Russell Simmons & Rick Rubin

10 who mined the talent and shaped the labels

Through label Def Jam, Simmons and Rubin brought rap to the masses, scored the first major crossover hits and helped develop careers that would last as long as those of rock acts. Rubin was an NYU student obsessed with hard rock; Simmons was an entrepreneur whose brother Joseph was Run of Run-DMC. Although their operation is in the recent past, their m.o. — centering your label on a local scene, selling records anywhere and everywhere, linking with a major label and developing ancillary enterprises — has become the blueprint for dozens of rap and hip-hop labels. Blossoming at a time when rap was seen as a novelty and incapable of creating works that could stand the test of time, Def Jam issued rap’s first masterpiece album, Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back.”

Key signings: Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J

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