Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) and Def Jam Records have just announced a new docu-series called Through The Lens, that will be available on Def Jam’s Youtube channel.
Premiering 10 April, the three-part series will focus on three titans of photography, who each documented a different era in the legendary hip-hop label’s history: Ricky Powell (airing 10 April), Janette Beckmann (16 April), and Jonathan Mannion (23 April). The series will feature commentary from the likes of rapper and actor LL Cool J, journalist and original Def Jam publicity director, Bill Adler, plus long-time Def Jam graphic designer Cey Adams.
Ricky Powell, who rose to fame as a street photographer in New York during the 80s and 90s, is best known for his work with the Beastie Boys. An honorary member of the band, Powell joined the group on tour – documenting their earliest days opening for Run-DMC, through the height of their popularity in the mid-90s. Powell is also the subject of the forthcoming feature-length documentary Ricky Powell: The Individualist.
“Through The Lens” brings you a visual history of @DefJam and hip-hop featuring Ricky Powell, Janette Berkman & Jonathan Mannion. 🎶 First episode drops April 10! While you wait, check out the Hip-Hop Anthems: Def Jam playlist: https://t.co/LrNaeTPcY2 pic.twitter.com/pZd0AaKhcR
— Urban Legends (@urbanxlegends) March 19, 2020
Before moving to New York in the early 80s, British photographer Janette Beckman captured much of the burgeoning punk movement, shooting the scene’s biggest bands for music magazines. Across the Atlantic, Beckman quickly became the go-to photographer for the city’s hip-hop and rap groups, shooting acts like Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Run DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys.
Jonathan Mannion began his career working under the great fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon before taking an assignment to capture Jay-Z for his 1996 album, Reasonable Doubt. That one shoot set Mannion on a career course that would change his life. For the next two decades, Mannion would photograph some of the biggest names in the genre – including Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne, Aaliyah and Nas.
Much of all three photographers’ work can be seen in the 300-page coffee-table book, Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label (Rizzoli, 2010), while music from Through The Lens can be heard on a specially-curated Spotify playlist, entitled, “Hip Hop Anthems: Def Jam”.
Through The Lens is part of a larger, year-long celebration of the 35th anniversary of Def Jam records. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of one of the label’s most iconic albums – Fear Of A Black Planet, from Public Enemy, which features tracks like ‘Fight the Power’, ‘Welcome To The Terrordome’, and ‘911 Is a Joke’. The multi-platinum album was commemorated earlier this year through a collaboration with PUMA, which released two special editions of their classic sneakers: the PUMA x Public Enemy Sky LX and the PUMA x Public Enemy Clyde.