Interview: DMC Talks "Christmas in Hollis" and Kanye West x adidas

It was December 24th on Hollis Ave in the dark.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Adidas held a special event at Packer Shoes yesterday to celebrate the launch of the Run DMC x Keith Haring x Superstar 80s “Christmas in Hollis” sneakers, which dropped today. The legendary Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels, was on hand to greet fans and friends that included hip hop legends like BizMarkie, DJ Clark Kent, and Rickey Powell. We got to sit down with DMC and talk about "Christmas in Hollis," sneakers in hip-hop culture, and adidas' latest designer, Kanye West.  

Interview by Larry Gallagher (@Writing_Wrambler)

How did this project come about?

It’s just crazy. I mean first of all, they did the JMJ (Jam Master Jay) sneaker, then they did the “My adidas" ’86 sneaker and adidas always wanted to do special edition RUN DMC sneakers. Last week, I was actually at the headquarters in Portland and I was doing a tour and this lady who designed them was like. “ Hey what do you think of these?” I was like, “Oh shoot, what the hell are those?” And then I noticed it was "Christmas in Hollis."

Were you happy to see that Keith Haring design on the tongue?

Yeah, just a whole ‘nother level. I remember in 1986 when he did the artwork for the RUN DMC line, I remember that photoshoot, but to do a "Christmas in Hollis" sneaker, that’s like being crowned King of England cause every year since we made that record. I can’t even go to the mall right now without somebody saying, “It’s Christmas time, in Hollis, Queens.”

Yeah, it really has become one of those classic Christmas songs.

Right, which was unheard of, because now it’s like, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and RUN DMC. When we first did the record, we thought it was just gonna be one and done. Like, “Oh, Yo Run and D did this Christmas record." But then let’s say it came out in ‘86, we were thinking after ‘88 it’d be over with, but it gets more famous every year. And to put out a "Christmas in Hollis" Keith Haring sneaker now, that’s just a whole ‘nother level ‘cause the sneaker culture is so big.

Oh, definitely. We see all these Christmas releases now from the different brands but this is actually grounded in something that was “real."

Right, this is hip hop. It’s crazy, it brings the whole thing together, too: sneaker culture, traditional community, people things, fashion, the music. This "Christmas in Hollis" adidas is just a whole ‘nother level.

In the midst of all the commercial bullshit, sneaker culture keeps it real.

You’ve been traveling the world for over 30 years. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of different sneaker cultures in places like Japan, Germany etc. Are there any big differences that have caught your eye as the culture has grown and changed over the years?

No, the thing that I’ve seen since, well you know it’s almost like RUN DMC has been appointed ambassadors of the sneaker culture. When we made the “My Adidas” record, and 25 years later people are saying, “Y'all down with this." What I notice most is that it’s just so huge, I mean it's so huge and it brings so many cultures together. Germany, Japan, America, all over. And the good thing about it is it’s just like real hip hop. It was here before people started noticing it. So that’s real. It’s global. Sneaker culture is a global cultural phenomenon.

No question, it brings people together like few other things can.

For sure, it keeps the real hip hop alive, too.  In the midst of all the commercial bullshit, sneaker culture keeps it real. Like you know what I think is special about RUN DMC and adidas? Even though we made the record and people say, “Yeah y'all are legends, you're pioneers,” the RUN DMC relationship with adidas is a statement. You could have the dopest Jordans, you could have the throwback, I don’t even know how to pronounce those, El-E-Say? Yo, how do you pronounce those? (DMC points at the shoes on the wall and asks owner Mike Packer who tells him it’s the Ellesses). OK, you can have the dope ass Ellesses, but you could go buy the 2014 adidas Shell Toe and walk in a room full of tradition and throwbacks and you’re making a statement. That’s what’s good about it. It’s not about us.

Looking back at what you guys did with RUN DMC, getting that first hip hop contract from adidas and showing them that hip hop was good for their business, what do think now about artists, like with Kanye West coming to adidas now?

We don’t have to be held to a standard of 'Oh you can only do that.' I think that's one of Kanye’s beefs.

Yeah, our thing was based on creativity. The whole thing of hip-hop was based on creativity. We had no idea we were gonna make it a business. You know we had no idea we’d be opening a door. But it shows that whatever field you are an artist in, you can contribute to other areas. You know the musicians can contribute to fashion--the fashion guys can contribute to movies. We can contribute to art, entertainment, literature, stage, anything that is artistic. We don’t have to be held to a standard of “Oh you can only do that." I think that’s one of Kanye’s beefs. He hears, “You're only a musician, shut up.” But he’s like, “No, but I have so much more inside of me." So not only did we open the doors for the business, but we also opened the creative “black hole."

As we wrap it up, this whole shoe is representing the Christmas season. For you, what’s that one memory, sneaker related or not that stands out to you about this time of year. What really represents “Christmas in Hollis” for you?

Oh man, it has to be my mother. That rhyme that I said on "Christmas in Hollis," the food. Every year, all that food. (laughter)