Def Jam Recordings

Last updated
Def Jam Recordings
DefJamRecordings.svg
Parent company Universal Music Group
Founded1984;35 years ago (1984)
Founder
Distributor(s)
Genre Hip hop
Country of origin United States
Location New York City, New York, U.S.
Official website defjam.com

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 Records, while in Japan, it is known as Def Jam Japan, operating through Universal Music Japan. The label distributes releases of various record labels, including Kanye West's GOOD Music, [1] [2] and Listen Up Forever Records, headed by producer, Ronny J. Current artists include Justin Bieber, Logic, Big Sean, Kanye West, Nas, 2 Chainz, Teyana Taylor, YG, Dave East, Jeezy, Jeremih, Q-Tip, Valee, Pusha T, Vince Staples, Fabolous, Desiigner and Jhené Aiko.

A record label, or record company, is a brand or trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Sometimes, a record label is also a publishing company that manages such brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of copyright for sound recordings and music videos; also conducting talent scouting and development of new artists ; and maintains contracts with recording artists and their managers. The term "record label" derives from the circular label in the center of a vinyl record which prominently displays the manufacturer's name, along with other information.

Hip hop music music genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping

Hip hop music, also called hip-hop or rap music, is a music genre developed in the United States by inner-city African Americans in the late 1970s which consists of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted. It developed as part of hip hop culture, a subculture defined by four key stylistic elements: MCing/rapping, DJing/scratching with turntables, break dancing, and graffiti writing. Other elements include sampling beats or bass lines from records, and rhythmic beatboxing. While often used to refer solely to rapping, "hip hop" more properly denotes the practice of the entire subculture. The term hip hop music is sometimes used synonymously with the term rap music, though rapping is not a required component of hip hop music; the genre may also incorporate other elements of hip hop culture, including DJing, turntablism, scratching, beatboxing, and instrumental tracks.

Urban contemporary, also known as urban pop, or just simply urban, is a music radio format. The term was coined by New York radio DJ Frankie Crocker in the early to mid-1970s. Urban contemporary radio stations feature a playlist made up entirely of genres such as R&B, pop-rap, British R&B, quiet storm, adult contemporary, hip hop, Latin music such as Latin pops, Chicano R&B, Chicano rap, and Caribbean music such as reggae. Urban contemporary was developed through the characteristics of genres such as R&B and soul. Largely a US phenomenon, virtually all urban contemporary formatted radio stations in the United States are located in cities that have sizeable African-American populations, such as New York City, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, Montgomery, Memphis, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Oakland, Los Angeles, Flint, Baltimore, Boston, Birmingham, and Jackson. Urban contemporary music is also very popular in France and the United Kingdom.

Contents

Company history

Founding and CBS Records Group era (1983–1994)

Def Jam was co-founded by Rick Rubin in his dormitory in Weinstein Hall at New York University [3] 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, according to one story, by Vincent Gallo. [4] Another cites DJ Jazzy Jay as their connector. [5] Rubin has said he met Simmons on the TV show, Graffiti Rock and recognized him then as "the face of hip hop": "He was five years older than me, and he was already established in the music business. And I had no experience whatsoever." [6] The first single released with the 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 through Columbia Records the following year.

Rick Rubin American music producer

Frederick Jay Rubin is an American record producer and former co-president of Columbia Records. Along with Russell Simmons, he is the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and also established American Recordings. With the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Geto Boys, and Run-DMC, Rubin helped popularize hip hop music.

New York University private research university in New York, NY, United States

New York University (NYU) is a private research university spread throughout the world. Founded in 1831, NYU's historical campus is in Greenwich Village, New York City. As a global university, students can graduate from its degree-granting campuses in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, as well as study at its 12 academic centers in Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Washington, D.C.

Hose is an "artcore" and garage punk band from the 1980s founded by producer and Def Jam creator Rick Rubin. Hose's 12-inch EP was the first recording released with the Def Jam logo.

This created a short-lived subsidiary label called OBR Records, short for Original Black Recordings, which 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". A few years later, Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen started an umbrella label called Rush Associated Labels to handle Def Jam and its numerous spinoff labels. RAL became the home to Nice & Smooth and EPMD after both acts were acquired due to the folding of their former label Sleeping Bag Records. [7] Other acts under the RAL umbrella included Redman, Onyx, Flatlinerz, Domino, Warren G and Jayo Felony. Def Jam also signed its first and only thrash metal band, Slayer, in 1986, and the band's third and fourth albums were the only two Def Jam releases to be distributed through Geffen Records under Warner Bros. Records as opposed to Columbia/CBS. 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/RAL in 1988, after winning a power struggle with Rubin, who would shortly thereafter leave the company to form Def American Recordings. Rubin would take Slayer with him to Def American in its initial stages.

