The Schmooze

The Jews of Def Jam

Image Courtesy of the Adler Archive

This week “Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label” arrives in book stores. The 300 page hardcover tome is 12” X 12,” the same size as an old school LP and has a cover price of $60. It may be chock full of characters from the ‘hood but it is published by the tony art house Rizzoli. The book is being hyped as an insiders’ telling of the storied label’s history accompanied by a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes photos, flyers, ads and album cover art. What the press doesn’t mention is the pivotal role Jews played in the legendary hip-hop label’s creation and growth.

There are pictures of label founder Rick Rubin, who made Def Jam’s first hit record while living in the dorm at NYU. In one shot, Rubin is seen at a Vanity Fair Oscar party sporting a graying beard that would be the envy of many a Hasid. He’s with Def Jam mogul Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen, the son of Israeli immigrants and grandson of an Israeli Army general. Cohen initially ran the artist management side of Def Jam, before becoming president of the label. He’s now an executive with the Warner Music Group.

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The Jews of Def Jam

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