Def Jux Records Not Folding… Sort Of

Rumors were flying around the Internet earlier today about the demise of indie hip-hop label Definitive Jux. Those rumors have turned out to be false… kind of. A few hours ago, Founder and the face of Def Jux, El-P, released the official word:

This means change for JUX. Of course we’ll still have our website, we will still sell our catalog, merch and more as well as bring you news and updates on all our projects and artists. We will be releasing “KING OF HEARTS”, a DEF JUX remix compilation, a 10 year anniversary retrospective and some other goodies. But then as a traditional record label DEF JUX will effectively be put on hiatus. We are not closing, but we are changing. The process is already underway, and the last several months (for those wondering what the hell we’ve been up to) have been spent dealing with the technical aspects of wrapping up the label in it’s current form and re-imagining our collective and individual futures.

So, it seems Def Jux is the latest label to take a somewhat ambiguous look at the future as a record label, akin to what Touch and Go went through not so long ago. It’s a big hit to the underground hip-hop community, of which Def Jux played an integral role in during the last decade. The label released records from underground heavies such as Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, Cannibal Ox, RJD2, Dizzee Rascal and countless others. Alongside Rhymesayers, Def Jux was face of “indie” hip-hop for quite some time. Here’s hoping those associated with the label can carry on with what they do best after the dust settles.

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4 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Michael Roston #



    As long as those guys can keep getting paid to make music, or as Aesop Rock said,

    “When we’d rather be supporting ourselves
    By being paid to perfect the pasttimes
    That we have harbored based solely on the fact
    That it makes us smile if it sounds dope…”

    I’ll be happy, label or no.

  2. Bill Stephney #

    Always enjoyed Def Jux releases.

    The business model for the “traditional record label” is no longer sustainable.

    My kids ask me: “Dad, what’s a record?” And I reply: “Well kids, the term “record” when used in Hip Hop conversation, can mean many things. Some good, some not-so-good.”

  3. 3

    Yesterday sucked. Def Jux was a light in the dark, and now it’s (mostly) gone. Sigh.

    I was re-reading this AV Club interview with El-P from 2007, and it seems like he saw it coming:

    “There are a whole bunch of reasons why a label doesn’t work. I don’t think it’s any… I’ve owned a record label now for six, seven years. It’s hard. It’s fucking hard. And it’s fucking hard to stay afloat…It’s a tricky balancing act. But as long as it’s sort of a righteous idea, then you’re good to go. Who the fuck knows if Def Jux is going to be around in five years? Who knows if any independent record label is going to be around?”

  4. 4

    Def Jux used to make a considerable amount of cash licensing its music for use in television, film, and video games. Supposedly, this licensing income helped keep the label affloat in its infancy. The lionshare of this money came from the licensing of RJD2’s “Deadringer” album. This past summer, RJ purchased the rights to his entire catalog of music to start his own label — because he also saw the writing on the wall. Not about Def Jux in particular, but as El-P says, that traditional record labels are a thing of the past.

    It’s sad about Def Jux, but it’s also an evolutionary move on El-P’s part. More and more artists will continue releasing music on their own, tapping into different models to make money. For example, why give a cut to a label when you can release music via your website? Paying PR people to hustle your shit is the wave of NOW and also the future I think.

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