Pop Culture & Performing Arts

Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label

UPDATE AND REVISED to reflect 10 more years at Def Jam Recordings: In association with Def Jam, a celebration of thirty-five years of the label that defined hip-hop music and culture, in the words and photographs of its founders and artists.

This is the story of Def Jam in the words of its artists and top executives, taken from interviews and seamlessly told as a narrative of no-holds barred recollections and anecdotes, made even more compelling by the fact that Def Jam is one of the last great record labels to enjoy the widespread cultural influence that it does, in light of the increasing digitization of music. Def Jam celebrates a label that defined hip-hop and whose impact extends beyond its incredible roster of recording artists to all areas of culture--fashion, lifestyle, cinema, art--impacting the music business and pop culture forever. In 1984, Def Jam introduced a new kind of music and lifestyle--hip-hop--through aspiring record producer and punk-rocker Rick Rubin and party promoter/artist manager Russell Simmons. It has become the sound of young America, akin to Motown in the sixties. This is the first book to see the label whole: through an oral history woven from interviews (some exclusive) with its founders and artists such as LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Ja Rule, Rihanna, Ashanti, and Kanye West, as well as through rare memorabilia from personal archives of the label's movers and shakers: behind-the-scenes photos, flyers, advertisements, movie posters, album cover art, magazine covers, and press clips from around the world. It also showcases images from some of the best-known photographers of the era, including Albert Watson, Glen E. Friedman, Jonathan Mannion, and Annie Leibovitz. It is designed by Cey Adams, Def Jam’s founding creative director and is an insider's portrait of the last great record label.

About The Author

Bill Adler was Def Jam’s founding publicist where he promoted the careers of hip-hop legends Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, 3rd Bass, and Slick Rick, among others. Dan Charnas is the author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop. Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons cofounded Def Jam Recordings in 1984. Simmons has since expanded the Def Jam brand into movies, television, books, theater, and the Internet. Rubin has since established himself as one of the most prolific and successful producers of popular music. Lyor Cohen, chairman of Def Jam for the decade ending in 2003, is now CEO of the Warner Music Group. Kevin Liles, president of Def Jam from 1999-2003, is now president and CEO of Def Jam Enterprises and founder, KWL Enterprises. Kelefa Sanneh, a pop music critic for the New York Times from 2000 through 2008, is now a culture writer for The New Yorker.  Cey Adams is a hip-hop graphic artist whose career has taken him from bombing (or spray-painting) subway trains to designing album covers, stage backdrops, sportswear, and indelible logos. He was the founding creative director of Def Jam. His other clients include Bad Boy Records, Roca Wear, Adidas, Burton Snowboards, Coca-Cola, Moët & Chandon, Comedy Central, HBO, and Warner Brothers.

  • Publish Date: October 11, 2011
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Category: Music - Genres & Styles - Pop Vocal
  • Publisher: Rizzoli
  • Trim Size: 12 x 12
  • Pages: 312
  • US Price: $60.00
  • CDN Price: $75.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-8478-3371-9


"Def Jam’s rise to such pop ­prominence was gorgeously scrappy, and it’s told in a gorgeous scrapbook called Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label, which lands on coffee tables next month." ~New York Magazine

"This handsome, oversized publication chronicles an iconic era in the history of popular music. An extremely readable and browsable book, with glorious photos." ~Library Journal

"Given the impact of Russell Simmons's and Rick Rubin’s Def Jam Records on pop culture, this tribute tome is an inevitable celebration of a quarter of a century (an eternity in pop media) of the brand’s existence. No surprises here—a useful collection of history and imagery of the label that gave the world the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Designed by Def Jam’s founding creative director, Cey Adams, with text by founding publicist Bill Adler and Dan Charnas, the book makes plain the two-headed nature of what has become a potent enterprise—serious business and serious fun." ~The Daily Beast

"Def Jam is not just a record label...but a bona fide chapter in pop culture history." ~New York Times Book Review