Def Jam Recordings celebrates their 30th anniversary this year with an October concert in Brooklyn and a Def Jam 30 limited edition box set. But for now, let’s get the joint jumpin’ with our own celebratory mix.
“I Need Love,” LL Cool J
Not only was the brother arguably the best rapper in the world, you also had to watch him around your girl.
“The Rain,” Oran Juice Jones
The label’s first soul star taught “the game” to a generation of players.
“I Need Your Lovin’,” Alyson Williams
Underrated singer Alyson Williams was doing hip-hop-soul years before Mary J. Blige released her first single.
“Children’s Story,” Slick Rick
Still one of the best videos from any era, this clip remains a masterpiece.
“No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” Beastie Boys
Rockin’ and rappin’ about Brooklyn 20 years before gentrification, the Beasties were always ahead of their time.
“Night of the Living Baseheads,” Public Enemy
Co-starring their former publicist Charlotte Hunter as the newswoman, this masterful take on the crack business was as dope as the drug they were rapping about in the song.
“The Gas Face,” 3rd Bass
Back in the old New York City days of Video Music Box coming on every afternoon, this bugged-out duo was always a favorite.
“Radioactive,” Downtown Science
The best Def Jam artists you never heard of, Downtown Science delivered this arty clip before disappearing into obscurity.
“The Crossover,” EPMD
After their original home Sleeping Bag Records closed down, EPMD crossed-over to Def Jam to continue their slamming career.
Letting the boys be boys, these boys were wild.
“Daddy’s Little Girl,” Nikki D.
The first First Woman of Def Jam, rapper Nikki D never let gender stand in the way of throwin’ down.
“Sometimes I Rhyme Slow,” Nice and Smooth
Be it slow or quick, these boys had no problem doing the damned thing.
Coming from Detroit, this girl was pure gangsta.
“This Is How We Do It,” Montell Jordan
One-hit wonders never sounded so good.
“All I Need,” Method Man and Mary J. Blige
No matter what anyone might say, this was the best rap love song duet ever made… EVER!
“Regulate,” Warren G
The beginning of the G-funk era found Def Jammers flying to the west and signing the best (after Snoop, of course) rapper in the hood. Rumor had it that Suge Knight wasn’t pleased.
“I’ll Bee Dat,” Redman
Everyone’s favorite blunt master always knew how to make the world laugh.
“He’s Mine,” MoKenStef
Often swept into the dustbin of ’90s soul women, this trio deserves some props.
“Get You Home,” Foxy Brown
Known more for her infamous incidents, most have forgotten how smooth she was on the mic.
“Hard Knock Life,” Jay Z
Life might’ve been hard back in the ’90s, but things done changed.
“Cheers 2 U,” Playa
Why these guys didn’t become the next Jodeci, I will never understand. Timberland produced, Static Major written.
“Thong Song,” Sisqo
Everybody’s guilty pleasure in 2000…
“What’s My Name,” DMX
Although crack proved to be wack when it came to the career of this rapper, DMX was the closest thing the label ever had to a real rock star.
“Down 4 You,” Ja Rule
Although the least talented rapper the label ever signed, this song was an exception. Thank you, Ashanti.
“The Truth,” Beanie Sigel
A bad brother from the city of Philly, if he could’ve stayed out of jail his career would’ve been much larger.
“Shake It Off,” Mariah Carey
When drinking bathwater became an option…
Don’t knock my hustle or the pop sensibilities, and I’ll just keep dancing in the rain.
“Through the Wire,” Kayne West
Years before he became North’s daddy, this was the joint that started it all.
“Miss Independent,” Ne-Yo
Singer/songwriter Ne-Yo remains one of the best.
“Supreme,” Rick Ross
Some people love him, others… not so much.