Def Jam Recordings is an American hip-hop record label, owned by Universal Music Group, and operates as a part of The Island Def Jam Music Group. In the UK, the label takes on the name Def Jam UK and is operated through Mercury Music Group, while in Japan, it is Def Jam Japan operating through Universal Sigma Music.
Def Jam was created by Rick Rubin in his dorm room at New York University and its first release was a single by his punk-rock group, Hose. Russell Simmons joined Rubin shortly after they were introduced to each other by Vincent Gallo. The first single released with a Def Jam Recordings logo was T La Rock & Jazzy Jay "It's Yours." The first releases with a Def Jam Recordings catalog number were LL Cool J's "I Need a Beat" and the Beastie Boys' "Rock Hard," both in 1984. The singles sold well, eventually leading to a distribution deal with CBS Records (which would later become Sony Music Entertainment) through Columbia Records the following year. This created a short-lived subsidiary label called OBR Records, catered toward R&B artists — the first artist signed to that imprint was Oran "Juice" Jones, who enjoyed success with his hit single "The Rain". Def Jam also signed their first and only thrash metal band Slayer in 1986, and their debut album was the only Def Jam release to be distributed through Geffen Records, as opposed to Columbia. As the decade drew to a close, the label signed Public Enemy, whose controversial lyrical content garnered the company both critical acclaim and disdain.
Lyor Cohen became president of Def Jam in 1988, after winning a power struggle with Rubin, who would shortly thereafter leave the company to form Def American Recordings (now known as American Recordings). Rubin would take Slayer with him to Def American in their initial stages.