LL Cool J was the first artist to sign with Def Jam Recordings, which Rubin co-founded
Before there was social media, producer Rick Rubin had potential Def Jam artists shocked when they found out he was white.
"LL was 16 at the time that I met him and he came to the dorm room because Def Jam was in my dorm room at NYU," Rubin, 60, said of LL Cool J, who went on to be the first artist signed to Def Jam Recordings in 1984. He released his debut album Radio the following year — and released his final album with Def Jam in 2008 titled Exit 13.
He continued, "I opened the door and he said 'Rick?... I thought you were Black.'"
After LL Cool J, Rubin and co-founder Russell Simmons quickly expanded their roster and signed Beastie Boys, Slick Rick and Public Enemy.
Rubin also opened up about the making of Def Jam, which started out as an idea to expand hip-hop.
"Russell was the one who saw the hip-hop album. I loved hip-hop so much and all they were were 12-inch singles. I thought of it as a 12-inch single forever and I thought that's what it was going to be. He said, 'No, no. We can do albums.'"
In Smith's podcast, he dives into hip-hop history, including his own days performing in the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince before transitioning into acting. In the first episode of the podcast that was released on Friday, the Oscar winner opened up about when he realized early on in his music career that he had a knack for being in front of the camera.
Smith explained that he got the acting bug on the set of the music video for “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” the second single off their 1988 sophomore studio album He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper.
Several years later, Smith earned his own star vehicle, the beloved sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which ran from 1990 to 1996 and earned him two Golden Globe nominations for best actor in a comedy/musical series. Amid the show’s success, he also crossed over into film with starring roles in films like 1993’s Six Degrees of Separation and 1995’s Bad Boys.
Class of '88 debuted on Friday and features conversations between Smith and his peers in the late ’80s hip-hop world. Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Rakim and Chuck D also appear as guests on the podcast.
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