If you don’t know what the last 25 years of a great record label look like, then rap is just not for you. Over two decades of photos, album artwork, and stories behind every record released under the Def Jam Recordings label became a coffee table book for Rizzoli, designed by its former creative director, Cey Adams. His native New Yorker’s perspective, living just a few doors down from the late, great Notorious B.I.G. on St. James Pl. in Brooklyn, and being a graffiti writer (with a hand style you would give your left arm for)—these are the credentials of someone whose doorstep was hip-hop.
Adams founded The Drawing Board design studio while at Def Jam with his partner Steve Carr. Together their creative team was a factory of artwork and logos for the label’s marquis talent: LL Cool J, Redman, DMX, and the list goes on. With ‘90s rap etching its place in music history, and with every year getting arguably better than the next, credit has been owed to visionaries like Cey Adams. Bad Boy Records and artists like the Beastie Boys also turned to Adams and his friends for work, which he discusses when he names his Top 10 Album Covers From the ‘90s. Some of his extended stories about Redman’s video game character and working with Diddy from the salad days of Uptown Records were so damn good that we’re giving you the extended interview. Respect the architect.
Words by: @iamdjtreats