Notable Releases: Ashanti Concrete Rose (The Inc./Def Jam); Jay-Z & Linkin Park Collision Course (Roc-A-Fella/Machine Shop/Warner Bros. Records/Def Jam); Kanye West The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam); Ludacris The Red Light District (DTP/Def Jam); Shyne Godfather Buried Alive (Gangland/Def Jam)
2004 was an important year for the future of the label; Def Jam president Jay-Z released Kanye West's first solo album, and was first introduced to a teenage singer from Barbados by the name of Rihanna. Already established as a star producer, Kanye had a tough time convincing anybody to take him seriously as an MC, but the strong reaction to "Through The Wire" from his Get Well Soon... mixtape convinced the top brass to release the song commercially at the end of 2003, and, subsequently, commit to an album deal. The gamble paid off, with College Dropout selling over four million copies worldwide, spawning four hit singles and inspiring a nation of millions to start speeding up soul samples.
Although Rihanna wasn't technically signed until the following year, her audition for the label was the first step in her becoming Def Jam's most successful artist ever; ultimately she would sell over 100 million units in combined album and single sales. Meanwhile, Jigga's little mash-up project with Linkin Park, Collision Course, shifted five million units worldwide. Ashanti's third album and Ludacris' The Red Light District both performed well. Former Bad Boy artist Shyne managed to go gold despite being behind bars when Godfather Buried Alive was released, even recording vocals for one of the tracks over the phone from the bing.