Our 12 Favorite Definitive Jux Albums

RJD2 – Deadringer

rjd2-deadringerIn 2002, the world was met with RJD2’s solo debut. And, with that, the Def Jux producer helped propel instrumental, sample-based hip-hop to the next level. It is tough to pinpoint just one song on this album, as it stood strong as an entire body of work. Driven by classic abstracts like “Ghostwriter” and “Work”, Deadringer didn’t sound quite like anything Def Jux had ever released. Instead, Ramble John Krohn’s opus found itself rooted deeply in the house of DJ Shadow and other producers who used mind-bending drum breaks and complex samples to bring us on a journey beyond our wildest dreams. While RJD2 has continued to experiment with new sounds, we can’t help but visit this timeless classic time and again as it continues to influence some of music’s finest modern day producers.—David Reyneke

Cage – Hell’s Winter

hells-winterWhile Def Jux’s reign didn’t bring with it a plethora of releases, it did bring out some of the best work from the artists on its roster. Case in point: Cage’s Hell’s Winter. While he previously exposed his troubled childhood on projects like Movies For The Blind, he was yet to embrace his talents and, perhaps more importantly, the talents surrounding him. That all changed with Hell’s Winter, a harrowing, stirring, and yes often disturbing look into the life of Chris Palko. With the help of producers like El-P, DJ Shadow, RJD2, and Blockhead, any rapper in the mid-aughts could have dropped an underground classic. But as we all know, Cage has never been just “any rapper.” Dude’s life experiences help set him apart—can you imagine helping your dad shoot up and then write about it?—but that can obviously only get you so far. His ability to seamlessly weave said experiences into his rhymes without sounding too whiny or aimlessly exposed is what cemented Cage as a pivotal and important part of the Def Jux narrative.—Andrew Martin

El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

el-p i'll sleep when you're deadFive years after his sprawling debut dropped sonic shrapnel from all angles, El-P found himself as the head of a soon to fold label losing the A-grade talent in its roster. Where FanDam was forceful against the tide of social and political change, ISWYD was a lovelorn memoir of resilient disillusionment. El-P trimmed the fat to 13 songs and developed a rap style that was clearer and more concise. His words painted haunting images of soldier rape (“Habeas Corpus”), road rage (“Drive”), dead friends (“Poisenville Kids…”), and fractured personal belief systems (“Flyentology”). Even the production, heavier and refined with better equipment, seemed to breathe and swing more. ISWYD was a final but exclamatory point that defined the aesthetics of his label and artistically expressed the psychological exhaustion of dealing with the American power structure. I mean there are few songs in existence as biting in their cynicism and nihilism as “The League of Extraordinary Nobodies”. ISWYD is the landless king polishing the jewels in his rusting crown pondering if he should off himself. It was that deep.—Francisco McCurry

12 thoughts on “Our 12 Favorite Definitive Jux Albums

Leave A Reply
  1. It is a crime that Labor Days is not on this list

  2. Agreed. I loved NSP too.

  3. That was on Rawkus.

  4. Trustin Timberlands|

    Company Flow – Funcrusher plus?

  5. Ian Shepard|

    Damn, I miss this label. I can’t really fault any of these choices, though I probably would have found some way to squeeze in “None Shall Pass.” Shame the Weathermen couldn’t hold it together for a full-length album.

  6. Gabriel Graña|

    fantastic damage is one of the BEST albums ever, let alone on Def Jux. I also loved the end of the beginning by Murs.

  7. It dropped on Def Jux in Europe, so that technicality made us leave it off. Trust me, though, it was one of the first albums we considered.

  8. DefJukie1980|

    Wait….was CCP’s “Lost” considered a Def Jux or Embedded Music release? Because that shit def needs to be on this list if it was DEF JUX

  9. Def Jux burned bright as a motherfucker. Indelible talent and vision.

  10. Acrophonous|

    I’d forgotten about that Perceptionists album, one of the best hip hop albums I ever owned, Going to go dig it out now.

Leave your reply