Who Owns Def Jam?

2 years ago
2 mins 30 secs

As a music lover, you have likely heard of Def Jam and thought, “who owns Def Jam?” Def Jam is one of the biggest record labels in the United States. There has been tremendous growth for this label brand in recent years. But what is its ownership?

Universal Music Group owns the record label Def Jam. Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin founded this label. Rubin co-founded Def Jam at New York University following the release of Hose’s “First Single.” Soon after Rubin and Russell Simmons got to know each other, Russell Simmons joined Rubin’s team.

What Is Def Jam?

Def Jam is one of the most prominent American record labels. EMI Records operates the label, which also has its presence in London, known as 0207 Def Jam.

 As Def Jam distributes music from many imprints, it has even distributed releases under Kanye West, Dirt Records, etc. Further, since its foundation, Def Jam has seen various CEOs. 

However, Paul Rosenberg was among the most famous CEOs of Def Jam. Def Jam CEO Paul Rosenberg announced his resignation in 2020. As a result, the label was acquired by Jeffrey Harleston, the head of corporate affairs at Universal Music.

Who Owns Def Jam?

Def Jam is a record label owned by Universal Music Group. Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin started this record label in 1984. As a result of the release of Hose’s “First Single,” Rubin designed Def Jam while attending New York University.

Russell Simmons took up the position on Rubin’s team after he and Rubin became acquainted with each other. In an interview with Rubin, he said he first recognized him as “Hip Hop’s face” when he saw him on the TV show. 

See also  Generating Buzz: Innovative Strategies For Market Growth

Jazzy Jay’s hit single “It’s Yours” was the “First Single” released bearing the Def Jam Recordings logo. Following the success of the singles, CBS Records arranged to distribute the album through Columbia Records.

However, Hose and T La Rock did not become part of the deal and are now under separate ownership. Eventually, this led to the formation of another short-lived label, OBR Records, that specialized in R&B music. 

“The Rain” was the first hit single by Oran “Juice” Jones for OBR Records. Later, Def Jam and its subsidiaries were consolidated under Rush Associated Labels’ umbrella label.


Def Jam is a record label that was initially started in 1984 by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin. 

While attending New York University in 1975, Rubin was obliged to set up Def Jam after Hose’s “First Single” was released. The arrival of Russell Simmons as a member of Rubin’s team resulted from a valuable and productive meeting between the two. 

Def Jam hasn’t always had an easy road to success, though. But it’s outlasted all its predecessors. As the label has grown, numerous changes have been at the top. 

After Lyor Cohen became the head of the operation, Rubin left to form his own label in 1988. He was unable to work with Cohen because of creative differences.

Latest News