Def Jam has been in freefall over the past four years. The label had enjoyed a successful run and was full of growth in the previous decade, plus. By the mid-1990s, Def Jam had been purchased by MCA and was in financial ruin. When the label needed new life, they turned to Irv Gotti, who delivered to them Jay-Z, DMX, and Ja Rule, three artists who would carry the label into the 2000s on top of the rap game.
Before the mid-2000s, however, Irv Gotti was facing federal prison time, DMX had become a drug addict, Ja Rule was virtually blacklisted, meanwhile Jay-Z was running the Def Jam label. Under Jay-Z’s guidance, several artists were added to the label, most-notably, Nas, meanwhile stars such as Rick Ross, Rihanna, and Ne-Yo were born. Even with the criticism, the right man for the job was there.
LL Cool J, the first artist signed to Def Jam, was vocal about Jay-Z, but at least the label was in good hands. Jay-Z would step down from the CEO position at Def Jam in 2007. By 2008, Jay-Z had also brought out of his artist deal with Def Jam, establishing a new record company, Roc Nation. In the time since Jay-Z left Def Jam, the only artist to truly benefit on the label has been Rick Ross and it came from his own work, more than contributions from Def Jam. Building an incredible buzz in 2010, going into 2011, when Rick Ross decided to develop his Maybach Music label, he did not even consider Def Jam, before going to Warner Bros. Records.
During the height of his feud with Rick Ross, 50 Cent boasted of leaving Interscope Records to take the CEO position at Def Jam to become Rick Ross’ boss. There were some who felt 50 Cent would indeed sign with the label, as G-Unit Records co-founder, Sha Money XL, had taken an executive role with the label. With 50 Cent on the outs with his own label, Interscope Records, he is currently shopping for a new label home. During an interview, 50 Cent was asked if he would sign with Def JamÂ 50 Cent said he would not, calling the label “broke.”
50 Cent’s arch-rival, Irv Gotti, also spoke on the state of Def Jam, saying the label needs to put someone in charge. The roster of talent on the label is no longer being serviced. When artists have the chance, they are leaving the label. A few talents, such as 2 Chainz and YG, have signed to Def Jam, but their addition does not make up for the loss of Ne-Yo, who departed for sister label, Motown Records. Irv Gotti said the problem with Def Jam is no one cares about the artists on the label, saying how crazy it was for Young Jeezy’s album to face so many delays.
The few artists who remain with Def Jam are rumored to soon be leaving. Still, Def Jam has received some major wins, with Kanye West deciding to establish his G.O.O.D. Music label at Def Jam, thus adding Big Sean to the roster. However, the losses of several legends, including founding artist, LL Cool J, is tough to make up for. Things have not looked this bad for Def Jam since Irv Gotti joined the company, adding Jay-Z, DMX, and Ja Rule, in the mid, to late, 1990s.