Def Jam Has Opened up an African Division in Johannesburg and Lagos

Universal Music Group announced today that the legendary hip-hop label Def Jam will be launching a new division in Africa. 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”. This division will be based in Johannesburg and Lagos but will identify and sign artists from across the continent.

The African continent is the next big thing in global music and everyone wants a scoop of it. Universal, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group are part of the ‘Big Five’ record labels who have come to stake their claim. They’ve set up African branches and signed international deals with the continent’s biggest superstars to gain a strong foothold.

According to Quartz Africa, Def Jam Africa is the first of UMG’s flagship labels to exist as a standalone label in Africa as everything before now had been released under the “UMG Africa” banner. The new Def Jam Africa label doesn’t have a standalone label head yet but will be on the search for one.

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.

Sipho Dlamini, UMG Sub Saharan Africa/South Africa chief will oversee it and build A&R (artists & repertoire), marketing and promotions teams till Def Jam Africa has set up structure proprely.

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.

Dlamini said, while making the announcement

Since its founding by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons in 1984, Def Jam has been one of the top labels in the world. Responsible for 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.

Adedayo Laketu

Adedayo Laketu is a creative inventor who's interested in curating a New Age for Africa across all mediums.

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