Def ‘s Excellent Adventure Dies


The Scene: “The Death of Def,” Friday’s publicity stunt/funeral service for the first word in Def American Recordings’ name. The company will now be known as American Recordings.

The “ceremony of honored entombment” was held at Hollywood Memorial Park’s Chapel of the Psalms. The after-party was at Shatto 39 Lanes bowling alley. In a rock ‘n’ roll way, it made complete sense: First you go to a funeral, then you go bowling.

The Cause of Death: Def began its brief life as rap-culture street slang. The deceased adjective once meant “excellent.” But, in an all-too-common story, the word started hanging around with the wrong element--suburban kids and record company executives. This led to inclusion in Webster’s dictionary. Nothing kills a hip word like mainstream respectability.


New York’s Rev. Al Sharpton, who gave the eulogy, said def meant, “more than excellent. Like, defiantly excellent with a bang. Now the bang is out of def. It lost its exclusivity to the in, defiant crowd. It died of terminal acceptance.”

The Buzz: It’s not like Elvis. Def is dead. Surviving relatives include fresh, fly and dope.

The Last Rites: In an open casket were relics from friends of the deceased: hats, press releases, albums and harmonicas. Alongside were floral tributes. Beret-wearing Black Panthers stood guard with prop shotguns and AK-47s. After Sharpton’s eulogy, in a rare funeral appearance, the Amazing Kreskin did his mind-reading routine using Tom Petty and Rosanna Arquette. He also sent four mourners into spontaneous hypnotic trances.

Overheard: “Are you guys cremating or burying?” asked a male guest. That question was soon answered. Mourners followed a 19th Century-style horse-drawn hearse and a six-piece brass band playing “Amazing Grace” past the mausoleum that holds Rudolph Valentino’s remains to a freshly dug grave with a simple black granite slab inscribed DEF.

Who Was There: About 500 mourners at the cemetery, plus 2,000 more at the bowling alley. Guests at the chapel were older, the ones at Shatto Lanes more the Tattoo Generation. They included Petty, Arquette, Bushwick Bill, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Swell’s Monte Vallier, Warner Bros. Records chairman (and pallbearer) Mo Ostin, Mike Bone and Depeche Mode’s David Gahan.

The After-Party: Let’s just say the mourners bury better than they bowl.

Dress Mode: Was there ever a record-company party where black was more appropriate? For women, a typical outfit was an all-black combo of veil, miniskirt, lace stockings and cowboy boots. American Recordings’ bereaved founder, Rick Rubin, wore a floor-length black cassock, Ray-Ban sunglasses, a white Sikh turban, strands of red Hindu rudraksha beads and left a thick wake of incense aroma as he entered the chapel.

Most Persistent Afterthought: What kind of people are running this cemetery that they let rock ‘n’ rollers run loose in it?