Run-DMC's Darryl McDaniels Jokingly Takes Credit for Existence of Yeezy on 40th Anniversary of Debut Album (Exclusive)

"No pearls, no braids, still get paid. I'm one of the reasons why Yeezys can be made," McDaniels told PEOPLE at the Garden of Laughs benefit on Wednesday night

<p>getty (2)</p> Darryl McDaniels; Kanye West

getty (2)

Darryl McDaniels; Kanye West

Before Kanye West had Yeezy — Run-DMC had Adidas.

Speaking to PEOPLE at Garden of Laughs benefit in New York City on Wednesday night, Run-DMC's Darryl McDaniels reflected on Run-DMC's first performance at Madison Square Garden — where they had an iconic Adidas moment that connected rap music and sneakers for years to come.

"We held a sneaker up and we became the first non-athletic entity to receive a major endorsement from a sports apparel company," McDaniels, 59, tells PEOPLE exclusively, before rapping about the impact this moment had on rap artists to follow — like West with his Yeezy shoe brand.

"No pearls, no braids, still get paid. I'm one of the reasons why Yeezys can be made. And that's fact," he says.

McDaniels adds, "I still remember it like yesterday. It was crazy. And what was crazy about performing here, 1986 at the Garden, we walked to the Garden from the hotel. So it was like being in our own neighborhood, having a cookout at the Garden."

Related: Run-DMC's Rev Run Says He Still Rocks Adidas — But With 'Loosely Fitting' Laces Because He's '59' (Exclusive)

In a February interview with McDaniels, he told PEOPLE that Adidas were "all I can wear" and recalled how "happy" he was when he got his first pair. After Run-DMC scored a deal with the brand — he quickly realized that their relationship was about bringing people together.

"It's what those sneakers mean. They represent positivity, creativity, something good. No division — bringing White, Black, Puerto Rican, bringing rock and hip hop together," he said. "There's so many important values that by Run-DMC wearing and repping those sneakers, people want to be part of."

"When you put those sneakers on, it's not about the product itself," he continued. "It's about the person with those sneakers on, hip-hop has given us the confidence to be enthusiastic about who you are."

<p>Noam Galai/Getty</p> Darryl McDaniels in New York City in September 2023

Noam Galai/Getty

Darryl McDaniels in New York City in September 2023

This year's sold-out Garden of Laughs benefit was the biggest fundraiser to date, raising more than $2 million for the Garden of Dreams foundation.

Elsewhere in his conversation with PEOPLE, McDaniels reflected on the 40th anniversary of Run-DMC's debut album, which they celebrated on Wednesday.

"It feels great, but it feels like yesterday. Most people say, 'Oh, that was a long time ago.' It was a long time ago, but I still remember going to the studio to make that first album," he says.

Related: Run-DMC's Darryl McDaniels 'Was Drinking a Case of Olde English a Day' While Struggling with Depression

"I really don't dwell on my accomplishments. What it does, it inspires me to keep doing the good works because I guess it means something," he continues. "For me to be here still after 40 years means I still got a lot of work to do. That's why I'm here at the Garden of Dreams, doing everything I can not only with my music to make the world better, but to make the world better by doing better things with great people."

In addition to his music, McDaniels has been outspoken about the importance of mental health — and he plans to continue to push the message.

"The reason why is, first of all, as DMC, the mighty king of rock, the greatest thing to happen not to just hip hop, to music, [was] admitting that he's vulnerable and confused and afraid and I'm an alcoholic and I got OCD. They're seeing how powerful it is to admit when you think you're weak," he explains.

He adds, "So they're like, 'Wow, if DMC could do it, then maybe I can.' My greatest achievement isn't Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammys. I'm living, breathing proof that you could beat and defeat whatever it is that you're struggling against."

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