Universal Music Group today announced the launch of Def Jam Africa, a new label division within the continent. According to the announcement, the new label is dedicated to representing “the best hip-hop, Afrobeats and trap talent in Africa, and will follow the blueprint of the iconic Def Jam Recordings label,” one of the most important hip-hop/R&B companies in history.
The label will initially be based in Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria, but will identify and sign artist talent from across the entire continent. It will be supported by dedicated A&R, marketing, creative and digital teams from the UMG teams in both Nigeria and South Africa and will report to Sipho Dlamini, managing director of Universal Music Sub-Saharan Africa & South Africa.
The label launches with a flagship roster including such well-established African artists as Boity (South Africa), Cassper Nyovest (South Africa), Larry Gaaga (Nigeria), Nadia Nakai (South Africa), Nasty C (South Africa), Tshego (South Africa), Tellaman (South Africa), Ricky Tyler (South Africa) and Vector (Nigeria). Most of these artists have previously released recordings under the UMG Africa banner, but a rep for the company tells Variety that Def Jam Africa is the first standalone UMG label in Africa that will have its own identity, dedicated resources and focus specifically on its core genres.
In making the announcement, Dlamini said, “Many of us in Africa grew up on music from legendary labels under the UMG umbrella. From Blue Note for jazz fans, to Mercury Records, which was Hugh Masekela’s first US label and Uptown Records, the home of Jodeci and Mary J Blige and many more. For those into hip-hop, no label has such cultural and historic relevance as Def Jam. From Run DMC, to LL Cool J, Disturbing the Peace, Jay-Z, Big Sean and Kanye West, Def Jam has always been the ultimate destination for hip-hop and urban culture worldwide. It is a historic achievement that we’re now able to bring this iconic label to Africa, to create an authentic and trusted home for those who aspire to be the best in hip-hop, Afrobeats and trap. Together, we will build a new community of artists, that will push the boundaries of hip-hop from Africa, to reach new audiences globally.
Jeff Harleston, interim Chairman & CEO, Def Jam Recordings said, “Def Jam is a globally recognized brand, synonymous with excellence in hip-hop, and we enthusiastically welcome the launch of Def Jam Africa as an opportunity for audiences worldwide to discover the incredibly talented hip-hop artists emerging from across the continent.”
Adam Granite, EVP, Market Development said, “Def Jam has always been a respected mark of hip-hop quality, and the calibre of artists already on the roster, shows that this is a label, truly dedicated to helping the very best rap talent from Africa, reach new audiences on a global level.”
Earlier this year it was announced that South African rapper Nasty C will release his forthcoming album “Zulu Man with Some Power” in partnership with Def Jam Recordings in the U.S., during Summer, 2020. Other forthcoming releases on Def Jam Africa include singles from: Ricky Tyler, Boity, Nasty C, Tellaman feat. Alpha P, Vector, Cassper Nyovest and Tshego.
Since its founding by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons in 1984, Def Jam has been one of the , with classic releases over the years from LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Method Man, Ghostface, DMX, Ludacris, the Roots, Young Jeezy, Frank Ocean, Logic and, via a deal with Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella and Roc Nation labels, Jay, Kanye West, Rihanna and others.