ComplexCon Day 1 Panel Highlights: Wale on Sneakers, The Game and Wiz Khalifa on the Business of Weed & More

Sean John

All was well in the LBC as patrons lined up around 11:00 a.m. to experience the first ever ComplexCon. The pop culture media company kicked off its two-day festival and trade show Saturday (Nov. 5) at the Long Beach Convention Center in California. Hundreds of exhibitors gathered to lure the youth to the hottest brands of clothing, sneakers, spirits and more. In addition to the exhibitions and performances, the festival featured panels discussing pertinent topics surrounding today's pop culture. Check out highlights below from five panels.

Sneaker of the Year: A Debate

Six sneaker heads gathered together to debate what the hottest sneaker of the year was. The panel -- featuring rapper Wale, Russ Bengtson of Complex magazine, DJ Clark Kent, teen sneaker dealer Benjamin Kickz, fashion designer Jon Buscemi and Complex’s VP of brand strategy, Joe LaPuma -- unsuccessfully found a sole winner of the year but did give props to brands such as Air Jordan 1 Retros, Adidas Yeezy 350 Boost V2 and the Air Jordan 31 sneaker. Wale joked, “Kanye could sneeze on a sneaker and it would sell” as the group discussed the partnerships celebrities have with shoes and the Nike vs. Adidas race.

Thread Trajectory: Where Is Streetwear Going?

Streetwear experts -- including Union Los Angeles store owner Chris Gibbs, designer Rob Garcia, fashion designer and founder of popular brand The Hundreds, Bobby Hundreds, Staple Design founder Jeff Staple, DJ and multifaceted talent Vashtie Kola and Complex’s Karizza Sanchez -- spoke on how streetwear has always been a reaction to broader culture. Vashtie noted, “It represented music culture and going against what I was told was ladylike or proper.” Gibbs chimed in, adding, “If you think about when we were young, we all are anti-parents and streetwear comes out of that.” The group agreed that the lines between high fashion and streetwear were blurring and will continue to do so. Hundreds announced his new streetwear documentary, Built to Fail.

WWE Nation: Has Wrestling Gone Mainstream?

The high energy panel on wrestling featured rapper Wale, rapper Action Bronson and Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg discussing whether wrestling had a chance of becoming more mainstream and the strategies it could utilize to achieve that goal. The panelists joked that a Rihanna appearance wouldn’t seem likely, but the industry could look to the heyday of Muhammad Ali and Cyndi Lauper appearing on Wrestlemania 1. Rosenberg noted, “It’s the coolest its ever been to be a smart wrestling fan, meaning a fan who loves the business but is aware that it is entertainment and not competitive.”

The Future of Sports Media

Author Gotham Chopra, professional skateboarder Paul “PRod” Rodriguez, CEO of Uninterrupted/Springhill Entertainment, Maverick Carter, and host of ESPN’s The Jump, Rachel Nichols, talked about the future of sports media. The group discussed in what ways a player’s brand could be best shaped and refined. Maverick had an answer, saying, “I think storytelling is the ultimate. The best story always wins.” He also complemented the success of Nike, adding, “I think Nike is the greatest storytelling company in the world. I think they tell as good of stories as Disney.” PRod addressed how the direct connection players have with fans allows for transparency and agency in the players’ narratives. “It’s no one coming in or chiming in and taking a snippet of what you said and reframing it in their way of seeing it. You can tell your story. You now have a voice on your own to clarify what you mean. That’s super valuable in this day and age.”

The Business of Weed

The last panel of the day was the most engaging and entertaining. Rappers Wiz Khalifa, The Game, and Action Bronson joined MERRY JANE's editor in chief Noah Rubin and Dr. Dina, California’s first dispensary owner, for a discussion around the business of weed. Coming on the heels of what may be the first week California will legalize recreational use of marijuana with the passing of Proposition 64, the group delved into the investment opportunities and the varying qualities on the market that will continue to exist even with competition and possible oversaturation. Wiz Khalifa, a fan of the Dipset crew, reminisced on the longstanding relationship marijuana has with hip-hop, citing, “I remember Jim Jones smoking weed on The Source.” The Game plugged his line of marijuana, Trees by Game, and Action Bronson noted his affinity for high-end products.