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Def Jam Kick Off 40th Birthday Celebrations

The Def Jam shop features vinyl, exclusive merch, and more.

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LL Cool J - Photo: Theo Wargo/WireImage
LL Cool J - Photo: Theo Wargo/WireImage

Def Jam has kicked off its 40th birthday celebrations with a hub page that features a timeline of the label’s history and an interactive map that displays where some of hip-hop’s biggest moments actually occurred.

The timeline kicks off in 1984 when the label was founded. That same year, the label released its first track, “It’s Yours” by Jazzy Jay.

In 1985, the label released its first album, LL Cool J’s Radio. A year later, Def Jam inked Slick Rick. The mid-80s also found the company expanding its scope, signing R&B act Oran “Juice” Jones and heavy metal band Slayer. In 1986, Beastie Boys broke through with their debut album Licensed to Ill.

Fast forward to the 90s, and Def Jam released massive records from LL Cool J (Mama Said Knock You Out) and Public Enemy (Fear of a Black Planet). Check out the entire timeline here.

The interactive map includes studios, neighborhoods, nightclubs, and more that had a significant impact on the development of rap music. Some include the Def Jam Office in the 90s, which was located on Varick Street; Madison Square Garden; Rock the Mic Studios, where JAY-Z and Alicia Keys recorded “Empire State of Mind”; George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School in Brooklyn where Hova, Busta Rhymes, and DMX went to school; and more.

Other highlights include Washington Square Park where Glen E. Friedman took a famous photo of the Beastie Boys for their first album release; Hunter College, where LL Cool J performed one of his first shows; Power Play Studios in Long Island City where “It’s Yours”, the first song and first rap track recorded on Def Jam, was captured. Additionally, you can view JAY-Z’s former Brooklyn apartment, which was located at 560 State Street in Boerum Hill.

Visit Def Jam 40’s official website for more information.

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