In conjunction with the ongoing 35th anniversary year celebration of Def Jam Recordings, and the 30th anniversary of Public Enemy’s worldwide breakthrough album Fear Of A Black Planet, UMe/Def Jam premieres the new three-episode docu-series Through The Lens today.
Produced by Def Jam and UMe, Through The Lens can be streamed here:
An ode to the impact of the iconic photography that became synonymous with Def Jam and its biggest stars, Through The Lens will focus on the three distinct eras that span the label’s 35-year history to date, following three post-modern titans of photography: Janette Beckman, Ricky Powell, and Jonathan Mannion.
Episode one of Through The Lens premieres on June 19th, focusing on British-born photographer Janette Beckman, who lives and works in New York and began her career at the dawn of punk rock, working for such music magazines as The Face and Melody Maker. Beckman was one of the first photographers to shoot LL Cool J, T La Rock and Slick Rick, whose images are featured in the series.
Episode two premieres on June 26th and features photographer Ricky Powell with in-depth interviews and images, with most of the latter unreleased including a photo of Chuck D at a mutual friend’s wedding in the Dominican Republic in 1989 on the precipice of Public Enemy releasing the album Fear Of The Black Planet.
Episode three premieres on July 10th and focuses on the photos of photographer and film director Jonathan Mannion, who has shot more than 300 album covers and worked with hip-hop and R&B performers including Jay Z and Young Jeezy. Through The Lens features twenty rarely-seen Mannion photos, including contact sheets from the Reasonable Doubt photoshoot with Jay-Z, as well as stories behind photos of Method Man, Redman and DMX.
Through The Lens also features interviews with original first-generation Def Jam artist LL Cool J; music journalist, hip-hop archivist, essayist and original first-generation Def Jam publicity director Bill Adler; and long-time Def Jam visual artist, graphic designer and style guru Cey Adams. Adler and Adams collaborated on the 300-page coffee-table book, Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label (Rizzoli, 2010), which also happens to be packed with the photography of Powell, Beckman, and Mannion (among many others).
To hear music discussed in the episodes of Through The Lens as well as Def Jam’s storied catalog, listen here.
2020 marks 30 years since Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame group Public Enemy dropped Fear of a Black Planet in 1990. PE’s game-changing third album included the iconic tracks “Fight the Power,” “Welcome To the Terrordome,” and “911 Is a Joke.” The album became their first to chart around the world, went on to sell over two million copies to date, and has influenced virtually every rapper and MC in the game.
Def Jam Recordings was founded in 1984 as a maverick independent label harnessing the energy of New York City’s freshest sound: hip-hop. In its early years, Def Jam repped the very best in cutting-edge hip-hop, pioneered by iconic stars like LL Cool J, Slick Rick, The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. Over the following two decades, Def Jam established its dominance with superstar acts like Jay-Z, DMX, Ja Rule, Method Man & Redman, Ludacris, Rihanna, Jeezy, and the inimitable Kanye West. Now in its fourth decade, Def Jam’s music and lifestyle has grown into a global brand – synonymous with creativity, quality and authenticity – lead by a diverse roster of marquee and emerging stars like Logic, Pusha T, Kanye West, YG, Justin Bieber, Big Sean, Nas, Alessia Cara, Jadakiss, YK Osiris, Jeremih, Dave East, Jhene Aiko, and many more.