Watch: Russell Simmons & Rick Rubin Talk Def Jam’s Early Days

Def Jam is about to celebrate its “Dirty Thirty” this October, and what better to way to commemorate three decades of great music than to talk to the founders who started it all?

Noisey chopped it up with Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin about the early days of hip hop and how the label came together. Sitting with their legs crossed barefoot on a couch, Simmons and Rubin admit they launched Def Jam kind of as a last resort.

“I brought ‘I Need A Beat’ to Russell and played it for him in his office and I said to him what should we do with this?” Rubin says. “There were no good options and I thought maybe we could do it ourselves and it be just as good as people who didn’t care or who didn’t do the work. We had passion for it. If we sold enough 12 inches to make another 12 inch that was the whole goal.”

Rubin and Simmons maintain there was no expectation placed on the new company; they just wanted to make great hip-hop records. Hear these two OG’s discuss how they built the Def Jam empire above.