The onion offers an interview with Rick Rubin
(Note-- this is in the real section, not the goof acrticles). For those who don't now, Rick along with Russel Simmons helped create Def Jam and Rick produced LL Cool J, PE and the Beasties along with a platheora of others. Rick can be seen on the Jay-Z 99 Problems video and he also produced that track. Interesting how starting a label and acquiring talent has changed.
O: What led to the founding of Def Jam?
RR: I'd made a record with LL Cool J, his first single, which I think is called "I Need A Beat." I played it for Russell, and he loved it. Then I asked him what we should do with it. He said, "Oh, let's give it to one of the labels that I deal with." I said, "All you do is complain about these labels; why don't we just do it ourselves?" Eventually, we decided to do it ourselves.
O: How did you find out about LL Cool J? He was about 15 at the time?
RR: Fifteen or 16. He sent me a demo tape to my dorm at NYU, because on "It's Yours," the label was called Def Jam, and the address was my dorm at NYU. So I started getting demo tapes sent to the dorm.
O: Did he need parental permission to become a recording artist or anything?
RR: No. In those days, we didn't even do contracts, because we didn't know anything about business. We just started doing it.
O: Did you think, "This kid's got what it takes, he could be a star"?
RR: There were no stars in rap music. It was really just a work of passion. Everyone who was doing it was doing it because they loved it, not because anyone thought it was a career. We didn't even think about having a hit single. We just tried to do something we liked. There were no expectations whatsoever. The only hope was that we'd sell enough records to make enough money to make another record. If it didn't cost us money to have Def Jam, we'd be happy. If it supported itself, and we could keep doing it, we'd be doing it.