It's hard to argue that Def Jam isn't the most important hip-hop record label in history -- after all, it's been home to everyone from the Beastie Boys and Run D.M.C. to Kanye West over the last couple of decades.

The rich story of the groundbreaking imprint -- available over at Amazon -- is explored with words, memorabilia and, most impressively, photographs in perhaps the awesome music-related coffee table book of the year, 'Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label.'

This oversized, hardcover book is jam-packed with huge, iconic images documenting the explosion of rap music into our popular culture. The pictures, some of which you can see below, run uninterrupted for several pages at a time and would be worth the price of the book alone.

But -- and we realize we sound like an infomercial now -- that's not all you get. There's also a generous series of interviews with label founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, as well as many of the artists from the label, aligned as a chronological oral history of Def Jam.

What's most interesting -- particularly in the case of the Beastie Boys' dramatic rise to fame, desire for creative independence and ultimate departure from the label -- is how the book allows different memories of the same event to stand next to each other, letting the reader decide how things really went down.

In short, this is a fantastic book for anybody interested in recent music history, and it's pretty much guaranteed to make you bust out your old L.L. Cool J and EPMD records, too!

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