If any one label is most identified with hip-hop's storied history, it's Def Jam. From its beginnings in Rick Rubin's dorm room to its rise as the genre's first commercial superpower to its current status as contemporary industry leaders, Def Jam has become one of the biggest success stories in music history. As the label celebrates 30 years of existence, and being the music nerds we are, we've decided to compare and rank its yearly output. There's the early commercial success with the Beastie Boys, the emergence of DMX and Jay-Z in the late '90s, and the explosion of Kanye West and Rihanna during the decade after. This is the definitive list of the best years in Def Jam's incredible run as hip-hop's most iconic label.

Written by Robbie Ettelson (@Unkut)

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