“Def Jam at 30: The Declarations of an Independent”

Cornell’s Hip Hop Collection Opens Adler Archive to the Public

Contact: hiphopcollection@cornell.edu
Phone:  (607) 255-3530

ITHACA, N.Y. (Oct. 23, 2014) – For three decades, Def Jam Recordings has been making history with its Hall of Fame roster of artists. Now, in celebration of its 30th anniversary, one-of-a-kind materials from its first year of operation will be showcased on Cornell University Library’s website.

Def Jam’s first full-page print advertisement, Billboard Magazine, 1985.

Curated by Bill Adler, who served as the label’s first director of publicity (1984-1990), “Def Jam at 30” is a unique digital gathering of rare historical artifacts that focuses on the storied New York-based hip-hop label’s first year of operation. 

The exhibition marks the first time that part of the Adler Hip Hop Archive has been available to the public. In 2013, it became part of Cornell University’s Hip Hop Collection, which is the largest archive in the world on the origins and spread of hip-hop culture.

“Def Jam at 30” covers the label’s operations from the fall of 1984, when Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin became partners, to the fall of 1985, when the label entered into a business arrangement with Columbia Records. During that year of independence, Def Jam released seven singles and launched the careers of LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys. The web site tells the story of each of these singles, including T. La Rock’s “It’s Yours,” a Jazzy Jay and Rick Rubin production released just before Simmons and Rubin became partners. 
Assembled over the course of the last 30 years, the Adler archive contains thousands of newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, press packets, flyers, posters, correspondence, manuscripts, books, artist bios and other materials. Its rich documentation of hip-hop’s history is an invaluable resource for scholars, students, journalists and filmmakers.
The Adler archive is now open for research in person at Cornell, and a list of the artists represented is online. In the coming years, the Library will continue to digitize additional portions of the collection and make them freely available online as well. 
To learn more
Visit the Hip Hop Collection online and contact hiphopcollection@cornell.edu.

(Image: Def Jam’s first full-page print advertisement, Billboard Magazine, 1985.)