Following the huge critical and financial success of the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, we’re hearing that Universal is considering another high profile deep dive into hip hop history, this time the story of Def Jam Recordings and its co-founder Russell Simmons. We’re also hearing Michael B. Jordan and Jonah Hill mentioned as possibles for Simmons and Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin respectively, though there are no deals in place at this time.
The film would be based on 2002’s Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, + God, co-written by Simmons and Nelson George, which chronicles Simmons’ career, particularly the creation (with Rubin) of the legendary hip hop label that defined rap in the 80s. We’re told it would focus on the early years of Def Jam, and how hip hop grew from an underground sensation into a dominant and pivotal voice of culture and change.
Things are still very preliminary, but time is certainly ripe for the project. Not only looking at Compton, Fox’s Empire and the Broadway hit Hamilton demonstrate handily that there’s heavy interest in rap and the rap music business.
Simmons got his start on practically the ground floor of the rap game, managing Kurtis Blow early on, and soon after, being instrumental in the rise and incredible success of his brother Joseph’s group Run-DMC. In 1984 Simmons and Rubin launched Def Jam in Rubin’s NYU dorm room, going on to foster the careers of some of the most successful rap artists of all time, among them LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, EPMD, Warren G and Nate Dogg, and Jay-Z. A fictionalized version of the label was the subject of the cult 1985 film Krush Groove.