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Rap and Hip Hop Resources: Record Labels

A guide to finding resources for rap and hip hop research

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Influential Record Labels

During the '80s, as hip hop moved towards mainstream audiences, more record labels emerged. New labels were vying for the chance to sign new artists and steal established artists from labels like Sugar Hill. There were a number of new indie rap labels, but during this time the hip hop giant Def Jam also emerged.

Some new/influential labels include:

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Tuff City
Tommy Boy
Def Jam

Def Jam records was founded in 1984 by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin. The two quickly procured a distributing relationship with Columbia, cementing their place in hip-hop culture. Def Jam soon became a cornerstone for rap labels. Simmons also had a mangement company (managing Kurtis Blow, Run D.M.C. and others). At the end of the '80s Simmons and Rubin split. Simmons assumed control of Def Jam (hip hop only) and Rubin started Def American Recordings (rock and rap).

For more information on record labels see the All Music Guide to Hip Hop (link below).

You can do a search of the library's catalog to see all of the LPs we have on a given label.

  • Go to the online catalog
  • Click on the tab that says NUMBERS
  • Click on the tab that says LOCAL CALL #
  • Type in "12/33DefJam" or "12/33TommyBoy" (or use the name of another label)

"12/33" is the call number we use to indicate that something is a record, and "DefJam" indicates the record label!

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