The 15 Best Years in Def Jam History

2. 1986

Notable Releases: Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill (Def Jam/Columbia); Slayer Reign in Blood (Def Jam/Geffen/Warner Bros.)

While Radio hit hard, nobody was prepared for the enormous crossover success of the Beastie Boys when their album hit the shelves. Ad Rock, MCA, and Mike D clearly gave zero fucks when they put together Licensed To Ill; It was originally titled Don't Be A Faggot until the Columbia brass refused to release it. With a lyrical assist courtesy Run-DMC ("Slow and Low" and "Paul Revere") and some great beats from Rick Rubin, the Beastie's combination of metal guitar and Brat Raps were a hit amongst hardcore rap fans and mall rats alike, earning Def Jam their first platinum plaque (and eventually selling over nine million units).

'86 also saw Russell Simmon's love of R&B represented, as he released music from Tashan and Oran "Juice" Jones to underwhelming results, despite the popularity of Juice's "The Rain" single (the album was certified Gold five years later). The fourth release of the year was thrash metal band Slayer's Reign In Blood; the album was distributed by Geffen, rather than Columbia, who felt its lyrical content was promoting Nazism. Now regarded as one of greatest thrash albums of all time, it also signaled that the diverging musical tastes of the label's founders were wider than ever.

Tags: def-jam
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