Universal Music Group launches Def Jam Africa

THE NEWSGHOST, NIGERIA – Yesterday, American global music corporation Universal Music Group (UMG) announced the launch of Def Jam Africa, a new division of the international music label that will focus on hip-hop, afrobeats and trap talent on the African continent.

This is coming less than a year after the corporation launched Def Jam South East Asia. The new division, based in Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria, will identify and sign artist talent from across the continent and report to Universal Music Sub-Saharan Africa & South Africa Managing Director Sipho Dlamini.

Although the Universal Music Group has had offices in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Senegal, and Morocco, but the corporation’s annexes in Africa have not had as much freedom to shape their brand identities as their U.S. counterparts.

In an interview with entertainment journalists, Dlamini noted that, ‘In the U.S., [Universal Music has] Republic, Interscope, Def Jam, Capitol – labels that can each define their own DNA. In Africa, we’ve only ever operated Universal, and under that umbrella you might have jazz, gospel, dance, and hip-hop. What Def Jam Africa allows us to do is create an aspirational label. If a kid is making hip-hop, we want him to say, “I want to sign to Def Jam Africa.”‘

While making the announcement, Dlamini explained that, ‘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 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.’

The new division’s logo combines a tonearm which Def Jam uses on its vinyl releases with a map of Africa.

According to the corporation, Def Jam Africa 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 African division of the label launches with a flagship roster that includes some of the most influential, successful and followed African talent including: 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), the label says.

Jeff Harleston, the interim chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of 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.’

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