Def Jam History Fills The Pages Of November’s XXL

Interviews with Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen, ?uestlove and more give insight into the imprint's history in the special issue.

They were simply bigger and deffer than any other label in rap history and, as a result, Def Jam Records was recognized on Tuesday during VH1′s “Hip Hop Honors.”

The seminal label was the night’s sole honoree, a first in the event’s six-year history. In the past, a class of MCs were inducted each year, from Big Daddy Kane to A Tribe Called Quest. The rap film “Wild Style” is the only other non-lyrical entrant.

The honor was the latest recognition for Def Jam as the label has been celebrating its 25-year anniversary all year long, which also included landing the cover of the latest issue of XXL.

Rick Ross, Method Man and Redman, Ghostface, ?uestlove of the Roots and Scarface grace the front cover and inside Def Jam rap alumni recall some of their fondest memories from the House that Russell Built.

“Me and [Jay-Z] were choppin’ it up, and I kinda told him that it was frustrating being on Interscope, because we’re used to the label being in proximity of Philadelphia,” ?uestlove said of President Carter signing the Roots to Def Jam. “He says, ‘OK, I’ll see what I can do about the situation.’ I say, ‘What do you mean?’ He’s like, ‘Can I trust you? I’m about to make a move.’

“He basically said, ‘Hold off on that,’ ” the drummer added. “‘I’ma get you your convenience back.’ I guess he was saying he was ’bout to take over the label [as Def Jam president].”

Fabolous talks about the family feel of the label, Warren G shares a story about former president Lyor Cohen visiting his home as he tried to recruit the West Coast star and Scarface remembers meeting LL Cool J when the he was an upstart in 1989 and then having the legendary rapper appear at his own Def Jam album party years later.

“I was probably, like, 18 years old, on the phone with my mom, like, ‘Mama, I’m in New York,’ ” Face explained. “Then LL come by and I’m like, ‘Cool J, what’s up, man? Talk to my mama.’ That was the first time I came to the city. I was such a f—ing fan of Cool J. For him to be there the first time I came here, and for him to be there when I signed [to Def Jam] — man, it was a dream of mine.”

The November issue is chock-full of Def Jam info, from a complete label discography to an interview with founder Rick Rubin.

The highlight of the package, undoubtedly, was the interview conducted with Lyor Cohen, Russell Simmons and Kevin Liles. The contrast between the cool Cohen and the animated Simmons that brought to life the energy that helped to launch the label into the stratosphere was existent. Case in point, when Cohen is asked about the beginnings of his career:

“I could talk about Lyor better than he can,” Simmons chimed in.

Simmons then explained how the now Warner Music chief used to be treated poorly during his job as Andre Harrell’s secretary.

“No, excuse me,” Cohen cut back in. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I do,” Simmons shot back. “Andre had Lyor working hard as hell.”

“I didn’t even know Andre at that time,” Cohen said. “Wrong. Wrong, wrong. You have a really bad memory.”