- This article is about the record label. For the Johnny Cash album released by that same label, see American Recordings (album)
is a Los Angeles
-based record label
headed by record producer Rick Rubin
. The label's most successful artists include Slayer
, The Black Crowes
, Johnny Cash
and System of a Down
The label was founded as Def American
after Rick Rubin left Def Jam Recordings
. Among the first acts to be signed were Slayer
(which followed Rubin from Def Jam), Danzig
, Masters of Reality
, and Wolfsbane
, as well as indie rockers The Jesus and Mary Chain
and controversial stand up comedian Andrew Dice Clay
. Rubin continued his association with hip-hop music by signing artists such as the Geto Boys
and Sir Mix-a-Lot
. American had its first major success with The Black Crowes
' 1990 debut album, Shake Your Money Maker
. The album eventually went quintuple Platinum. The group’s 1992 follow-up, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
gave American Recordings its first No.1 album. Emcee Sir Mix-a-Lot
managed a number-one hit with the song "Baby Got Back
" as well as a platinum-selling album titled Mack Daddy
. Heavy metal acts Slayer
also enjoyed notable commercial success, with Slayer in particular, managing several Gold-certified albums. Rubin produces many of the recordings on the label, as well as directing other music-related ventures.
Rubin changed the name of the company to American Recordings in 1993 after seeing the word “def” in a dictionary. The company was renamed because he believed that finding the word in a notable source was against the anti-establishment image that he was trying to project for the company. A mock funeral presided over by the Reverend Al Sharpton put the word to rest.
American had several sub-labels over the years, including Onion Records, Ill Labels, Wild West, Whte Lbls [sic], and Infinite Zero, the latter of which was a partnership with Henry Rollins that specialized in reissues of obscure albums. None of these labels made the distribution transition after American Recordings left Warner Bros. Records in 1997, and its recordings are out-of-print.
The first-ever Def American release was Reign in Blood
, which, ironically, had a Def Jam
logo on its first pressing. (Danzig's 1988 debut album
was the first release to actually bear the Def American logo). However, because Russell Simmons
felt that Slayer's music was not in line with Def Jam, and because Def Jam’s then-distributor, Columbia/CBS Records, refused to release it, it was released through Geffen Records
, and Rubin took the rights of the release to the new label with him after the split. Initially, it was distributed by Geffen Records through Warner Bros. Records
, but when Geffen refused to distribute the self-titled album by the Geto Boys
and the controversy it caused, Rubin switched distribution to Warner Bros. proper, which released all subsequent Def American titles.
American's distribution has been handled through several labels over the years. American's first incarnation was distributed by Geffen Records through Warner Bros. Records from 1988 to 1990. After a falling out with Geffen over the content of the Geto Boys' only Def American release, Warner Bros. itself took over distribution duties from 1990 to 1997. Distribution was then passed on to Columbia/SME Records. In 2001, Universal Music Group (ironically the owners of Geffen Records at that point), through its Island Def Jam Music Group, took over distribution. In 2005, with the exception of the recordings of Johnny Cash, the label returned to the Warner Bros. Records fold.
In 2007, Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the extensive American Recordings catalog, which included Johnny Cash, The Black Crowes, The Jayhawks, Slayer, and Danzig. Warner Bros. was American's home from 1992 through 1997. American's current roster was transferred to Sony BMG in mid-2007 after a legal battle between Warner and Rubin over the details of their former arrangement in which American Recordings would sign and provide creative services for artists, while Warner Bros. was only to handle promotion, sales, marketing, and distribution. Rubin was prompted to move his label with his appointment to co-chairman of Columbia in the Spring of 2007.
Infinite Zero Reissue Artists