×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Def Jam Exec VP Steven Victor on the Future of A&R: ‘We Need to Be Young and Nimble’

The executive also shares news on Alessia Cara's second album.

Def Jam executive vice president and head of A&R Steven Victor is fortifying his department with new hires and a key promotion. Noah Preston, who signed Logic in 2012, has been upped from VP to senior VP of A&R, the label announced today. Also arriving at the company as VP is Alexander “AE” Edwards, a frequent collaborator of Tyga’s and the rapper’s Last Kings Records, whose first signing is 18 year-old YK Osiris, newly known for the track “Valentines” which has gone viral in a month’s time. In addition, Victor has brought in 25-year-old producer Ronny J (XXXtentacion, Lil Pump, and Smokepurpp) and his his Listen Up Forever Records for an exclusive joint venture deal.

“We need to be young and nimble,” says the New York-based Victor, who oversees a staff of 20. “We need gut-based A&R where we’re signing an artist not a product. I don’t want to hear the [research] numbers. I want to see someone who can have a career and impact culture. I want to build an artist not a collection of songs.”

Certainly the 34-year-old revered label that’s home to Kanye West, Rihanna and Justin Bieber — and in its nascent years, Run-DMC and LL Cool J — has seen its share of all of the above, but maintaining not only a legacy but continued relevance is a tall order for any executive, never mind success in both hip-hop and pop.

Victor, who arrived from a cross-label post at parent company Universal Music Group after running GOOD Music, the collective launched by Kanye West and featuring releases by rappers including Desiigner and Pusha T, says he “welcomes the pressure.” And with guidance from new chairman and CEO Paul Rosenberg, who took the reins in January, the two share a vision for Def Jam’s future. Says Victor: “Look at Kanye, Eminem… I like polarizing artists. I have to be awed.”

Rosenberg, Eminem’s longtime manager, has instituted certain rules for Def Jam, Victor shares. “That an artist should be authentic, unique, have edge and a strong sense of identity — and I agree 100%,” says the executive, adding that today’s hip-hop, the most popular genre on streaming platforms, “is accessible to all.”

As for the label’s pop acts, Victor reveals that a new Alessia Cara album is pretty much in the can and eyeing a fall street date. Coming off a Grammy win for Best New Artist, the Canadian singer’s second release, on which she wrote every song, is “honest” and will speak to her audience. “It’s about her life,” he says, circling back to the notion of trusting your instincts and wanting to “take a bet on her.” Adds Victor: “You’ll be right more than wrong by following your gut.”

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Rob Thomas Sammy Hagar

    Sammy Hagar Joins Rob Thomas for 'Smooth' Performance (Watch)

    Who do you call when your pal Carlos Santana has plans on a Friday night? If you’re Rob Thomas, you recruit another famous friend, rocker Sammy Hagar, who turned up to help the singer close out the latest show of his Chip Tooth Smile tour with a performance of “Smooth” at the Fox Performing Arts [...]

  • US record producer The-Dream arrives for

    Top Music Publishers Come Together for Songs of Hope Honors

    The 15th annual Songs of Hope honors united songwriters, music industry insiders and more than a few preeminent doctors at producer Alex Da Kid’s Sherman Oaks compound on Thursday night. Jimmy Jam returned to host the event, which served as a fundraiser for the ever-vital City of Hope medical treatment center as well as a [...]

  • Monkees/Badfinger/Nazz Supergroup Takes Beatles' 'White Album'

    Monkees/Badfinger/Nazz Supergroup Gets Back to '68 by Touring Beatles' 'White Album'

    The 50th anniversary re-release of 1969’s “Abbey Road” may be just days away, but that doesn’t mean Beatles fans have been there and done that when it comes to celebrating ’68. Todd Rundgren, the Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz, Badfinger’s Joey Molland and several other name musicians of a certain vintage are teaming up to go out [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content