Oran "Juice" Jones is a retired American R&B singer.

The Rain (Oran "Juice" Jones song) 1986 single by Oran "Juice" Jones

"The Rain" is a 1986 crossover hit single originally performed by R&B singer Oran "Juice" Jones, which he released on and from his debut album Juice.

Nice & Smooth is an East Coast hip hop duo from New York City that consists of Greg "Greg Nice" Mays and Daryl "Smooth B" Barnes, plus their deejay Tedd "DJ Teddy Tedd" Whiting. The duo released four albums between 1989 and 1997. Their first collaborative appearance was on the single "Dope on a Rope"/"Skill Trade" on Strange Family Records in 1987. On the strength of that underground single they managed a guest spot on the song "Pimpin Ain't Easy" by Big Daddy Kane on his 1989 album It's a Big Daddy Thing.

PolyGram era (1994–1998)

By 1992, despite recent multi-platinum selling releases from 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. [8]

EPMD American hip-hop group

EPMD is an American hip hop group from Brentwood, New York. The group's name is a concatenation of the members' names "E" and "PMD" or an acronym for "Erick and Parrish Making Dollars", referencing its members: emcees Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith. During an interview on college radio station WHOV in 1987, Parrish Smith stated that the name evolved from the original: "We were originally known as "EEPMD", but chose to go with EPMD because it was easier to say." He also stated that they dropped the two "E's" because N.W.A.'s Eric Wright was already using "Eazy-E" as his stage name. The group has been active for 33 years, and is one of the most prominent acts in east coast hip hop. DJ K La Boss and DJ Scratch were DJs for the group and their current DJ is DJ Diamond J

PolyGram, founded in 1962, acquired by Universal Music Group in 1998 and merged into that group in 1999, was a Dutch entertainment company, which started as a major record label founded by Dutch Philips and German Siemens as a holding company for their music interests in 1972. The name was chosen to reflect the Siemens interest Polydor Records and the Philips interest Phonogram Records. The company traced its origins through Deutsche Grammophon back to the inventor of the flat disk gramophone, Emil Berliner.

Warren G American rapper

Warren Griffin III, is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer and DJ, known as one of the pioneers of West Coast hip hop. Griffin's career began in the early 1990s as part of the California hip-hop trio 213 alongside Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg, but he is best known for his work as a solo artist, most notably for his first two studio albums, Take a Look Over Your Shoulder and Regulate...G Funk Era, which are certified gold and triple platinum respectively by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

PolyGram acquired an additional 10% in Def Jam Recordings in 1996, 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.

<i>Mr. Smith</i> (album) album by LL Cool J

Mr. Smith is the sixth studio album by American hip hop recording artist LL Cool J, released on November 21, 1995 by Def Jam. The album has been certified Double Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

Foxy Brown (rapper) American rapper, model, and actress

Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand, known professionally as Foxy Brown, is an American rapper best known for her solo work, as well as numerous collaborations with other artists and her brief stint as part of hip hop group The Firm. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, her father Winston Marchand abandoned the family at a young age to pursue his career at ERAC records. Her albums include Ill Na Na in 1996, followed by Chyna Doll in 1999 and Grammy-nominated Broken Silence in 2001. She also performed on the 1997 self-titled album by the Firm, the only album to be released by that group to date. She has held an extensive arrest record and served some time in jail.

<i>Ill Na Na</i> album by Foxy Brown

Ill Na Na is the debut studio album by American rapper Foxy Brown, released on November 19, 1996 by Def Jam Recordings. It was reissued on September 29, 1997 in the United Kingdom with an addition of the song "Big Bad Mamma". Brown began working on the album after being discovered by the production team Trackmasters and appearing on a number of singles by other artists, such as LL Cool J, Case and Jay Z. The immediate success of the singles led to a bidding war at the beginning of 1996, and in March, Def Jam Recordings won and signed the then 17-year-old rapper to the label. Mostly produced by Trackmasters, Ill Na Na features guest appearances from Blackstreet, Havoc, Method Man, Kid Capri and Jay Z. Lyrically, the album mainly focuses on themes of fashion, sex and mafia.

