Back & Forth – Part 1 of 4
Two music pioneers square off in this special edition of Noisey’s Back & Forth series focused on the 30th Anniversary of the legendary Def Jam Recordings. Def Jam founders Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin talk about the early days of the label, their first twelve-inch release, LL Cool J’s hit “Radio,” and LL Cool J’s involvement with Run-D.M.C. in this clip, available via Noisey for the first time.
Check out the Back & Forth Playlist: http://bit.ly/OBa3Kz
Celebrate three decades of the goliath that is Def Jam Recordings at their anniversary bash, set to take place on October 16th at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Look for appearances ranging from Rick Ross to 2 Chainz to EPMD to Ja Rule to Jeremih.
Def Jam Recordings is an American record label, focused predominantly on hip hop and urban music, owned by Universal Music Group. In the UK, the label takes on the name Def Jam UK and is operated through Virgin EMI, while in Japan, it is Def Jam Japan operating through Universal Sigma Music. The label distributes various record labels, including Roc-A-Fella Records, Kanye West’s GOOD Music, Ludacris’ Disturbing Tha Peace, and No ID’s ARTium Recordings.
Def Jam was founded by Rick Rubin in his dorm room in Weinstein Hall at New York University and its first release was a single by his punk-rock group Hose. Russell Simmons joined Rubin shortly after they were introduced to each other by Vincent Gallo. The first single released with a Def Jam Recordings logo was T La Rock & Jazzy Jay’s “It’s Yours.” The first releases with Def Jam Recordings catalog numbers were LL Cool J’s “I Need a Beat” and the Beastie Boys’ “Rock Hard,” both in 1984. The singles sold well, eventually leading to a distribution deal with CBS Records (which would later become Sony Music Entertainment) through Columbia Records the following year. This created a short-lived subsidiary label called OBR Records, catered toward R&B artists — the first artist signed to that imprint was Oran “Juice” Jones, who enjoyed success with his hit single “The Rain”. Def Jam also signed its first and only thrash metal band, Slayer, in 1986, and the band’s debut album was one of only two Def Jam releases to be distributed through Geffen Records, as opposed to Columbia. As the decade drew to a close, the label signed Public Enemy, whose controversial lyrical content garnered the company both critical acclaim and disdain. Lyor Cohen became president of Def Jam in 1988, after winning a power struggle with Rubin, who would shortly thereafter leave the company to form Def American Recordings (now known as American Recordings). Rubin would take Slayer with him to Def American in its initial stages.