Universal Music Group (UMG) on 26 May launched Def Jam Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria.
Def Jam Africa is UMG’s new division dedicated to representing the hip hop, Afrobeats and trap talent on the continent. It will be supported by dedicated A&R, marketing, creative and digital teams from UMG Nigeria and South Africa and will report to Universal Music sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa managing director Sipho Dlamini.
The label will follow the blueprint of the iconic Def Jam Recordings label, which has led and influenced the cutting-edge in hip hop and urban culture for more than 35 years. The label seeks to identify and sign talent from across the entire continent.
Def Jam Africa launched with a flagship roster of top African artists such as Boity, Cassper Nyovest, Nadia Nakai, Nasty C, Tshego, Tellaman, Ricky Tyler, Larry Gaaga and Vector.
“Many of us in Africa grew up on music from legendary labels under the UMG umbrella,” Dlamini said. “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 tha 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.”
Def Jam Recordings interim chairperson and CEO Jeff Harleston said: “Def Jam is a globally recognised 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, the executive vice-president for market development at UMG, 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.”
In March, Nasty C joined Def Jam Recordings through a joint venture with Universal Music Africa alongside the release of his single ‘There They Go’ off his upcoming Zulu Man With Some Power album. Upcoming releases on Def Jam Africa will come from Ricky Tyler, Boity, Nasty C, Tellaman ft. Alpha P, Vector, Cassper Nyovest and Tshego.