The record label dropped singles from the likes of punk band Hose and rappers T La Rock & Jazzy Jay. However it wasn’t until a 16-year-old MC from Farmers, Queens sent Rubin a demo that the label really started.
That 16-year-old was LL Cool J. And in 1985 he released his debut album Radio. From there, the label would go an unparalleled run of excellence.
If you look at the evolution of hip-hop, Def Jam records constantly had a say in the direction music was going. From the political conscious rap black power era of the late ’80s (Public Enemy) to the grimy East Coast sounds of the late ’90s (DMX) to the Atlanta Southern boom of the mid aughts (Jeezy), Def Jam has always found a way to lead the pack.
Tonight they celebrate their legacy. Def Jam’s 30 Year Anniversary show is going down at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Appearing on stage are some of the greatest Def Jam acts of all time: Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, DMX, Ashanti, EPMD and more. (Russell Simmons also will be in the building, FYI.)
Before you turn up tonight, take a look at the most important acts in Def Jam’s history.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty