Rick Rubin Explains How He Launched Def Jam in a College Dorm Room

Rick Rubin
It’s Throwback Thursday and what better way to celebrate than with a video about the birth of hip-hop and Def Jam Recordings?
In a new documentary from Rolling Stone Films, Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin returns to the New York University dorm room where he founded the label 30 years ago.
The video features commentary from co-founder Russell Simmons, LL Cool J, Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys, former Def Jam-head Lyor Cohen and others. It also contains early footage of DJ pioneers Afrika Bambaataa and Jazzy Jay.
One of the most interesting parts is when Rubin discusses how DJs and the music they playied at clubs inspired Def Jam’s innovative sound:

“I didn’t know anything about the music business, I didn’t know anything about contracts, I didn’t really know what a producer did. I just felt like it was possible to make a record that felt more like the club . . . The logo was a big ‘d’ and a big ‘j’ and it really was about the DJ’s place in hip-hop being in a way equal to that of the MC.”

After recounting the label history’s from its humble birth to its monumental rise, Rubin concludes with a timeless piece of advice:

“It’s what you can bring to it to make it special and beautiful and personal. Make it yours. That’s the thing that can change the world.”


Related: Legendary Publicist Bill Adler Talks Def Jam’s Golden Age