So one of my gifts for Christmas was a gift card for Barnes & Noble, and since I didn't score I single note of music under the tree I figured I'd use it to buy some tunes. After some browsing, I settled on picking up the Def Jam 25th anniversary Box Set (pictured above - 5 CDs, liner notes booklet, and a special edition Adidas t-shirt packaged in a mini-crate).
While Sugar Hill Records might have struck the first blow in the commercial Hip Hop arena with the release of the Sugarhill Gang's self-titled, their presence wasn't sustained, and they folded in the mid 80's. Perhaps the biggest label to emerge at this time in terms of impact, success, and contributions to the growth of hip hop, was Def Jam recordings. I'm sure most of you are familiar with the story; Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin teamed up to form a dynamic partnership that would bring Hip Hop to the masses, thereby changing American culture (as well as the world for that matter) in profound ways.
The pair brought forth some of the brightest stars in early Hip Hop mythos: Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Slick Rick, 3rd Bass, and plenty others. And ever since then they've consistently stayed on top of the commercial hip hop game. I could run down name after name, but suffice to say the Def Jam stable includes a huge amount of talent. Check out Bill Adler, who worked with Def Jam in the early years, about the birth of the label
You can check out more of the interview over at Planet Ill.
So on to the actual music. The crate holds five CDs, each with twelve tracks on them, each covering five years of the label's history. A couple of comments:
1.) there is some incredible music on here that takes you back in the day and reminds you of where hip hop came fromThe verdict? At $54, it's still a nice best of collection, especially with the mini milk crate and Adidas t-shirt as well as the liner notes on each and every song thrown in to boot. Check out a couple tracks below. The first, Rock The Bells, came from LL Cool J's first album, one that I can remember sportin' on cassette tape! (the track listing incorrectly identifies the track as I Need A Beat, the very first single that Def Jam released) I'll bookend it with a cut from The Roots that comes from 2008 and the fifth disc in the set. Want to listen to the middle, order up a crate of your own. If nothing else, this is close to a 4 hour party in one dose.BUT
2.) there are only twelve songs per CD, which begs the question, could they not fit any more on? Summarizing five years of such memorable releases seems a travesty.
3.) there is nothing here that you couldn't find elsewhere. no remixes, no demos, no unreleased tracks.
LL Cool J - Rock The Bells : Def Jam 25th Anniversary Box Set (disc 1)
The Roots Feat. Maimouna Youssef - Don't Feel Right : Def Jam 25th Anniversary Box Set (disc 5)
Visit the Def Jam website.