New label group dedicated to supporting the best in African hip-hop talent and culture across the continent
By Edward Tsumele
African hip hop artists received a boost yesterday when a leading American label announced the signing of the continent’s leading artists when it launched Jef Jam Africa, 35 years after the label cemented its foot hold on the American music scene.
This follows yesterday’s announcement by international music group Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based entertainment. The group announced the launch of Def Jam Africa, a new label division within the continent “dedicated to representing the best hip-hop, Afrobeats and trap talent in Africa. 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 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 artiste repertoire , 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.
South Africa and Nigeria have over the years become known to be home to leading entertainers on the continent, with the music industry alone responsible for contributing billions of Rands to the GDP of the two continental; economic powerhouses.
In fact at one stage South Africa was the largest economy on the continent, but was later surpassed by Nigeria when the contribution of its entertainment’s sector’s contribution, especially its film sector Nollyhood was taken into consideration.
The launch of this international label could not have come at the right time as the continent’s economies are bound to contract immensely due to the coronavirus, with economists estimating that South Africa’s GDP will contract by as much as between 4.5% -10%.
Def Jam Africa launches with a flagship roster, that includes some of the most influential, successful and followed African talent that include Boity (South Africa), CassperNyovest (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).
“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 destinationfor hip-hop and urban culture worldwide. It is a historic achievement that we’re now able to bring this iconic label to Africa, to createan 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,” said Dlamini yesterday.
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 artistsemerging 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 Powerin partnership withDef 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.
Founded About Def Jam recordings
Founded in 1984, Def Jam Recordings has represented the cutting-edge in hip-hop music for more than 35 years. Def Jam began as a maverick independent label inspired by downtown New York City’s vibrant street culture and the emerging sound of hip-hop, pioneered by iconic stars like LL Cool J, Slick Rick, The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. Over the following two decades, Def Jam established its dominance with superstar acts like Jay-Z, DMX, Ja Rule, Method Man & Redman, Ludacris, Rihanna, Jeezy, and the inimitable Kanye West. Now in its fourth decade, Def Jam’s music and lifestyle has grown into a global brand – synonymous with creativity, quality and authenticity – encompassing a diverse roster of marquee and emerging stars like West, Justin Bieber, Alessia Cara, Logic, Pusha T, Jadakiss, Vince Staples, Jeremih, Big Sean, YG, 2 Chainz, Dave East, and JheneAiko, among others. Today, Def Jam has reaffirmed its passion for and commitment to hip-hop culture, and has expanded its global brand reach to become the most-followed major label on all major social media platforms.