10 Years Ago, Rakim, Nas, Kanye West & KRS-One Made A Classic (Video)
This week, a new video with D.M.C. revealed how telling his verse on “My Adidas” truly was. The Hollis, Queens superstar MC pointed back to the lyrics claiming he took the beat of the street and put it on TV. In doing just as Darryl McDaniels said, the world followed, and Run-D.M.C. was able to be a true messenger of a 10-year old music culture that they loved, lived, and studied.
One of Run-D.M.C.’s biggest developments was showing the corporate world how influential Hip-Hop could be. “My Adidas,” from the trio’s third LP, Raising Hell, was about more than just branding. The apparel brand listened and invested in the Profile Records act, and next intervened in letting the guys be themselves. Run, D.M.C., and Jam Master Jay expressed why sneakers mattered in a concrete world, and millions could relate to the miles they walked to fame and fortune. Across 1980s Hip-Hop, artists shouted out their brands (Schoolly D and Steady B gave props to Fila, as MC Shan saluted Puma, and the Geto Boys’ Willie D wanted people to “Read These Nikes”). While not all artists were so lucky to receive payments from the brands they endorsed, many since have. From 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg, to Kanye West and De La Soul, there have been partnerships large and small in Hip-Hop.
Ten years ago this week, Nike commissioned a move that understated their influence, and celebrated the music. “Classic” assembled two 1980s Rap giants in Rakim and KRS-One and linked them together. Then, one of Rakim’s former students, Nas, was brought along, as well as one of Hip-Hop’s hottest 2000s artists, Kanye West.
There were two versions of the resulting song (which never mentions “Nike” by name in the lyrics, while Nas and Ra’ shout out Air Force 1’s). The more popular one, was from Gang Starr’s DJ Premier (who appeared in the video). The other was co-produced by Preemo and Rick Rubin (also partly responsible for the sounds on “My Adidas”). In that version, Rakim’s verse did not appear.
Overall, the visual was simple: great artists at work in a hideaway studio. There is no flash, all skills (with some of Hip-Hop’s other elements featured). As the chorus states “I’m better than I’ve ever been,” each MC tries to put their best flow forward. Rakim addresses his album drought (which he’d end in 2009, before starting another one). With a sure-handed flow, the Long Island legend lets the beat break, and shows off his slick delivery. Next up, ‘Ye gives props to pioneers and Nas, while acknowledging his emerging snobbishness. Even mentioning his college exodus, the verse sounded like a carryover from his highly-respected first two albums. Getting next, Kris lays down his decorated resumé, and gives props to his slain partner Scott La Rock, along with J.M.J. The verse restates the foundation that the B.D.P. MC teaches in his Temple Of Hip-Hop at a part of his career where he was veering back towards the Underground with albums.
The same year that Kanye West (who would reunite with DJ Premier and Rubin to follow) would topple 50 Cent in the Graduation vs. Curtis sales battle, he joined his influences to remind Hip-Hop that he was still a product of the pure sound. For Nas, Rakim, and KRS-One (who would release his Hip Hop Lives LP later that year with Marley Marl), the song represented one of the biggest collaborations in their careers. The song would end up on none of their albums, but remains a classic moment in time.