Rick Rubin was just a master of music with a talent that knew no limits. Akin to Larry Smith, he was highly involved with Run-DMC, the face of hip-hop in the ’80s. However, Rubin was affiliated to such an extent that he founded what would become Def Jam Records alongside Russell Simmons.
The label would evolve and grow into an empire that even he couldn’t have imagined. However, only five years after its inception, Rubin and Simmons mutually decided to part ways, with the latter remaining in control of the label.
In an interview with VladTV, Russell Simmons explained why this unprecedented split took place. Rubin was the heart of Def Jam. The iconic label was founded out of his New York University dorm room in 1983 and, alongside Simmons, he began working with artists such as LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys and Run-DMC.
However, although the rap-rock sound of Def Jam in its early days was a hit with fans across the US, after five years, the founding fathers of the label began to have creative differences concerning the variation and style of music Def Jam was releasing. Highlighting their desire to work with different talent, Simmons bluntly disclosed, “Well, if he’s making Slayer and I’m over here making Oran ‘Juice’ Jones, where’s the common thread?”
While Rubin was working with the rock band Slayer, Simmons was producing for Oran ‘Juice’ Jones, two acts that are indisputably worlds apart. Simmons continued to reveal that they were both wrong and attempted to diversify too quick, explaining, “Neither one of us [were right]. We should have been in the studio making Run DMC; that’s what I think. We should’ve made the next Run DMC album.”
Rick Rubin left Def Jam in 1988 to found American Records, a rock-orientated record label. However, for over a decade, Simmons was still at the wheel of Def Jam Recordings, but in 1999 Simmons sold the last of his Def Jam shares for $100million.
You can hear Simmons talking about his cherished label in the video below.