In what may be the first signal of the next era of Def Jam Recordings, Naim McNair has been named senior VP of A&R at the company. The move comes just hours after it was confirmed that Paul Rosenberg, chairman and CEO of the label since January of 2018, is leaving his post at the company.
Throughout his 20-year career, McNair, who will continue to work as senior VP of A&R at Universal Music, has worked some of the industry’s top producers, artists and labels, including Top Dawg, Future, Tommy Brown, Ariana Grande and Sage the Gemini, among others. Prior to his UMG role, McNair served as Senior Vice President, A&R at Interscope, Geffen A&M and before that as Senior Vice President of A&R at Republic Records. He previously served as an A&R executive at MCA Records and Warner Bros. Records, as well as a consultant for Epic Records and Top Dawg Entertainment.
Rosenberg, who has managed Eminem since early in the rapper’s career and continued to do so throughout his Def Jam stint, is forming a joint venture label with UMG called Goliath, which is also the name of his management company.
While Rosenberg has been enormously effective as Eminem’s manager over the years, he was a surprise choice for the Def Jam role: He had never worked at a major record label before taking the helm of the company, and it never really gained traction under his tenure. However, the label did enjoy four No. 1 albums under Rosenberg — two each from West and rapper Logic — and another seems likely next week: the first album in nearly five years from Def Jam’s top-selling artist, Justin Bieber. The label has also seen recent success with releases from Pusha T, YG, 2 Chainz and Jeezy.
Founded in 1983 by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, Def Jam is one of hip-hop’s most iconic record labels, having released classic albums by LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Method Man, Ghostface, DMX, Ludacris, the Roots, Young Jeezy, Frank Ocean and, via a deal with Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella and Roc Nation labels, Jay, West, Rihanna and others. Its vibe shifted a bit toward pop under Rosenberg’s predecessor, Steve Bartels, who took the helm when the company split from a union with Island Records early in 2014, but it enjoyed robust chart success during those years, particularly from Bieber, West, Cara and Desiigner. Prior to Bartels’ ascent to chief executive, Island Def Jam was run by Antonio “L.A.” Reid and, before that, Lyor Cohen.