Def Jam Recordings is a comprehensive history of the first major hip-hop label. Founded by Russell ‘Rush’ Simmons and Rick Rubin in 1984, the label’s first office was Rubin’s NYU dorm room. Def Jam led the way in transforming hip-hop from a projects-based art form to a popular phenomenon. Def Jam is responsible for launching and sustaining the careers of musicians such as Jay-Z, LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys. Both Simmons and Rubin have now left Def Jam to pursue successful careers in and away from music; but their creative legacy remains at the heart of the label's modern-day identity.
Paul Holdengräber is the Director of LIVE from the NYPL.
Frederick Jay "Rick" Rubin is an American record producer and the co-president of Columbia Records.
Along with Russell Simmons, Rubin was the co-founder of Def Jam Records and also established American Recordings. With the Beastie Boys and Runâ€“D.M.C., Rubin helped popularize hip hop music, and has worked with artists as varied as Slipknot, Slayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Mars Volta, Danzig, Dixie Chicks, Metallica, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Weezer, Linkin Park, The Cult, Neil Diamond, Mick Jagger, System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, The Avett Brothers, and Adele.
In the 1990s and 2000s, he produced the "American Recordings" albums with Johnny Cash. MTV called him "the most important producer of the last 20 years." In 2007, Rubin was listed among Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World.
USA Today recently named Russell Simmons one of the "Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years," calling him a "hip-hop pioneer" for his groundbreaking vision that has influenced music, fashion, finance, television and film, as well as the face of modern philanthropy. From creating his seminal Def Jam Recordings in 1984, to the 2007 publishing of his New York Times best-seller Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, Russell is recognized globally for his influence and entrepreneurial approach to both business and philanthropy.
Giving back is of primary importance to him in all aspects of life and as Chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, he has consistently leveraged his influence in the recording industry, fashion, television, financial services, and jewelry sectors to give back. A devoted yogi and social activist, Russell also leads the non-profit division of his empire, Rush Community Affairs, and its ongoing commitment to empowering at-risk youth through education, the arts, and social engagement and was instrumental in the recent overturning of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Russell also serves as UN Goodwill Ambassador For The Permanent Memorial To Honor The Victims Of Slavery and The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Def Jam co-founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons talk about the early days of the label. Drawing parallels to the punk rock scene, the two hip-hop icons reminisce on their drive to sonically capture street culture and the hip-hop club experience of the early 80s.