Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Yesterday, the internet kicked up a storm of rumors that Definitive Jux, the hugely influential indie rap label that rapper/producer El-P launched a decade ago, was folding. Last night, El posted a long statement on the label's website to clarify things. Def Jux isn't shutting down, exactly, but it is going "on hiatus", and El will soon step down as the label's artistic director.
According to El, the label won't shut down completely: "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." But once the label releases a few forthcoming albums, "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."
Definitive Jux may evolve into something other than a traditional record label, but El-P is not yet sure what form it might take: "I also see newer, smarter, more interesting things on the horizon for the way art and commerce intersect, and as an artist and an entrepreneur, I'm eager to see them unfold. The evolution of this industry is, in my opinion, exciting, inevitable and it would be nice to see the DEFINITIVE JUX brand be a part of it. In other words, maybe we can turn this hoopty in to a hovercraft."
Before shutting down in its current form, Def Jux will release King of Hearts, a posthumous album from rapper and S.A. Smash/Weatherman/Central Services member Camu Tao, who died of lung cancer in 2008. There are also plans for a remix compilation, a 10th-anniversary retrospective album, and "some other goodies" before the hiatus starts.
Even if Def Jux finds a way to thrive in some new form, this could mark a momentous loss for indie rap in general. Over the past ten years, Definitive Jux released records by El-P, Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock, Cage, Mr. Lif, RJD2, Murs, and more.
Def Jux had a massive impact on the sound of indie rap. El-P's squalid, discordant production, which in many ways defined the label's sound, marked a huge departure from the dusky boom-bap of the label's underground rap predecessors. You can hear its echoes in much of the past decade's underground rap. And Def Jux was also the rare record label that had an identity beyond whatever artists happened to be signed to the label at any given time. The label's records were elaborately designed and packaged, and its artists tended to group together on package tours. I've heard club crowds chant the label's name, a true rarity for any record label in any genre. El's statement could mark the end of an era.
Posted by Tom Breihan on February 3, 2010 at 10:20 a.m.