The Island Def Jam Music Group founding (1998–2000)

In 1998, PolyGram was purchased by Seagram and merged with the MCA family of labels, which became Universal Music Group. It then purchased the remaining interest of Def Jam Recordings from Russell Simmons for a reported $100 million. UMG merged 14+ record labels including: Def Jam, Island Records and Mercury Records to form The Island Def Jam Music Group. Despite the formation of IDJMG, the Def Jam, Mercury, and Island labels continued to operate as separate imprints underneath the bigger umbrella.

Seagram Canadian multinational conglomerate

Seagram Company Ltd. was a Canadian multinational conglomerate formerly headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. Originally a distiller of Canadian whisky based in Waterloo, Ontario, it was once the largest owner of alcoholic beverage lines in the world.

Universal Music Group American music corporation

Universal Music Group is an American global music corporation that is a subsidiary of the French media conglomerate Vivendi. UMG's global corporate headquarters are located in Santa Monica, California. It is considered one of the "Big Three" record labels, along with Sony Music and Warner Music Group. Since 2004, the corporation is no longer related to the film studio Universal Studios.

Island Records British international record label of Jamaican origin; imprint of Island Records Ltd.

Island Records is a British record label owned by Universal Music Group. It was founded in 1959 by Chris Blackwell, Graeme Goodall, and Leslie Kong in Jamaica, and was eventually sold to PolyGram in 1989. Island and A&M Records, another label recently acquired by PolyGram, were both at the time the largest independent record labels in history, with Island in particular having exerted a major influence on the progressive music scene in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s.

Lyor Cohen was appointed co-president of IDJMG, and Kevin Liles succeeded him as president of Def Jam. In 1999, IDJMG created a R&B spin-off label called Def Soul Recordings to run alongside Def Jam Recordings, which inherited many of Island Records' urban artists, 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. Kevin Liles also served as President of Def Soul Records.

Also in 1999, the label began to distribute 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 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.

2000s

In 2000, The Island Def Jam Music Group announced the formation of 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. But the German division folded just two years later in 2002. Many of the artists were picked up by Universal/Urban, while others did not get a new contract. [9]

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. [10] Their artist roster has included AI, Teriyaki Boyz, Nitro Microphone Underground, and South Korean boy band BTS.

In 2003, Murder Inc. became the center of a money laundering investigation involving illegal profits from drug trade, [11] leading to the label's eventual release from its distribution contract by 2005. The final shares of Roc-A-Fella Records were sold to The Island Def Jam Music Group in 2004, by which time it had launched the career of producer-turned-rapper Kanye West.

In 2004, Cohen left IDJMG for Warner Music Group, and was replaced by former Arista and later Epic executive L.A. Reid. An unhappy Liles eventually decided to follow Cohen to Warner. [12] A bidding war for Jay-Z's contract began, and Reid appointed Jay-Z president of Def Jam. [12]

Under Jay-Z's leadership, Def Jam launched the successful careers of contemporary R&B singers Rihanna and Ne-Yo. At the end of 2007, Jay-Z decided not to renew his contract as the President and CEO of Def Jam in order to start his new venture, Roc Nation. [13] Following Jay-Z's departure, L.A. Reid took over leadership of the label, as opposed to hiring a replacement. In June 2008, Shakir Stewart was appointed as Executive Vice President of Def Jam, a position that was previously left vacant since December 2007.

2010s

In March 2012, it was announced that former Warner Bros. Records executive Joie Manda would become the first president of Def Jam since Jay-Z. [14] Until March 2013 when he exited his post at Def Jam and it was announced he'd be heading up the urban division of Interscope Records by his former boss, Barry Weiss. [15] The-Dream served as Def Jam's executive vice president of A&R at Def Jam between 2012 and 2014. No I.D. upholded the position of executive vice president after helping to establish GOOD Music with Kanye West. [16] No I.D. is now the executive vice president of Capitol Music Group.

On April 1, 2014, it was announced that Island Def Jam would no longer be active following the resignation of CEO Barry Weiss. A press release serviced by Universal Music Group stated that IDJMG, and all of its assets would be reorganized into Def Jam Recordings, Island Records and Motown Records, all as separate entities. [17]

Def Jam Recordings operates as a stand-alone label within Universal Music Group. Def Jam signed Dani Leigh to the label in early 2017. Steve Bartels served a time as President/CEO of Def Jam Recording until it was announced on August 3, 2017 that as of January 2018, Eminem's longtime manager and co-founder of Shady Records, Paul Rosenberg has been appointed Chairman/CEO of Def Jam Recordings. [18]

Presidents

Executive Vice Presidents

Notable current artists

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