Def Jam Recordings

Def Jam Recordings (also simply known as Def Jam) is an American multinational record label owned by Universal Music Group and based in Manhattan, New York City, specializing predominantly on hip hop, pop and urban music.

Def Jam Recordings
Parent companyUniversal Music Group
Founded1984; 38 years ago (1984)
Country of originUnited States
LocationNew York City

The label had a London based, UK arm known as 0207 Def Jam (Def Jam UK in 1990s-2000s) and was operated through EMI Records. The label distributes releases of various record labels, including Kanye West's GOOD Music,[1][2] No I.D.’s ARTium Recordings and Listen Up Forever Records, headed by producer, Ronny J. Current artists include Justin Bieber, Big Sean, Kanye West, Nas, 2 Chainz, Dave East, Jeezy, Jeremih, Jhené Aiko, Pusha T, Tyler Antonius, and YK Osiris, among others.

Company historyEdit

Founding and CBS Records Group era (1983–1994)Edit

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. However, the Hose and T La Rock releases were not part of the deal and are now controlled by different entities.

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 via 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 and the rights of its Def Jam albums with him to Def American in its initial stages.

PolyGram era (1994–1998)Edit

By 1992, despite recent multiple 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]

PolyGram acquired an additional 10% in Def Jam Recordings in 1996, further strengthening its ownership of Def Jam. Shortly thereafter, Rush Associated Labels were 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.[citation needed]

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

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.[citation needed]

Lyor Cohen was appointed co-president of IDJMG, and Kevin Liles succeeded him as president of Def Jam. In 1998, 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.[citation needed]

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 hip hop 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.[citation needed]


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 trading,[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.


In March 2011, 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. held 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 DaniLeigh to the label in early 2017. Steve Bartels served as President/CEO of Def Jam an announcement on August 3, 2017 stating that as of January 2018, Eminem's longtime manager and co-founder of Shady Records, Paul Rosenberg would be appointed Chairman/CEO of Def Jam.[18] On February 21, 2020, Paul Rosenberg stepped down on his position as CEO of Def Jam.[19][20] He will be replaced by Tunji Balogun on January 1, 2022.[needs update][21]

On September 17, 2019, the launch of Def Jam South East Asia was announced at Music Matters, an annual music industry conference held in Singapore, where Joe Flizzow from Malaysia, Daboyway from Thailand, Yung Raja, Fariz Jabba and Alif from Singapore and A. Nayaka from Indonesia were announced as the label's six inaugural signings.[22]



0207 Def JamEdit

In November 2020, brothers Alec and Alex Boateng set up a London based, UK arm of Def Jam known as 0207 Def Jam and signed a deal with #Merky Records to release the third album by Stormzy.[39]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Breihan, Tom. "Kanye's G.O.O.D. Music Signs With Def Jam". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  2. ^ "Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music Signs Worldwide Deal With Island Def Jam". Billboard. Retrieved February 1, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Herschberg, Lynn (September 2, 2007). "The Music Man". New York Times Magazine.
  4. ^ Turner, Edwin (December 17, 2011). "I Review Def Jam 25, the Overstuffed Illustrated Oral History of a Record Label that Helped Change American Culture". Biblioklept. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  5. ^ "Def Jam Records launched by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin". The Guardian. June 12, 2011.
  6. ^ "Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons: Def Jam's First 25 Years". NPR. October 9, 2011.
  7. ^ Moore, Maurice. "Indianapolis: CRUSH Ent Presents: EPMD & DJ Scratch @ The Vogue". Best Events. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  8. ^ "PolyGram acquires 50% of Def Jam". Business Wire. November 16, 1994. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  9. ^ "Hiphop Geschichte des Labels DefJam". November 10, 2014. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  10. ^ "Def Jam Japan (A Universal Music Company)". Archived from the original on August 5, 2011. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  11. ^ "Hip-Hop's Irv 'Gotti' Surrenders to FBI - Celebrity Gossip | Entertainment News | Arts And Entertainment". January 27, 2005. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  12. ^ a b Ogunnaike, Lola (August 28, 2005). "Jay-Z, From Superstar to Suit". The New York Times. Retrieved March 23, 2008.
  13. ^ Reid, Shaheem (December 24, 2007). "Jay-Z Stepping Down As Def Jam President/CEO". MTV News. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  14. ^ Markman, Rob (March 12, 2012). "Def Jam Names Joie Manda New President". Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  15. ^ Aswad, Jem (March 28, 2013). "Joie Manda Resigns as Def Jam President, Moving to Interscope". Billboard.
  16. ^ "No I.D. Is The New Executive Vice President Of Def Jam Recordings". The Source. April 4, 2014.
  17. ^ Miranda (April 1, 2014). "Island Def Jam Is Over". [[XXL (magazine)}XXL Magazine]].
  18. ^ "Eminem's Manager Paul Rosenberg Named New CEO of Def Jam". Billboard. August 2, 2017. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  19. ^, HipHopDX- (February 22, 2020). "Paul Rosenberg Steps Down As Def Jam Recordings' CEO/Chairman". HipHopDX. {{cite web}}: External link in |last= (help)
  20. ^ Woods, Aleia (February 23, 2020). "Paul Rosenberg steps down from his CEO position at Def Jam". REVOLT. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  21. ^ Eggertsen, Chris (August 10, 2021). "Tunji Balogun Named Def Jam CEO". Billboard. Archived from the original on August 23, 2021. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  22. ^ Stassen, Murray (September 17, 2019). "Universal launches Def Jam South East Asia and Astralwerks Asia". Music Business Worldwide.
  23. ^ "Def Jam Recordings Announces Changes to Leadership Structure". Universal Music. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  24. ^ Caramanica, Jon (May 19, 2015). "Alessia Cara Speaks Up for the Outsiders on 'Here'". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  25. ^ ""Happy Birthday Angelo Mota"". Twitter. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  26. ^ a b Yohance Kyles (January 24, 2019). "Def Jam Announces 'Undisputed' Compilation Featuring New Artists On The Roster". Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  27. ^ ""Def Jam signs August 08"". august08. Retrieved May 12, 2021. Non-loginwalled link at
  28. ^ a b c d "Logic Launches BobbyBoy Records as Joint Venture With Def Jam". June 19, 2019. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  29. ^ Bobby Sessions (August 25, 2018). "Bobby Sessions". Def Jam. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  30. ^ Ali Booth (June 19, 2019). "Carson Lueders Lands Major Music Contract with Def Jam". Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  31. ^ Milca P. (October 6, 2019). "Fredo Bang Connects With Tay Keith On "Face Down"". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  32. ^ Michael Saponara (April 17, 2019). "SOB X RBE Links With Hit-Boy for New 'Family Not a Group' Project: Listen". Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  33. ^ "ilham Signs to Def Jam, Releases New Song 'Gang Signs'". Rated RnB.
  34. ^ Riley Wallace (December 2, 2019). "Singer Kaash Paige Talks 'Love Songs' & Def Jam Debut". HipHopDX. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  35. ^ Joe Price (January 23, 2019). "Premiere: Maxo Drops "Time" Video". Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  36. ^ "Roddy Rackzz: Studio, Def Jam deal and Reebok Commercial". The Progress Report Media Group.
  37. ^ Shaad D'Souza (August 21, 2019). "Listen to Saint Bodhi's arresting debut single "FlowerChild"". Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  38. ^ "Def Jam Boosts A&R Department, Announces New Deals With YK Osiris, Ronny J". Billboard.
  39. ^ "Stormzy first act to sign to new UK-based 0207 Def Jam label".

External linksEdit