Last night's annual "VH1 Hip-Hop Honors" show tipped its pimp hat to Def Jam Records, perhaps the most influential hip-hop company in history. When Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons launched Def Jam from Rubin's NYU dorm room 25 years ago, they surely could not have anticipated that they would nurture some of the greatest talent the hip-hop world has ever seen, from LL Cool J and Public Enemy to Ludacris and Young Jeezy.
In addition to more than two decades of killer music, artists on the Def Jam label have also focused on having a keen visual sense. As a result, some of the clips the label has put out over the years have become cornerstones of the video genre. From the punk-rock simplicity of the Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" and LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" to the grimy savagery of Redman's "Blow Your Mind" and Onyx's "Slam" to the widescreen gloss of Young Jeezy's "My President" and Rick Ross' "Magnificent," Def Jam videos have been eclectic and occasionally surreal but always memorable.
Def Jam's video history reveals some interesting wrinkles in the label's history. For example, Slayer's iconic album Reign in Blood was originally put out by the label (not shocking, considering Rubin's affinity for metal) and "Raining Blood" makes for a fascinating entry in the label's history. And even though Def Jam was always primarily identified as an East Coast label, they put out one of the bigger records of the early-'90s West Coast gangsta era in Warren G's Regulate ... G-Funk Era, which meant that the clip for "Regulate" (featuring a breakout performance from Nate Dogg) was a Def Jam original.
So take a look at the 20 videos that make up Def Jam's history, from oft-forgotten clips like Oran "Juice" Jones' "The Rain" and EPMD's "Headbanger" to more high-profile clips like Sisquo's "Thong Song," Ja Rule's "Holla Holla" and, of course, the Beastie Boys.