This History of Run-D.M.C. and adidas As Told By D.M.C.

Hear the story behind the most successful important sneaker partnership in hip-hop history directly from the source.

words // Zac Dubasik

You’d have a hard time finding a stronger sneaker association in all of music than the one adidas shares with hip-hop legends Run-D.M.C. It’s been that way ever since the “My adidas” track dropped all the way back in 1986, and it’s why they easily topped our Best Partnerships Between Rappers and Sneaker Companies list.

There was more to the song than just selling shoes, which is the way some current endorsements appear to work. Run-D.M.C. weren’t bragging about how many pairs they had, but simply talking about what they wore, and what it represented.

A while back we caught up with D.M.C., and got the full story behind exactly how this partnership came to be. Check out the following excerpt from Sole Collector Issue 21, as D.M.C. tells the story in his own words"

As Told by D.M.C.

Well back in ’86, we were doing the Raising Hell album, and we rapped about everything, you know what I’m saying. Run-D.M.C., we rapped about everything we would look, touch, eat or sleep or thought about.

The whole adidas record actually came about – there was a doctor in our neighborhood named Dr. Deas, and he was like this community activist dude. He even wrote a little pamphlet and he put it around the neighborhood called Fellon Shoes, where he was saying [that] kids and youth in the streets that wore Lee jeans and Kangol hats and gold chains and PUMAs and adidas without shoe laces were the thugs, the drug dealers and the low lifes of the community.

So, when we heard that, we were like, “How in the world is he gonna judge a book by its cover?” So, we said, “Let’s do a record about our sneakers; let’s talk about the sneakers that we wear on our feet, but let’s put a positive spin on it to throw it in the face of this Dr. Deas, who’s trying to judge the youth just by appearances.” Like, you can’t judge a book by its cover. We’re young; we’re educated. A lot of us go to school; a lot of us have jobs. A lot of us, even though we look like our peers in the neighborhood – but you can’t judge everybody by that.

So, we wrote the record “Adidas,” and we just wanted to say because we had a chance to create hip-hop and travel around the world and do good things with hip-hop. That’s why we said, “My adidas walked though concert doors, roamed all over coliseum floors, stepped on stage at Live Aid.” … How you gonna look at us, not knowing you just said everybody wearing these sneakers … Don’t you know I just stepped on stage at Live Aid? The people gave and the poor got paid.

So, we actually did the record “Adidas” because we loved adidas. Even before we had the record deal, we wore adidas in the hood. You would save your allowance to get adidas, you know what I’m saying. You would just take a job anywhere just to save up enough money to get some fresh, new adidas. So, we loved adidas.

Once we started making records, because of this Dr. Deas guy, we wanted to put a positive spin on it. Now, we put the record out, right, and the record was buzzin’, blowing up. We had “Peter Piper,” “My Adidas” [and] “Walk This Way” out. And the adidas company, people that worked there throughout those years were like, “You know, while we were there and we would look at the graphs and the charts then, you know, we had a steady line across the board, but then, all of a sudden, in ’86, the line just shot through the roof.”

The corporation itself didn’t know why. So, they had … a guy in L.A. named Angelo Anastasio. He was current with the pop and the rock, you know the club scene and the athletes and the designers and all of that. People were like, “You know, Anastasio, have you heard this Run-D.M.C.?” He was like, “Huh, what, what, what the hell is a Run-D.M.C. and rap music, huh?” So, they put him up on it, so he went to adidas and said, “You know, listen, I know what’s going on. There’s this rap group Run-D.M.C. that made this, so adidas assigned him to leave L.A. to fly to New York to go to the show that Run-D.M.C. was doing in Madison Square Garden.

He came … and he was hanging backstage. … But, when Run went out there during the show, “D, take it off your feet; hold it up. What’s those? Everybody in here, if you got adidas on, hold ‘em up.” So, 40,000 people in a sold-out Madison Square Garden held a sneaker up and Anastasio was like, “Oh my god, it’s true.”

So, he got back on the plane, went to L.A., told them it was true; L.A. sent him to Germany to go meet with the adidas family. … He went there, “Listen, guys …”, and they’re German guys, “There’s a rap group called Run-D.M.C. and the reason why those charts are shooting up off the charts for Shell Toes is because they made record.” And they went, “Hold up, hold up Angelo, first of all, what the hell is rap music and what in the world is a Run-D.M.C.?” And then the rest is history.

Latest in Sneakers