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In February of this year, independent hip-hop label Definitive Jux announced it was going on hiatus after ten years of feeding ears.

While they said it was a hiatus, the pessimist in me would call it shutting down.

(Sort of like when your girlfriend needs a “break” or “space.” Odds are, they’re not coming back….at least not as your girlfriend. Maybe you get to be “friends in the future.” Maybe.) While this shutdown/hiatus is disappointing, it’s not all that common in today’s tumultuous music industry.

As a tribute to one of the greatest hip-hop labels, I will reflect on 3 on my favorite Def Jux releases. As always, these are in no order.

El-P – Fantastic Damage

El-P first proper solo release was a noisy, cacophonous record that was grounded in basic boom-bap. It was sort like DJ Premier meets Blade Runner. Probably as sonically dense as any hip-hop record has ever been which is probably why most people just equated it as “noise.” Lyrically, it’s also a little hard to digest as it’s heavy with metaphors, so it requires one’s thinking cap. (Yep, I just typed “thinking cap.”)Despite all the futuristic sounds, it still managed to have a love ballad with “T.O.J.”

Notable tracks: Deep Space 9mm, Delorean, Stepfather Factory.

Cage – Hell’s Winter

After releasing the wonderful yet unfocused Movies For The Blind, rapper Cage stopped doing drugs, switched labels and released Hell’s Winter, a brilliant record where he reflects on a lot of the moments of his life that made him who he was/is. These songs include “Stripes,” a retelling of the child abuse he faced at the hands of his father, a drug-addled soldier stationed in Germany, and “Public Property” detailing his mistreatment by his former label Eastern Conference Records. (Oddly enough, his dad’s name was Bill Murray.) “Grand Ol’ Party” explores the Bush Administration with former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra doing his best Dubya impression.

With a clearer outlook, he released one of 2005’s and The 00’s (Aughts?) best records. It’s amazing what happens when you stop doing drugs.

Notable songs: Left It To Us, Too Heavy For Cherubs, Grand Ol’ Party Crash

Party Fun Action Committee – Let’s Get Serious

And now for something completely different. Party Fun Action Committee released a hip-hop satire album, ridiculing several genres of hip-hop and pop music. This was a favorite because rappers hate laughing about hip-hop. Luckily, these guys weren’t rappers but producers with a keen sense of humor. The standouts are the frat-attacking “Beer.” If you ever had to deal with frat boys or frat boy-types, this will give you a chuckle. “I Should’ve Known” is an R. Kelly send-up which needed to be done much earlier. (Seriously, how ridiculous is R&B? The answer: very.)

Other notable songs: Mental Storm

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