One of the most iconic figures to emerge from the West Coast gangsta-rap, early-'90s G-funk era, Snoop Dogg evolved beyond his hardcore gangsta rap beginnings to become a lovable pop-culture fixture with forays into film and television, football coaching, and reggae and gospel music. Introduced to the world through Dr. Dre's The Chronic, Snoop quickly became one of the most famous stars in rap, partially due to his drawled, laconic rhyming, as well as the realistic violence implied in his lyrics. His 1993 effort Doggystyle become the first debut album to enter the charts at number one. Snoop went on to sell 30 million albums worldwide, earned 16 Grammy nominations and topped the charts with several hits, from “Gin and Juice” to “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” After the popularity of gangsta rap waned in the late '90s, he proved himself to be a masterful chameleon in the hip-hop world, riding his pot-loving image in various directions that helped buoy his career into the 21st century. Today, he is a multi-format entertainer, media personality and business entrepreneur who has appeared in several films and launched several businesses, even earning an Emmy nomination alongside Martha Stewart in 2017 for “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.” In 2021, Def Jam announced that Snoop was joining the label as an executive creative and strategic consultant. In the newly created role, Snoop will work across the label’s executive team and artist roster which includes Kanye West, Nas, Justin Bieber, Big Sean, Jadakiss, 2Chainz, Jeezy and the late rapper DMX.
Russell Simmons is the most important businessman in the history of rap music. As co-founder of the Def Jam label, Simmons' street-friendly taste and marketing savvy helped bring hip-hop crashing into the mainstream of American culture and mass media. Def Jam grew into one of the most successful and creatively important labels in music history with LL Cool J, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slick Rick and many more influential artists. One of the most successful entrepreneurs, Simmons created a business empire which included his own communications company, fashion labels for men (Phat Farm) and women (Baby Phat), film and television projects, publishing deals as well as his community activism and philanthropy. Simmons is credited with shepherding rap music into big business having sold sold Def Jam for 130 million dollars in 1999, and both Phat Farm and Rush Card for over 150 million dollars. He remains one of the most respected figures in the rap business and continues to take an active interest in shaping the culture's future direction. Currently, he is working to improve the health, wellness and financial fitness of consumers through ongoing entrepreneurial endeavors.
Born in The Bronx, BUSY BEE began his rap career in 1977. He became known for his comedic rhymes and gained a large following through his rap battles in New York. His 1981 battle with Kool Moe Dee is one of the best-known rap battles in music history as well as one of the earliest recorded battles. Busy Bee is also well-known for his appearance in the 1983 film Wild Style, the first film dedicated to Hip Hop culture.
DJ HOLLYWOOD has been DJing since 1972. He is often referred to as the “Father of Hip Hop” because he introduced “Hip-Hop style” rapping when he performed by singing, rhyming, adding call and response interaction with the crowd while DJing. DJ HOLLYWOOD’s “rhyme talk” became a game changer and he quickly gained notoriety for his “flow,” using song lyrics and adding theme to his rhymes. DJ HOLLYWOOD was one of Hip Hop music’s first top DJ and in 1978 became the first DJ to perform at the Apollo Theater.
An icon of early Hip Hop, GRANDMASTER CAZ was a renowned for his DJ skills as well as his rhyming style. He was a master of writing lyrics which made him a much sought after lyricist. As captain of the infamous Cold Crush Brothers, Caz led the crew to new heights. Together the crew fostered a style and sound that has inspired many of today's most famous MCs, including KRS-1, Will Smith, Big Daddy Kane and Slick Rick.
Sharon Green a.k.a. MC SHA-ROCK is considered the "first female rapper" or emcee. Green began as a local b-girl, or breakdancer in South Bronx in the late 1970s when hip hop culture started to take root. The "Mother of the Mic" also made milestone by being a member of the first hip-hop crew to appear on national television, known as the Funky 4 + 1. The latter became music hip hop royalty then when their tracks "Rapping and Rocking the House" (1979) and "That's the Joint" (1980) became radio hits. Green's style of rapping on early mixtapes influenced a generation of rappers notably MC Lyte and Darryl McDaniels (DMC) of the iconic group Run-DMC.
CHUCK D or born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour is an American rapper and leader of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement recipient, Public Enemy. He co-founded Public Enemy in 1985 with Flavor Flav who from the point on blazed the trail for politically and socially conscious hip hop music in the mid-1980s. The Source ranked him at No. 12 on their list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Lyricists of All Time. He continues to be ingrained in pop culture whether as a voice in Grand Theft Auto, an announcer in NBA Ballers on Xbox 360, Playstation3, or the artist behind TV show's, theme song, Dark Angel. An activist, publisher, lecturer, and producer, Chuck D has elevated hip-hop in making its message mean as much as the music.
Nikki D made music history by becoming the first female rapper signed to Def Jam Recordings. In 1992, she released her widely successful single “Daddy’s Little Girl,” which would become the #1 single on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart. During the early years of hip hop when female rappers received little to no recognition, Nikki D broke through the barriers paving the way for a new generation of female MCs.
DOUG E. FRESH also known as the “Original Human Beatbox” is the first human beatbox in the rap world, and still the best of all time. Born in Barbados, he pioneered 20th-century American beatboxing and amazed audiences with his note-perfect imitations of drum machines, effects, and often large samples of hip-hop classics. In the early 1980s DOUG E. FRESH was one of the biggest names in rap music and formed the Get Fresh Crew which included MC Ricky D (who later gained fame as Slick Rick), along with Barry Bee and Chill Will. Their first single "The Show/La Di Da Di," became a hip-hop classic and one of the most sampled songs in music history.
EDDIE CHEEBA was a number one club DJ back in New York in the 1970s, a rap innovator and a master at crowds. Cheeba was the soul inspiration behind Def Jam Recordings founder, Russell Simmons pursuing a career in hip-hop when Simmons heard Cheeba perform in Harlem in 1977. Eddie knew how to work a crowd like the legend that he is. He is credited with creating the old school rhyme: “It’s on and on and on on and on like the hot butter on the what?” And if you were in the club then, you knew to holler back: “Popcorn!” He is famous for his routines that usually come with a little rhythm. Long before hip-hop became a multi-billion dollar industry, rap was the music of ghetto Black New York and in that era, Eddie was king.