Simmons recalls a sort of blissful naivete. “We didn’t know how to do anything the wrong way, much less the right way. We were excited about the records we had in front of us. We didn’t have to worry about the future.”
Indeed, thanks to out-of-the-gate successes by LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys, the boutique label was able to secure a partnership with Columbia that would bring it into the major leagues. A decade later, Universal bought in. Today its roster includes Kanye West, Rihanna and Justin Bieber.
Is there a through line from Def Jam then to now? “There’s a consistency in the poetry, which is amazing,” says Simmons. “And it’s still giving voice to underserved communities. Whether it’s ‘F— the Police’ or ‘Jesus Walks,’ it’s the same conditions and the same questions.”
?THEN: Officially, the “intern” at Def Jam. “It was the greatest time -- to be 21 or 22 in New York running with the Beastie Boys... We were the princes of the city.”
NOW: An in-demand music supervisor based in Los Angeles whose credits include The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and the Hangover series.