UPDATED: Eminem’s longtime manager Paul Rosenberg has been named CEO of Def Jam Records, effective Jan. 1, 2018, the company announced in a press release Thursday morning. He will report to Lucian Grainge, chairman/CEO of Def Jam parent company Universal Music Group, and be based in the label’s New York headquarters.
A co-founder of Shady Records, which has released albums by such artists as 50 Cent, D12, and Obie Trice, and CEO of Goliath Artist Management (Eminem, Action Bronson, Danny Brown), the 46-year-old Detroit native and attorney has also been a recurring character on multiple Eminem tracks including one from 2002’s “The Eminem Show,” and served as executive producer of the 2002 Imagine/Universal film “8 Mile.”
Rosenberg will continue to manage Eminem and will start as CEO of Def Jam in Jan. 2018.
Def Jam, an imprint of Universal Music Group, has been led by CEO Steve Bartels since 2014; the press release says he has decided to step down at the end of this year.
The label has seen a string of hit songs in the last year, including No. 1s by Justin Bieber (“Sorry”) and Desiigner (“Panda”) as well as breakout successes from Alessia Cara (“Scars to Your Beautiful,” “Home”). Prior to Bartels’ ascent to chief executive, Def Jam was part of a bigger label unit named Island Def Jam, which was run by Antonio “L.A.” Reid and, before that, Lyor Cohen.
Def Jam was founded in 1983 by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons and was home to LL Cool J and Slayer in its early years. It would later sign Ludacris, Rihanna, and Kanye West, among many others.
Says a source of Rosenberg: “He’s super smart and will steer the company in the right direction.”
In making the announcement, Grainge said, “Over the past four decades, Def Jam has played a pivotal role in elevating hip hop into what is today the world’s most culturally impactful musical genre. Def Jam’s track record of introducing culturally significant artists is a direct result of the entrepreneurial brilliance that Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin instilled in the label from inception. Paul brings with him not only a remarkable record of success in hip hop, but an entrepreneurial drive and a deep passion for artist development that will build upon Rick and Russell’s enduring legacy.”
Grainge added, “I would like to thank Steve Bartels for his sound leadership of Def Jam since 2014 when the label returned to its roots as a standalone company within UMG. During that time, Steve played a pivotal role in the success of Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Big Sean and most recently breaking Alessia Cara, among many others.”
Bartels said, “It has been my honor and privilege to helm Def Jam Recordings. I am proud of the strength and diversity of the roster that we have built, which continues to reflect the independent roots it was founded on. I am confident the label rests in the sure hands of not just a music executive but a man who cares deeply about the artists and will continue this legacy of Def Jam forward.”
Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam, said, “I consider Def Jam my foundational legacy and could not be more grateful with the great care with which Lucian and Michele Anthony have brought it to a new generation. Paul is one of the true mentors for talent and executives in this business and I could not be prouder of continuing and expanding my long-standing support of Universal and of Def Jam’s incredible great new leadership under Paul at a time when hip hop is at yet another high-water mark.”
Rick Rubin, Def Jam co-founder and legendary music producer, said, “Def Jam is a place where artists are free to express themselves, their creativity and their vision. Paul comes from a place where artists and creativity come first. He supports artists taking creative risks and backs them 100% when they do. Def Jam continues to wave the flag of hip hop culture and Paul will imagine it anew.”
Rosenberg said, “I can’t overstate what an honor it is for me to have the opportunity to carry this brand forward. The Def Jam name has meant so much to me for so long, and it’s a dream come true to be able to be a part of the next chapter in the label’s storied legacy. I’m thrilled to be able to meet Lucian’s challenge of carrying the company forward with new goals and great expectations.”
Rosenberg, who is also an attorney, will continue to oversee the career of Interscope Records/Aftermath Entertainment artist Eminem and run Shady Records.