Universal Music Group has announced the launch of Def Jam Africa, a new label division geared towards discovering and representing “the best hip-hop, Afrobeats and trap talent in Africa.” The new division “will follow the blueprint of the iconic Def Jam Recordings label,” continuing to bolster its long-standing history as one of the most significant players in the realm of hip-hop and R&B.
Def Jam Africa will initially be based in Lagos, Nigeria and Johannesburg, South Africa, but will focus its attention on artists across the continent. This will be supported by dedicated marketing, promotion, A&R, creative and digital teams from the UMG divisions currently operating in Nigeria and South Africa and will be under the guidance of Sipho Dlamini, Managing Director of Universal Music Sub-Saharan Africa & South Africa. The division is currently on the search for a standalone label head.
In making the announcement, Dlamini shared a bit about the importance of the move:
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.
The label has also launched its flagship roster, which includes some of the most successful and influential talent from the continent. South Africa’s Boity, Cassper Nyovest, Nadia Nakai, Nasty C, Tshego, Tellaman, Ricky Tyler, as well as Nigeria’s Larry Gaaga and Vector are included.
The move is a major one for the music community, with Def Jam Africa being the first of UMG’s mainstay labels to exist as a standalone entity in Africa. Over the past several years, African youth have captured the attention of listeners around the globe with the likes of Nigeria and Ghana’s Afrobeat renaissance and South Africa’s house-leaning gqom boom.
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