The adidas Top Ten officially re-released today, but for heads in Boston, it's like the sneaker never left. Adidas and the Top Ten are woven into the fabric of the city's sneaker culture, and they grew up with Boston as hip-hop did, too. One man knows this all too well. We reached out to Ed O.G. (who now refers to himself as Edo G), who, to most, holds the distinction of the city's best emcee ever. His 1991 single, "I Got to Have It," reached the top of the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart, and he did it all while rocking adidas. To get a better perspective on the Top Ten and how adidas has been able to hold it down in the New England city, we talked to Ed. Here's what he had to say.
Interview by Matt Welty (@MatthewJWelty)
When did you start wearing adidas?
Right after I heard “My Adidas” by Run DMC when it came out in 1986. That was the whole transformation for the city of Boston. It lasted for well over three or four years like it was brand new.
So that song started the whole adidas phase in Boston?
That’s what started the whole adidas phase. People wore other things before that record. There were probably some older cats who wore the sneakers before me, but that’s what really did it: the record. It took things to another level. We had a place called adidas Park in Dorchester/Roxbury, and you couldn’t walk by there with any other sneakers or you’d get your sneakers taken and thrown in a tree. There was a tree full of Nikes and Pumas. It was full of everything but adidas.
I went past that park as a kid, and I had on Pumas. They knew I breakdanced and whatnot. So I didn’t get my sneakers taken, because I was too young. They said, “Don’t ever come around here like that again."
Where did you buy your adidas back in the day?
The store has been around for years, it’s called Alpha and Omega. It’s right in the heart of Roxbury in Dudley Square, and they still have one of the biggest selections of adidas in the city. That’s where everybody still goes to get their sneakers.
What was your personal connection with the Top Ten?
It was always one of my favorite pair of sneakers. I actually still have a pair. My son is starting to wear them. They’re a little too small for me. The Top Tens were more comfortable. The Shelltoes gave you corns after awhile. I was big into Top Tens and Yum Yums (Powerphase II).
Did you ever have a connection with adidas back in the day?
Never. Not at all, man. And adidas has a headquarters here in Canton, Mass. They’re like a reclusive company. Give it up to Boston, man.
In “I Got to Have It,” you mentioned adidas a couple of times. What was the intention behind that?
I was just telling the haters. With that particular line, “Put on your adidas and step off.” I meant, “Put your sneakers on, and get the hell away from me, man.” And just for Boston, everyone knew how we did with adidas, so that was a hometown reference.
So why do you think the Top Ten has been able to stay around?
They’re comfortable, and everything retro has been able to come back around. People want to wear what we were rocking back in the '80s.
I’m guess you’ve heard Kanye has signed to adidas. So what’s your opinion on that, given adidas’ history with Run DMC and the Beastie Boys?
I think it’s cool if they can make a dope sneaker. I think it’s tough for adidas in the high-end Nike market. I’ve seen $300 adidas, but I wouldn’t buy them. If they can let Kanye do his thing, they just have to give him the creative ability to do what he wants. Hopefully, he doesn’t make something so far out that people don’t want to fuck with it.
Frank the Butcher has said how the Forum Hi was the ultimate hustler sneaker in Boston. Can you explain how the Forum connected to street culture?
A real true Boston head, they’ll always have on adidas, they won’t rock other sneakers. A lot of the hustlers in the ‘80s and ‘90s, they rocked Forums, they rocked Yum Yums, they rocked Top Tens. But the Forums, they were definitely a big part of the gangbanger culture and cats who were in the street. They considered themselves “dogs,” that’s a term for adidas up here in Boston. They were doing whatever they were doing out in the street, they had on Forums. That wasn’t my steez. I was into the music. I’m from the hood, but I wasn’t into that scene.