
“One of the reasons I left Kicks on Fire was because I had done a couple interviews with some NFL players that were very inappropriate. It became a situation where I couldn’t even do my f******* job — especially when I became single. When I was married and doing the job pretty privilege wasn’t such a big deal because you gotta be a real shady dude to hit on a married woman. Nobody slid in my DMs — I didn’t have those problems back then, nobody ever disrespected me — because I was somebody’s wife. People look at you very differently. The minute I was single it was blood in the water.
“It became very overwhelming! I was like, ‘If this is what girls are dealing with I wasn’t aware!’ There are all kind of traps out here, and you’ve got to be really careful. A dude will tell you he wants to send you a t-shirt and next thing you know he’s in your text messages at midnight and you’re like how the f*** did we get here?! I thought I was just posing in your t-shirt!
“So many of those situations made it very difficult for me to do my job. Getting to the interview and the dude you’re interviewing being inappropriate — I look this way, and I’m old as f*** and I have two kids — but the 22-year-old I’m interviewing doesn’t know that. He’s totally talking to me like we’re going to go to the club and have bottles of D’Usse or whatever it is young girls wanna do now. I want to go home — I’m working on a f****** proposal tonight and feeding my kids, that’s what I’m doing. It wasn’t cohesive with my life and I became so emo.
In 2014, Jazerai’s life took some dramatic turns. Overnight, she became a single mom. Her ex-husband wasn’t mentally well; he was hospitalized, and he never recovered. Then, when in New York to interview Conor McGregor with Reebok, Jazzy’s life took yet another turn.
She was snowed in after the interview, and Reebok wouldn’t pay for an additional night at the hotel, so she stayed with KnarlyDB, who she was dating at the time. The only condition was that she had to go in to the office with DB the next morning — where she was offered the craziest job of her entire life.
When they met, DB was the marketing director at Rocksmith. At that time, Seth Gerszberg, Mark Ecko’s first investor and partner, had just bought a piece of almost every burgeoning streetwear brand — Rocksmith, ALIFE, HELLS BELLS, 40oz NYC — and added them to his fashion house called the Collective. Oh, and he bought SLAMXHYPE outright. According to Jazzy, Gerszberg had epic ideas about dropping content and “a Marc Ecko chip on his should like nobody’s business.”
DB, and Rocksmith as a whole, moved in to the fashion house’s office where SLAMXHYPE was. Everyone was working in the same office, and Seth was hands-on; he and his wife were in the office every single day — first ones in and last ones out. But Seth knew that DB knew Jazerai, and kept asking DB to bring her in.
After an especially long drag from her blunt, Jazerai continues.
“I’m pulled into a meeting with the owners of Rocksmith, the owners of ALIFE, SLAMXHYPE’s team — I don’t even know I’m on an interview, he’s just like, ‘Can I talk to you, what do you think about this, what do you think about that,’ and I’m just giving my honest opinion.
“Then Seth stands up and says, ‘I want to do business with you. Can you write a number on a piece of paper and slide it over to me and tell me what it’s gonna take to get you to work here.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m a Cali girl — I’m never moving to New York.’
“I didn’t even know this n****! This was way too much, I just thought he wanted to meet me — I was not ready! He shook my hand and said, ‘I’m serious. I shook Rich Antoniello’s hand and gave him a piece of Complex. I shook 50 Cent’s hand and made him a millionaire. I’m shaking your hand and just telling you that I don’t know what kind of work we can do together but I just want to make money with you.’
“I was like, ‘You’re crazy.’ I mean, he wore a yamaka, he talked fast as f***, I didn’t even know about Marc Ecko’s whole history even though I had been at Complex with Kicks on Fire forever, my dumb brain didn’t even do the research to know that I was really sitting in the room with Ecko’s first designer, with the designer who did the GAP denim wall and who created the Pink logo for Victoria Secret — I didn’t even know! I was just a sneaker blogger from Kicks on Fire.
“I leave that meeting saying, ‘Yo, he’s crazy,’ and DB’s like, ‘You gotta take that job.’ And I’m like, ‘I would be your boss! I’m not relocating my kids, I’m barely getting a divorce!’
“For ten days, Seth called me every single day doubling the offer. On the tenth day it ended up being $120,000, plus a $15,000 relocation package, plus this place here [the penthouse], plus my entire rent for me to try it out here, plus money to put my kids in camp so they didn’t have to come here and experience the transition. Every time I had an excuse for why I couldn’t come he just kept coming with, ‘That’s fine, that’s fine.’
