Behind every great pop music genre, there’s a record label that launched its stars. Blue Note pushed Theolonious Monk and Art Blakey into the mainstream. Sun Records brought us Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. Motown had its glittering roster of the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and more.
For hip-hop music in the early 1980s, that label was Def Jam. A new book attempts to capture that history in photos, interviews and essays. It’s called Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label.
LL Cool J was just 17 when he became one of the first artists signed to the company. The men who founded the Def Jam label in 1984 weren’t much older. There was Rick Rubin, a 21-year-old NYU art school student from Long Island making music in his dorm room; and Russell Simmons, a 27-year-old from Queens, who was already making a name for himself in the downtown scene with his brother’s rap group Run DMC.
Weekend Edition Sunday host Audie Cornish spoke with both founders separately about the early days of the label. (read more)