Def Jam was created by Rick Rubin in his dorm room 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 DJ Jazzy Jay. The first single released with a Def Jam Recordings logo was T La Rock & Jazzy Jay “It’s Yours.” The first releases with a Def Jam Recordings catalogue number 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) 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 their first and only thrash metal band Slayer in 1986, and their debut album was the only Def Jam release 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 their initial stages.
Rush Associated Labels
In 1990, Russell Simmons created Rush Associated Labels, an umbrella group dedicated to controlling more of its material by owning more of their own masters, and expanding the Def Jam family by providing an outlet for producers to form their own boutique and auxiliary labels.
 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. Salvation came in 1994, however, when PolyGram purchased Sony’s 50% stake in Def Jam Recordings — subsequently bringing the label into their fold. Following PolyGram’s acquisition of the company, Def Jam released Warren G’s Regulate… G Funk Era, which went triple platinum and effectively revived the label.
PolyGram acquired an additional 9.8% in Def Jam Recordings in 1995, further strengthening their ownership of the company. Shortly thereafter, “Rush Associated Labels” was named “Def Jam Music Group.” Def Jam remained in the black, as its veteran star LL Cool J released his widely successful album Mr. Smith in 1995. The label later signed a then-teenaged Foxy Brown, whose début album Ill Na Na became a platinum seller in 1997.
 Def Jam under Universal Music Group
In 1998, PolyGram was purchased by Seagrams and merged into its Universal Music Group. Following Universal Music Group’s takeover of PolyGram, it purchased the remaining interest of Def Jam Recordings from Russell Simmons for a reported $100 million. Simmons went on to focus more on his Phat Farm clothing line and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN). 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.
Lyor 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 Records, which inherited many of Island Records’ urban artists (and also some from Mercury Records), including Dru Hill and its lead singer Sisqo, The Isley Brothers and Kelly Price. Def Soul also issued recordings by Musiq, Montell Jordan, Case, 112, Patti LaBelle, and Christina Milian.
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.
 Def Jam in the 2000s
In 2000, 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 in 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, and founded its Japanese branch, Def Jam Japan (デフ・ジャム・ジャパン, Defu Jyamu Jyapan?).
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, 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. A bidding war for Jay-Z’s contract began, and Reid appointed Jay-Z president of Def Jam.
Under Jay-Z’s leadership, Def Jam launched new successful acts such as pop and contemporary R&B singers like Rihanna, Teairra Mari and Ne-Yo. 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. Following Jay-Z’s resignation as president, L.A. Reid took over leadership of the label, as opposed to hiring a replacement. 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.
In 2010, Def Jam announced they signed Jennifer Lopez. The news caused some rumors after the entertainer announced she had parted ways with her then 10 years home label Epic Records in an amicable decision. They will release Lopez’s new album “Love?” in sometime in 2010.
 VH1 Hip-Hop Honors
Def Jam was the sole honoree of the sixth annual VH1 Hip Hop Honors.
Edited by bugdzzz on 3 Nov 2010, 15:27
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