“I had an inflatable couch, my sister was my roommate, I was getting divorced, my ex-husband was not mentally well — I was alone. I didn’t even believe in myself, and DB sent me this long text message: ‘Don’t you want to get a real couch? Don’t you want to provide for your kids? I’m not even saying come for me, it isn’t about me — look at what he’s offering you. If you believe in you, and you think you’re swaggy as f***, you should take it.’
“So I did. In ten days I decided I was going to move to New York. I sold three quarters of my collection to
“So you took this opportunity that fell from the universe.”
“God was so good — and I was not a believer at that time. I realized then that we are equally scared of our greatness as we are of failing. I was crying every morning when I got here. ‘But why are you crying Jazz? You just cashed a check for $7,000 for one week — that’s more money than you’ve had in the last seven months!” She bursts out laughing.
“And then six months after getting here the house goes bankrupt. Everybody says, ‘They probably spent all the money on you!’ Now, we’re trying to pay our rent, here in this penthouse.”
In September of 2016, Jazerai’s life changed again.
“My ex-boyfriend [DB] left with Kanye West and I was left with a brand, a crib, a whole life to manage — and I had a serious come to Jesus moment. For the first time, I was really by myself.”
DB and Jazzy had broken up, but they hadn’t gone public about that yet — as if they needed to. Yeezy SZN 5 happens, and they’re speaking, but they’re not in a relationship. Suddenly, a photo of DB walking behind Kanye West at Fashion Week drops. The minute the photo hit the Internet Jazzy’s phone wouldn’t stop blowing up.
She was being messaged on every platform and getting emails at accounts she didn’t know she had anymore. People kept asking, “Isn’t that your boyfriend with Kanye West? Isn’t that your business partner? Your boyfriend’s on Four Pins!”
Jazzy described that day as the biggest test of her emotional sanity. She had to answer all these questions that she hadn’t spoken about. The day she muted it was the day Kanye went to the hospital. She tries not to read her timeline, but every single day, somewhere, Kanye is present in her life — that’s how powerful his influence is. And suddenly, DB was on tour with the biggest influencer of this generation.
“Once he left, I was here with the brand and my kids thinking ‘Oh my God, what are you going to do?’ Being alone, I had all these weird moments, like lying in bed being done with all my work and being like, ‘I can watch whatever I want because I’m single now.’ Then, I try to find something to watch and I’m freaked out crying because I can’t figure out what to do with myself in my free time. I had a real mind-f*** moment.”
Jazzy had to learn to live with herself, and work through things that she thought she had already dealt with before. She had a lot of time to think about things. Her kids are super independent, off at parties and doing this or that. After cleaning the whole house and redecorating she asked herself, “What am I going to do?” Well, she started writing. And she couldn’t stop. That’s when For Creative Souls blossomed.
“One of my friends told me, ‘First you’ve got to write out all the bad s***, then the good s*** will come.’ I hadn’t written creatively in a very long time, and then I couldn’t stop. I ended up with a whole book of quotes and letters that I was writing to myself over the first six months – by far the hardest transition period — and peace practices that I discovered to get to the place that I’m at now.
“God was speaking so loudly to me, ‘Sometimes your purpose is just to show other people what love looks like.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, maybe that’s my purpose right now’ — to put all of these things together to give somebody else a practical tool to keep with them.
“I see it as a series of books — it’s small, moleskin size. There are pages for you to draw and write your own notes, or responses to certain questions I suggest people ask themselves. There’s also a little cannabis guide, a chakra-crystal guide, and a basic how-to for body-scan and meditation.
“DB, my ex-boyfriend, used to call me a “n**** translator” — he’s from the smallest buttf*** town in Ohio. I had to learn how to speak a different language to communicate, not just with him, but with a whole genre of people that I realized were not being spoken to. Either one, they were too afraid to ask questions, two, they were overlooked, or three, the concepts were just so foreign to them they didn’t even know how to start. I saw so much change in him, and me being able to translate healthy practices to him, my sons, and so many other people in my life — obviously, that was something.”
For the release of her book she’s working with Medtainer, a brand that sells an airtight, water-tight, and smell-proof medical grade container with a built-in grinder. Their project will match her book, and she may even do her own strain of cannabis. Jazzy has a collection of pocket tees coming, and there’s a new hat for sale at JustJazerai.com.
“There are gon’ be some days when you have a three-day notice on your door, there are gon’ be some days you don’t have weed, some days you’re on ramen, some days you’re selling your grails, those things are going to happen — but life is going to be okay. You’ve got to be able to deal with the ups and downs, and that’s what the book is about.”
Jazerai Allen Lord has endured so many up and downs, and come out on top when others may not have. Survival of the fittest isn’t about who’s most fit but about who’s most adaptable. After speaking with Jazzy, I know she’s going to be okay. Better still, I know that she’s just beginning to flourish.