Rapper and singer Lil Nas X launched a controversial pair of “Satan Shoes” featuring a bronze pentagram, an inverted cross and a drop of real human blood – and they sold out almost immediately.
The black and red sneakers, part of a collaboration between Lil Nas X and New York-based art collective MSCHF, were made using Nike Air Max 97s, though the sportswear brand has distanced itself from the design.
In an emailed statement to CNN, Nike said it was not involved in creating the modified sneakers. “We do not have a relationship with Lil Nas or MSCHF,” the company said. “Nike did not design or release these shoes and we do not endorse them.”
MSCHF confirmed via email March 29 that the limited-edition “drop” of 666 pairs sold out in less than a minute (though Lil Nas X will keep the first pair, MSCHF creative director Kevin Wiesner told CNN).
They were priced at $1,018 a pair, a reference to the Bible passage Luke 10:18 that reads: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Each shoe’s air bubble sole contains 60 cubic centimeters (2.03 fluid ounces) of red ink and “one drop” of human blood, according to MSCHF.
A MSCHF spokesperson said the blood had been provided by members of the art collective, adding: “We love to sacrifice for our art.” Later, Wiesner explained on a video call that the creative team collected individual drops over the course of a week using the same type of needle used in at-home glucose tests. The group also confirmed to CNN that Nike was “not involved in this in any capacity.”
The shoes sparked outrage online over the weekend, and attracted criticism from a number of high-profile political and religious figures, including South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and the evangelical pastor Mark Burns. The latter described the sneakers in a tweet as “evil” and “heresy.” Some fans of the “Old Town Road” rapper, meanwhile, tweeted their support and desire to own a pair.
In response, Lil Nas X (whose real name is Montero Lamar Hill), posted a video to his official YouTube account titled “Lil Nas X Apologizes for Satan Shoe,” which has now been viewed over 1.8 million times. But after a few seconds, the apparent apology cuts to a scene from his new music video, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” showing him dancing provocatively with a devil character. The rapper is then pictured snapping the devil’s neck, before removing his horned crown and assuming it himself.
The day after Lil Nas X released the music video, he responded to the backlash over its rebellious religious imagery. “I spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the s**t y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay,” he wrote. “So i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.”
The collective Lil Nas X worked with on the “Satan Shoe,” MSCHF, is known for its irreverent “drops,” a series of tongue-in-cheek art projects unveiled once every two weeks. In 2019, the collective released limited edition “Jesus Shoes” – also made from Nike Air Max 97 sneakers – which featured a steel crucifix and “holy water” sourced from the Jordan River.
Other drops have seen the collective sell a laptop installed with some of the world’s most dangerous computer viruses for over $1.3 million. In February, meanwhile, the group ripped apart four Hermès Birkin bags in order to create a collection of sandals priced between $34,000 and $76,000.
“We all knew that some people would take the satan element of this seriously…but I’m not sure we were entirely prepared for how much of a furor it would cause,” Wiesner said. “Obviously from our perspective, it’s just fun, right? There’s a really rich wealth of symbol(ism) to work with, but some people have been very up in arms with it.”
He referenced one YouTube reviewer – Michael J. Mitchell of the account “A Sneaker Life” – who first did an unboxing video, then posted a follow-up video called “I threw the nike satan shoes away.” He did so, Wiesner said, “because his fans had reacted so poorly to the concept, which is extremely funny.”
In the 8-minute video, Mitchell announces he’s getting rid of the sneakers before tossing them down the trash chute in his apartment building (he shows them in the box before they make their descent). “I’m throwing them away, bro, straight up. I’m not keeping this energy around me whatsoever,” he said. “Everybody just relax, bro. I am a man of God.”
This article has been updated with more information following the sale, as well as quotes from MSCHF.