De(ath)f Jam? KRS-One Thinks So…

September 25, 2009

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while.  Just ask the bee (aka Ghetto Jane).  Its gonna be one of the topics of our season 2 podcast for The Show (titled: “The Birth, Death, Rise and Fall: The Legacy of Def Jam) so this is a perfect time to talk about this.  So at the next Hip Hop Honors for Vh1 (thank God they do it instead of E.B.T) they are honoring the legacy of Def Jam.  Def Jam no doubt is the model label for Hip Hop.  I’m a Def Jam head.  I know I own at least 80% of the catalog (purchased I might add).  But I’ve always had an issue with Def Jam though.  I know I can’t talk about this to 90% of rap listeners cause I’d be called a hater (refer to this blog) and wouldn’t understand where I’m coming from.  But KRS-One pretty much shares some of my same feelings:


(For those without video here is the transcript in a nutshell: “The legacy of Def Jam SUCKS!!!! Def Jam is the dopest label in hip-hop, in the culture of hip-hop, there really would be no hip-hop as we know it today if it wasn’t for Def Jam. But you don’t get that respect without also being the label that single-handedly destroyed hip-hop.  Every time you think of what’s wrong with hip-hop, the lyrics, the commercialized music, one artist being played on the radio all day, things like that, that’s all Def Jam.  We respect it. It’s a respect cause we all competing, so Def Jam had the hardest competition, but the hardest competition as I showed the respect, I also showed the truth. And the truth is everybody else had to sit down so Def Jam could be who they are.”)

Pretty much about right Teach.  I mean look at where the label started and to now.  The “Birth” (The Rubin Years: Beasties, LL, Public Enemy), the “Death” (The beginning of the Choen era: the horrorcore era with The Flatlinerz, The Rush Associated Labels era: EPMD, Onyx, LL, PE, Domino, all in financial troubles), the “Rise” (Warren G., DMX, Jay-Z, Ja Rule, Foxy Brown, Def Squad, Redman, Method Man, Erick Sermon, Jayo Felony), to now the “Fall” (Nas, Slip and Slide Records, Jeezy, Ghostface Killah, Ludacris, Rick Ross, Kanye West, etc).  And I’m not even mentioning the Def Soul artists, so you can imagine how many artists have went through the Def Jam label.  I know you’re looking at the “Fall” list and saying to yourself how is that a sign of them declining.  It isn’t.  Listen (or read) to what KRS-One said.  On the business side though, you can’t fault them.  I like to refer to Def Jam as “The Machine” cause anyone could get on the label and sell just because of the name and the marketing machine behind them.  As a business major I absolutely LOVE that.  The Hip Hop side of me though can’t get with it.  LL, Meth, and Redman have solid albums, yet they’d rather push not-as-talented-rappers such as Plies and Rick Ross.  But they ARE catering to what the audience wants, so in actuality I can’t fault them there either.  But to DISREGARD the vets?  LL on his own practically built Def Jam, and I dare ANYONE to challenge me on that.  Meth and Red gives some of the best shows (I personally haven’t been to one, but it is on my “To Do” list) and that in turn someway goes back to Def Jam.  Jay-Z still holding down the Def Jam front, but we won’t hear a “Reasonable Doubt” Jay anymore (though I did like “American Gangsta”).  Plus I’ve never understood how you can have your most successful artist run the company.  LL and Meth took issue with it and I don’t blame them.  Meth’s 4:21 The Day After, was a solid effort.  Especially after the crapball that Tical 0 was.  Of course Jay is gonna make sure he and his people’s stuff are promoted correctly (including Nas).  Thats what anyone would do in that position, including me (hey from a business standpoint you HAVE to understand).  I’m not gonna dish out too much information (or punishment, lol) on Def Jam right now.  That’s all for the rant right now, but trust I’ll have a lot more to say when the podcast comes around.


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