Def Jam Africa’s flagship roster includes Boity, Cassper Nyovest, Nadia Nakai, Nasty C, Tshego, Tellaman, Ricky Tyler, and Vector.
Last year I sent an email to Universal detailing why I think having a hip hop presence in Africa would be the right move to make. I never got a response back but I wasn’t expecting one. As an African hip hop writer I owe it to the artists to do whatever I can to bring attention to their music and the efforts they put in. I don’t know if Universal’s new venture in Africa is an acknowledgment to my email or a weird coincidence, but does it really matter?
On Tuesday (May 26) Def Jam announced the launch of Def Jam Africa. According to the announcement, 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.”
The new division 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 A&R, 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.
“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,” Sipho says in a press statement. “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 label has also announced a flagship roster of artists 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).
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 Power” in partnership with Def 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.