For its 35th anniversary, Def Jam—-the legendary record label that brought us LL Cool J, Jay-Z, DMX and more—-has injected their new generation of artists into the hip-hop world with a compilation album titled Undisputed.
In the span of six days, 17 freshly signed artists from all over the country trekked to Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, CA to record the label’s newly released compendium. The album showcases the label’s newest additions while giving listeners a chance to hear where the iconic label is going next. There’s a taste of all types of hip-hop on the album with standout performances by a number of upcoming MCs.
Def Jam Recordings teamed up with New York City radio station Hot 97 to present some of the artists who were apart of the “rap camp” recording sessions for Def Jam’s Undisputed. As a part of the radio station’s monthly “Who’s Next” showcase at SOB’s, Def Jam and a handful of its rookie signings including Dominic Lord, S3nsi Molly, Lil Brook, TJ Porter, Nimic Revenue and YK Osiris made the intimate venue their home on a cold Monday evening.
Hot 97’s DJ Drewski took on hosting duties for the night as the critical New York City crowd arrived in droves to catch their first glimpse of the new era of Def Jam. To get the night started, the label presented a video montage detailing the history of the label with images of the many artists and executives that called the label home.
The first neophyte to hit the stage was Harlem’s own Dominic Lord. In an energetic pace, the MC delivered solid performances of “Parade” and “Diamond Boo” but showed he needed some work on his stiff stage presence. Thankfully Lord’s confidence overshadowed the slight discomfort as he rapped through his lyrics without missing a beat. There’s potential in Lord and he can be a force within the label’s roster and he knows it. “I’m going to pack this up even more next time I come back,” he told the audience as they applauded. “I’m a savage!”
The aggressive, no-nonsense duo of S3nsi Molly and Lil Brook brought their brand of gun-toting, trap-heavy music to SOB’s but it barely left an impression on the New York faithful. Songs like “Big” and “Pop” were hitting but there was no lasting appeal as it soon became obvious how redundant the duo’s lyrics and production were. Their set was the weakest of the night. Molly looked much more comfortable on stage than Lil Brook as Molly actively participated with the crowd.
TJ Porter showed the hometown crowd exactly why Def Jam signed him. Porter’s swagger flowed throughout his entire performance as his vibrant stage presence thrilled the crowd. The audience bounced to “Tricky” and “The Don” while the charismatic Porter brought out fellow upcoming New York rappers Jay Gwuapo and KJ Balla for an electrifying rendition of “Harder Than Ever.” Orlando Magic center and Harlem native Mo Bamba even got on the stage to revel at the moment.
St. Paul, MN native Nimic Revenue’s energy rivaled Porter’s set as she blazed through an equally exciting performance. The audience was invested throughout Revenue’s set as she performed “Therapy,” “Awlorn Gang,” and a few other unreleased songs. Revenue made good use of the stage as well as she moved swiftly to each corner, interacting and actually rapping and singing to a few people stationed at the bottom of the stage. Between her and TJ Porter their sets were the strongest of the night.
Once Revenue closed her set, the crowd was treated to an impromptu performance by another Def Jam rookie, rapper-singer YK Osiris. The Florida native laced the New York crowd with smooth performances of “Worth It” and “Valentine” causing the women in the audience to voice their support of Mr. Valentines.
DaniLeigh hit the stage right after to close out the night as the special guest and the Miami native did not disappoint. Accompanied by two dancers, Leigh bopped her way across the stage while delivering a blend of singing and rapping on “Can’t Relate,” “Family Only,” and “Do It to Me.” She even teased the crowd with a preview of a remix with Chris Brown to her song “Easy.” Before Def Jam could close the lid on the night however, another one of their newest signees, Fetty Luciano, hit the stage with Casanova to perform their collaborative effort “WhatWeDoin’.”
Def Jam’s Undisputed showcase was a night for the iconic label to introduce their new cast of hip-hop artists that will possibly carry the label’s coveted torch.
Since 1984, Def Jam has always had its finger on the pulse of the culture and it’s no different this time around. It was an impressive night but it would’ve been better had they featured other artists who shined on Undisputed like Bernard Jabs, Billz, Pvrx, or Lul G. But regardless of who represented the label that night Def Jam has stamped their ticket to the journey through this new era of hip-hop music filled with melodic hooks and trunk-rattling tunes.