In 1983, in an NYU dorm room, Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons created their own record label called Def Jam Recordings. But just five years later, after multiplatinum success and widespread acclaim, Rubin left the label.
In an interview with VladTV, the Simmons explained why Rubin departed from the storied label. “Well, if he’s making Slayer and I’m over here making Oran ‘Juice’ Jones where’s the common thread?” said Simmons. “Neither one of us. We should have been in the studio making Run-DMC, that’s what I think.”
“We should’ve made the next Run-DMC album. He wasn’t really ready to make Public Enemy because they didn’t want anybody near them. They were like, ‘Get the f— away from us. All of you n—-s,’ and they made the second Public Enemy album, which was the greatest record Def Jam ever made.”
Rubin left Def Jam in 1988 and started his own label, Def American Recordings, now called American recordings. A decade later Simmons, who also founded Phat Farm and Baby and Def Poetry during his run as Def Jam CEO, sold Def Jam for shares for $100 million.
“I’m doing Def Comedy Jam, I was doing Phat Farm, I was doing other stuff,” said the 58-year-old rap mogul. “I had smarter people than me working there. Lyor [Cohen] was brilliant. Kevin Liles was great. Mike Kaiser was brilliant. Julie Greenwald was brilliant. I build s— and then when everybody’s smarter than me, I get out of way.”
Although Simmons sold Def Jam, he remained embedded in the hip-hop community. Among his many ventures is All Def Digital, a popular YouTube channel featuring hilarious comedy skits, music from up-and-coming rappers and entertainment news.