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With Def Jam, UMG set to push Africa’s music frontiers

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As part of efforts to reaffirm its passion for and commitment to hip-hop culture, and expand its global brand reach to become the most-followed music label on all major social media platforms, leading global music company, Universal Music Group (UMG), has announced the launch of Def Jam Africa, the African arm of American Hip-hop and R&B maven, Def Jam Recordings.

The new label division, which is dedicated to representing the best Hip-Hop, Afrobeats and Trap music in Africa, has picked Nigerian acts, rapper and songwriter, Olanrewaju Ogunmefun popularly known as Vector Tha Viper and entertainment industry entrepreneur, influencer, songwriter, recording artist, music producer, and record label executive, Larry Ndianefo, who is better known as Larry Gaaga, on the roster.

Vector Tha Viper and Larry Gaga join other African music heavyweights like Nasty C, Cassper Nyovest, Tellaman, Boity, Nadia Nakai, Ricky Tyler and Tshego, all South African, on the roster.

Def Jam Africa will follow the blueprint of the iconic Def Jam Recordings, which has led and influenced the cutting-edge in hip-hop and urban culture for more than 35 years.

According to a statement released by the group, the new label will initially be based in Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria, but will identify and sign artiste/talent from across the African 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 the Managing Director, Universal Music Sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa, Sipho Dlamini.

Dlamini in the statement said, “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 artistes, that will push the boundaries of hip-hop from Africa, to reach new audiences globally,” he added.

On his part, interim Chairman and CEO, Def Jam Recordings, Jeff Harleston, 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.”

Also speaking, Adam Granite, Executive Vice President, Market Development UMG said, “Def Jam has always been a respected mark of hip-hop quality, and the calibre of artistes 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.

Other forthcoming releases on Def Jam Africa include singles from Ricky Tyler, Boity, Nasty C, Tellaman featuring Alpha P, Vector, Cassper Nyovest and Tshego.

Founded in 1984, Def Jam Recordings has represented the cutting-edge in hip-hop music for more than 35 years. It 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, the iconic music label established its dominance with superstar acts like Jay-Z, DMX, Ja Rule, Method Man and Redman, Ludacris, Rihanna, Jeezy, and Kanye West.

Now in its fourth decade, the pacesetter label’s music and lifestyle have grown into a global brand that is 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 Jhene Aiko, among others.

Universal Music Group is a leading global music-based entertainment outfit, with a broad array of businesses engaged in recorded music, music publishing, merchandising and audio-visual content in more than 60 countries.

Featuring the most comprehensive catalog of recordings and songs across every musical genre, UMG identifies and develops artistes, produces and distributes the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful music in the world.

Committed to artistry, innovation and entrepreneurship, the group fosters the development of services, platforms and business models in order to broaden artistic and commercial opportunities for artistes and create new experiences for fans.


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