1. In 1985, to celebrate Def Jam's distribution deal with the biggest record label in the world, CBS, Def Jam threw
a party catered entirely with White Castle hamburgers. The party was thrown on the roof of the legendary New
York nightclub, Danceteria. Corporate executives like Walter Yetnikoff rubbed shoulders with young street kids,
ultimately finding themselves in the middle of a White Castle food fight.
2. With a full-time staff of only seven people, Def Jam put out three multi-platinum albums in two years: LL Cool
J's Radio, the Beastie Boys' Licensed To Ill and Public Enemy's Yo! Bum Rush The Show.
3. During her Virgin Tour in 1985, Madonna refused to be photographed with her opening act, the Beastie Boys.
Four years later, on the set of Do The Right Thing, the lovable Danny Aiello refused to be photographed with
Chuck D. of Public Enemy after fellow group member Professor Griff uttered the infamous words, "Jews are
responsible for the majority of wickedness in the world" in a national newspaper.
4. In 1993, Def Jam considered signing solo deals with two rappers from a large Staten Island collective known
as the Wu-Tang Clan. Their names were Old Dirty Bastard and Method Man. In courting the rappers, a Def Jam
A&R rep named Tracey Waples took numerous trips to the dangerous neighborhood of Staten Island where
Method Man and Old Dirty Bastard lived. Ultimately, Def Jam signed only Method Man. But in 2003, Old Dirty
Bastard was offered a deal with an imprint of Def Jam, Roc-a-Fella Records.
5. A-list movie director Brett Ratner got his start directing videos for Def Jam in the early '90s. He was once
accused by Lyor Cohen of putting Def Jam out of business because Cohen didn't like how Ratner directed Eric
Sermon's "So Real" video. Steve Carr, director of such Eddie Murphy blockbusters as Dr. Doolittle 2, co-founded
Def Jam's art department in 1989, with no formal graphic design training.
6. For Public Enemy's Fear of A Black Planet cover, Def Jam's art department wanted to hire a NASA illustrator to
paint an intergalactic scene. The illustrator refused the job, saying that Def Jam's ideas were not scientifically
sound. He eventually relented, however, and created one of the most memorable hip hop covers of all time.
7. Russell Simmons was so passionate about R&B music in the late '80s than he established Def Jam's first
imprint, called Original Black Recordings (OBR), dedicated entirely to R&B music. None of the artists on
OBR-including Alyson Williams, the Black Flames, Newkirk, and Tashan-produced big hits. Rick Rubin's
passion for hard rock also did not yield any success stories for Def Jam. He signed Def Jam's first and last metal
group, Slayer, but they were ultimately rejected by CBS, the parent company.
8. In an attempt to diversify the Def Jam brand, Lyor Cohen and Russell Simmons established an umbrella label
which they called Rush Associated Labels in 1990. The Def Jam logowas practically swallowed by the dozens of
imprints that were created under RAL, and vanished from most album covers and company stationary. The Def
Jam logo would not reappear in its original form until 1995. One of RAL's biggest misses was an imprint called
Dew Doo Man, which was headed by De La Soul producer Prince Paul.
9. Rick Rubin had discovered LL Cool J and produced his debut album on Def Jam, Radio, but he had nothing to
do with LL's biggest hit in the '80s, "I Need Love." The song was the brainchild of two unknown producers from
LA called The L.A. Posse.
10. Chuck D. gave exposure to Rick Rubin before Rubin exposed Chuck D. to the world. Before they ever met,
Chuck frequently played "It's Yours," the first hip hop that Rubin produced in 1984, on his Long Island-based
11. In the late '80s, Def Jam developed a 1-900 line for their artists, including Slick Rick and LL Cool J. Money from
the phone line was coming in so rapidly and was so mismanaged that checks were often found lying on the office
12. When it came time to design the cover for the Less Than Zero soundtrack, which Rick Rubin produced and Def
Jam was putting out in late 1987, Rubin wanted no reference to the film on the cover. As a result, the first printing
of the soundtrack used a different image than the film's poster and did not mention the film title at all. This was
the first time that the studio behind the film, Fox, deviated from its PR campaign.
13. Def Jam was always a close-knit, family-style operation, especially in the 1980s. But not all the artists got
along. Slick Rick had a conflict with Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC that almost escalated to a fist-fight during one
tour, while the Beastie Boys and 3rd Bass openly dissed each other on their records.
14. In the early '90s, Def Jam's marketing department spent hours calling in video requests to the pay-per-video
channel, The Box. Unable to rely on MTV to break Def Jam videos, "jacking the Box" became the best way to
expose Def Jam artists to the nation.
15. At their prime, the Beastie Boys had several high-profile projects fall through at the last minute. One was a
skateboard deal with the biggest skateboard manufacturer, Visison. The other was a sitcom on MTV called "Scared Stupid". Neither got out of the gate.