DAR Hip Hop: 8 Of The Greatest Runs By Def Jam Artists

By @TrueGodImmortal

Def Jam Records is the essential hip hop record label. Over the years, they brought the world some amazing moments by showcasing top tier talents on a grand scale. The label has been home to some of the biggest artists in the world, with a large number of rappers seeing their names grow due to being signed to the infamous Def Jam imprint. There have been plenty of success Def Jam artists, but how many of them have actually had big time runs that saw them succeed at a high level or consistent level with quality? Today, we take a look at 8 of the best runs by Def Jam artists. Let's get into it.

*Foxy Brown
(1996-2001, 3 Solo Albums)

-The greatest female rapper to be signed to Def Jam, Foxy was a rarity for the label. She was never the best lyricist, but her flow and delivery were miles ahead of every other woman at one time in the game. Her run was a bit shortlived, however, she never lost relevance in the game during this time. Foxy arrived with her 1996 classic Ill Na Na, which is still regarded as one of the best female hip hop albums of all time without question. Her 1998 release Chyna Doll wasn't as well received as her debut, but managed to climb the charts and hit platinum just like Ill Na Na. Her 2001 release Broken Silence is actually her most well received album and was given huge acclaim by the critics, and it nearly went platinum as well. I think what makes Foxy and her run so prominent is that in a game when many females were dropping one album and losing relevance, she never strayed from being on top of things as an artist and with three well received albums under belt and multiple plaques, that can't go unnoticed.

*Ja Rule
(1999-2002, 4 Solo Albums)

-I was never a fan of Ja Rule. Ever. To this day, I don't have fond memories of his music. Before the 50 Cent beef and the changing of the guard, I just never got into his sound. However, I would be lying if I said that I didn't recognize how successful and major his impact was as an artist during his prime. Def Jam found a cash cow in Ja around the time DMX was already heading for a downward spiral. I'm sure they expected Ja and his reign to last longer than it did, but after his platinum solo debut, Ja would take things to another level with back to back triple platinum albums in Rule 3:36 and Pain Is Love. The Last Temptation in 2002 was the last hurrah and it went platinum barely, but Ja was still a significant factor in the Def Jam lineage over the years whether you love him or hate him.

(2000-2006, 5 Solo Albums)

-Once upon a time, Luda was the man at Def Jam. He wasn't the sole breadwinner for the company during his run, but he was a pillar of consistency and the first artist to make the concept of Def Jam South work. With his debut album Back For The First Time going triple platinum and his second album Word of Mouf doing the same, Luda became an international star for the label and one of the more popular rappers of the time. His third and fourth albums, Chicken N' Beer and The Red Light District both hit double platinum in an era where sales were slowly starting to decrease, making his success one of the best in the 2000s for hip hop. He would finish that epic run with another near double platinum album in Release Therapy, which spawned Grammy nominations and more critical acclaim. Luda was on fire for those six years and staked his claim as a legend, definitely earning his spot here on the list.

*LL Cool J
(1985-2002, 9 Solo Albums)

-Before it all fell down, LL was the true living legend for Def Jam. He started off with a classic, the 1985 debut Radio, and then would follow it up with another memorable album Bigger And Deffer in 1987. LL carried Def Jam on his back as a solo artist, as the groups signed to the label seemed to make their impact felt. Even when LL had a few mishaps album wise like the 1989 release Walking With A Panther or even the 1993 release 14 Shots To The Dome, he would always follow it up with a massively accepted album like the 1990 classic Mama Said Knock You Out or the 1995 release Mr. Smith, which became extremely successful. Through this 17 year run (I cut it off at 2002 because that was the last time LL really had a group of hits with his album "10"), LL showcased that he could rap for the fellas, give the ladies some anthems, and showcase his overall talent. LL is a true legend and his name will forever be synonymous with Def Jam Records.

*Kanye West
(2004-2007, 3 Solo Albums)

-If you want, you can crown Kanye for his game changing yet underwhelming album 808s and Heartbreak, and of course, there is much to be said about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but there is something about that three album period through his prime years that can't be touched. The College Dropout took the world by storm in 2004, giving us hit after hit, while Late Registration managed to drive home everything we knew already about his talent. Those two albums alone are landmarks in hip hop and classic in their own right, but when add in the 2007 release Graduation to the mix, it makes that run THAT much better. Kanye was on top of the game through this run, and if you want to include 808s and MBDTF, that is fine, but for me, these three important albums are where his run begins and ends.

(1992-1998, 4 Solo Albums)

-In reality, Redman is one of the most underrated legends to ever do it in this hip hop game. He didn't sell a lot of records compared to some of the other artists here, but he was consistent with quality and that's what makes him so special. Whether it was his impactful debut Whut? Thee Album, his powerful sophomore album Dare Iz A Darkside, the classic Muddy Waters, or the often underrated Doc's Da Name 2000, Redman was on top of his game throughout his run. During the 90's, when you think about Def Jam, Redman always comes to mind instantly.

(1998-2003, 5 Solo Albums)

-There was no one bigger and better than DMX in his prime. 1998 was his year and he never looked back. Although his fall would be gradual and slow, after his first two classic albums, he would go downhill at a snail's pace, delaying the inevitable at times. When his music seemed to hit a wall and get a bit repetitive, X would seek solace in the film world, but before he was battling aside Jet Li and Steven Seagal, X ruled the hip hop landscape in his own way. The gravel voiced rapper took the world by storm with back to back 5X platinum albums in 1998, with both It's Dark And Hell Is Hot and Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood being regarded as premier releases in the genre. And Then There Was X was also immensely popular and spawned a number of hits, while The Great Depression and Grand Champ also experienced moderate success, but not like the first three albums. Still, DMX through this five year period was nearly untouchable and one of the most important artists in hip hop history.

(1997-2003, 7 Solo Albums)

-If I had to pick the artist who probably made Def Jam the most money, it would be Jigga. Bar none. He was on fire during this 6 year period, including the two albums he released following the time period selected here. Starting with his 1997 release Vol. 1 and of course the subsequent albums that followed such as Vol. 2, Vol. 3, The Dynasty, The Blueprint, Blueprint 2, and of course The Black Album, Jay ran hip hop in a major way for those years. He wasn't always the highest seller, but he was the most consistent rapper during that period with one of the best catalogs and some true classic albums. While Jay was always repping The Roc, he would definitely line the pockets of every Def Jam exec during his amazing run.



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