SXSW: Def Jam Hits 30 as 2 Chainz, Pusha T and ScHoolboy Q Kick Out the Jams

Def Jam founder Russell Simmons celebrates label's 30th anniversary.
Def Jam founder Russell Simmons celebrates label's 30th anniversary.
 Getty Images

The House that Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin Built, Def Jam Records, celebrated its 30th anniversary at SXSW with a star-studded showcase which included performances by 2 Chainz, Pusha T, YG, and a host of top picks from the Def Jam roster past and present. 


The event, which took place at Stubbs BBQ, was sponsored by web hosting company (mt) Media Temple and offered free drinks to a crowd gathered to celebrate the end of SXSW interactive, which closed that day. Kanye West, Jay Z, Rick Ross, Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun and Simmons himself were just a few of the music industry notables who were in attendance, while Odd Future's Tyler, the Creator and DJ Taco cooled their heels waiting to get in.

Interscope's busy Aloe Blacc opened the festivities, accompanied by a full band, the Grand Scheme, which included a full horn section, with trumpet and saxophone. Clad in a silver gray jacket and bowler cap, Blacc began with “The Man,” his recent Hot 100-climbing single (and ubiquitous Beats commercial) from his third album Lift Your Spirit, which hit stores that very same day. Blacc was energetic on stage and personable with the crowd as he shuffled through past hits “Hey There Brother” up through his current catalog.


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Hip-hop is where I got my start, it's what inspired the lyrics to this song," he announced launching into his monster hit with Avicii (co-written by Incubus' Mike Einziger), “Wake Me Up,” which hit No. 4 on the Hot 100 the week of October 5. He closed with “I Need a Dollar,” the theme song to HBO’s How To Make It In America and the hit that first put him on the map.

The crowd was as unresponsive during Long Beach rapper Vince Staples’ set as they were when MMG’s Gunplay hit the stage. The latter, introduced to the crowd by Rap Radar’s Elliott Wilson, brought his entire entourage with him and delivered a killer set in spite of the audience’s indifference. 


DJ sets took the crowd through hip-hop history, featuring the works of renowned Def Jam greats like LL Cool J to rap icon Biggie Smalls, leading to Pusha T’s arrival. King Push immediately launched into classics “Blocka” and “Millions,” working towards “Hold On,” a standout single from his most recent release, My Name Is My Name.

“Support that G.O.O.D. music,” he proclaimed before embarking on a cascade of hits from Cruel Summer classics, including “Mercy,” “Don’t Like” and “New God Flow,” before a rather abrupt departure. Building to a climatic ending with an epic throwback to his Pharrell- produced hit from the Clipse days, “Grindin’,” Push had a visibly distraught look on his face as the crowd didn’t seem to recognize the song. As soon as he finished rapping his verse, he left without another word.

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“Who’s smokin?” inquired a mic’d voice from backstage. The crowd gave a warm welcome to Red Man and Method Man who proclaimed, “The energy you feed off us, we’re gonna feed back to you.” Wu-Tang Clan hits were in abundance, and “Method Man” was a crowd favorite. The duo took crowds back in time with “How High,” and, of course, gave a shout out to the movie.


YG was next up, bringing his entire entourage up to perform a brief set laden with DJ Mustard-produced tracks, including Ty Dolla $ign’s “Paranoid” and his own R&B chart-climbing hit, “My Hitta.”

The clock hit 2 as t2 Chainz stormed the stage with a barrage of hits, including “Fork,” his verse from Drake’s “All Me,” “Crack,” “Riot” and of course, “I Luv Dem Strippers.”

Because it was so late, 2 Chainz had to shorten his set. “If you don’t believe me, take a look at this sheet,” he said to a front-row patron right before bringing Schoolboy Q with his patented bucket hat on stage to perform “What They Want” from the Billboard 200-topping Oxymoron.

As he began his next track, the mic cut off when it hit the allotted time limit. 2 Chainz tossed it in the air and left to boos, but luckily for everyone, they let him do an encore, performing “Birthday” and “Different” before the sound was cut off once again. He finally split with yet another mic toss.

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