Def Jam Recordings

Def Jam Recordings
Def Jam Recordings
Parent company Universal Music Group
Founded 1984
Founder Rick Rubin
Russell Simmons
LL Cool J
Distributor(s) The Island Def Jam Motown Music Group
(In the US)
Mercury Records
(Outside the US)
Genre Various
Country of origin United States
Location New York City
Official Website

Def Jam Recordings is an American record label, focused primarily on hip hop and urban music, owned by Universal Music Group, and operates as a part of The Island Def Jam Motown Music Group. In the UK, the label takes on the name Def Jam UK and is operated through Mercury Music Group, while in Japan, it is Def Jam Japan operating through Universal Sigma Music.


Company history

Def Jam was created by Rick Rubin in his dorm room in Weinstein Hall at New York University[1] 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.[2] 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.

Def Jam under PolyGram

By 1992, despite recent multi-platinum selling releases from LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and EPMD, Def Jam ran into severe financial troubles and was faced with folding. However, in 1994, PolyGram purchased Sony's 50% stake in Def Jam Recordings — subsequently bringing the label into its fold. Following PolyGram’s purchase, Def Jam distributed the Violator Records signed artist Warren G's Regulate... G Funk Era album, which went triple platinum and brought much-needed revenue to Def Jam through its distribution deal with Violator.[3]

PolyGram acquired an additional 9.8% in Def Jam Recordings in 1995, further strengthening its ownership of Def Jam. Shortly thereafter, Rush Associated Labels was renamed Def Jam Music Group. The label remained profitable as its veteran star LL Cool J released his successful album Mr. Smith in 1995. The label later signed Foxy Brown, whose debut album Ill Na Na became a platinum seller in 1997.

Def Jam under Universal Music Group

In 1998, PolyGram was purchased by Seagram, and the MCA and PolyGram families of labels merged into Universal Music Group. Following MCA's takeover of PolyGram, it purchased the remaining interest of Def Jam Recordings from Russell Simmons for a reported $100 million. Universal merged Def Jam with Island Records to form The Island Def Jam Music Group. In spite of the formation of IDJMG, Def Jam and Island continue to operate as separate imprints underneath the bigger umbrella.

Dick Cohen was appointed president of IDJMG, and Kevin Liles succeeded him as president of Def Jam. In 1999, Def Jam created an R&B spin-off label called Def Soul Recordings, which inherited many of Island Records' urban artists (and also some from Mercury Records), including Dru Hill and its lead singer Sisqó, The Isley Brothers and Kelly Price. Def Soul also issued recordings by Musiq, Montell Jordan, Case, 112, Patti LaBelle, and Christina Milian. Island's 4th & B'way Records was also folded into Def Jam.

Also in 1999, the label also began distributing releases by Murder Inc. Records, run by former Def Jam executive Irv Gotti. Murder Inc.'s roster of artists would include Ja Rule, Ashanti, Lloyd, Vita. The following year, it launched another subsidiary, Def Jam South, which focused on Southern rap and distributed releases from labels such as Disturbing tha Peace, whose artists have included Ludacris, Chingy, and Bobby Valentino. Russell Simmons tapped Texas-born and raised rap legend Scarface (aka Brad Jordan) as the original head of Def Jam South. After about a 4-year run at Def Jam South, Scarface negotiated a release from the company in 2003. The label is currently run by Miami-based DJ Khaled.

Def Jam in the 2000s

In 2001, Lyor Cohen announced Def Jam Germany, the first international Def Jam company. This increased the label's presence around the world. Def Jam Germany signed German rappers Spezializtz, and Philly MC. The label was located in Berlin and opened on May 23, 2000. In addition to signing and marketing local artists, Def Jam Germany also marketed all U.S. signed Def Jam artists in the German territory.

The second international label is a Japanese branch, Def Jam Japan (デフ・ジャム・ジャパン Defu Jamu Japan?), also founded in 2000.[4] Its artist roster include AI, Teriyaki Boyz and Nitro Microphone Underground.

In 2003, Def Soul was absorbed into its Def Jam parent. A year later, Murder Inc. became the center of a money laundering investigation involving illegal profits from drug trade,[5] leading to the label's eventual release from its distribution contract by 2005. Roc-A-Fella Records was sold to the company in 2004, by which time it had launched the career of producer-turned-rapper Kanye West.

DMX helped the company to great heights during 1998 and 1999 selling millions of records and revived hardcore hip hop during this time. The same year, Cohen left IDJMG for Warner Music Group, and was replaced by former Arista executive L.A. Reid. An unhappy Liles eventually decided to follow Cohen to Warner.[6] A bidding war for Jay-Z's contract began, and Reid appointed Jay-Z president of Def Jam.[6]

Under Jay-Z's leadership, Def Jam launched new successful acts such as contemporary R&B singers like Rihanna, Ne-Yo, and Kanye West. Jay-Z's contract as president of Def Jam was not renewed, forcing him to step down at the end of 2007, remaining with Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings as a recording artist.[7] Following Jay-Z's resignation as president, L.A. Reid took over leadership of the label, as opposed to hiring a replacement, and promptly signed rapper Luke Death, who was dropped months later, before releasing any music. It was announced in early June 2008 that Def Jam A&R executive Shakir Stewart, credited with bringing Rick Ross to the label, would take over as vice president of Def Jam. Stewart committed suicide on November 1, 2008.[8][9] Oct 20 2011 Lewis Broome,iii becomes Vice President.

VH1 Hip-Hop Honors

Def Jam was an honoree of the sixth annual VH1 Hip Hop Honors.


Def Jam Recordings discography


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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  • List of current Def Jam Recordings artists — This is a list of artists who currently record for Def Jam Recordings. Listed in parentheses are names of Def Jam affiliated labels, under which the artist record. NOTOC A*Ace Hood (Def Jam/We The Best Music) *AmerieB* Bloodraw (Blood… …   Wikipedia

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