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Before 50 Cent, JAY Z and Puffy were signing 9-figure endorsement deals with major brands, it was Run–D.M.C. who broke down the door back in the ’80s, which led to a huge revenue stream for rappers today.

It all started in 1986. The trio had just dropped their groundbreaking third album, Raising Hell (which included the single “My Adidas”), and were set to perform at Madison Square Garden. Lyor Cohen, who was their road manager at the time, had invited Angelo Anastasio, an Adidas executive, to the show.

When it came time for Run-D.M.C to perform “My Adidas,” Run asked the crowd to hold their sneakers in the air. Seeing the crowd of thousands hold up their Adidas sneakers in the air, Anastasio realised the power of hip-hop marketing and was quick to sign Run-D.M.C to a $1 million endorsement deal, which also included their own signature line.

“Angelo Anastasio, an executive at Adidas at the time, came to see us at Madison Square Garden in 1986,” D.M.C. recalled in an interview with GQ. “The record had already been out for around three months, and when Run said: ‘Take your trainer off and hold it up’, I held up my sneaker up to 20,000 people in the audience, and they did the same. It was crazy.”

I think the relationship with Adidas legitimised our culture, because before it happened, people said it’s just a fad, rap music is just a fad, it’s negative, it’s not good, nobody will ever like it. So our relationship with Adidas legitimised us, because it was a whole other world, that was very well respected, that was very household, families; so people said if rap is so bad, how come Adidas is messing with these rappers right here? So it gave us some legitimacy, for sure. And it took us from the streets to mainstream white America.

Exclusive interview: insights from Run DMC | adidas Group
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