For three decades and counting Cey Adams has been a fixture wherever creative visuals are habitual. From his early days in the graf and the ’80s downtown art scene (peep his appearance in Style Wars, yo) to his logo, merch and advertising designs for the likes of Run-DMC, De La Soul, and his pals the Beastie Boys to the Chapelle’s Show logo and album artwork for big timers like Maroon 5, he’s been there, done that, and still doing it. Cey may be best known, however, for his extended tenure with Def Jam Records, with which he worked from 1984 to 2002, partnering with Steve Carr as co-founder of the label’s in-house visual design firm, the Drawing Board, and then serving as its Creative Director. With the recent release of the literary monster Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label (Rizzoli) – designed, of course, by Cey – we thought it only right we speak to the man about the story behind one of the label’s most iconic album covers, LL Cool J’s 1991 classic, Mama Said Knock You Out.
**Please take us through the process of how this album cover came together.
Cey Adams: It was one of the few times that I remember us having a staff meeting about a particular release. I remember Lyor [Cohen] calling this big meeting, and it was a priority that everybody in the office focused on LL and this release, Mama Said Knock You Out. It’s embarrassing to say, but that was really unusual. Normally it was: okay, this is the record. Sometimes we’d get to listen to music. We’d have sit downs with artists, but never with the whole company being told that this was the priority and we had to kind of get it right, so to speak.