Universal Music Group, the largest music company in the world, is taking a huge international step forward with their newly launched music label, Def Jam Africa.
Yesterday, the music label giant announced Def Jam Africa as a new division based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Lagos, Nigeria, that will focus on “hip-hop, Afrobeats and trap talent in Africa,” according to a press release.
Arriving just a year-and-a-half after the launch of Def Jam South East Asia, the new pan-African label division will be “following the blueprint” of Def Jam Recordings.
The music industry has paid more attention to African artists in recent years and has taken an aggressive approach to investing in the continent — both to market streaming services and sign talent.
As they expand their offices across Africa, Universal Music Group is now looking to change how they shape their brand identities.
“In the U.S., [Universal Music has] Republic, Interscope, Def Jam, Capitol – labels that can each define their own DNA,” said Sipho Dlamini, Managing Director of Universal Music Sub-Saharan Africa & South Africa, to Billboard in their new “Africa Now” issue.
“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.'”
Def Jam Africa along with tapping into additional markets could give Universal Music Group more leverage in the industry while other major labels compete against independent artists when it comes to signing new hip-hop acts.
“Def Jam is a globally recognized brand, synonymous with excellence in hip-hop,” Def Jam Recordings interim chairman and CEO Jeff Harleston said.
The new division’s logo combines the image of a tonearm Def Jam uses on its vinyl releases with a map of Africa, to represent the unity between the label and their new geographic venture.
Currently, their launch roster features a slew of Nigerian and South African artists, including Larry Gaaga, Boity, Cassper Nyovest, Nadia Nakai, Nasty C, Tshego, Tellaman, Ricky Tyler, and Vector.
“Together, we will build a new community of artists, that will push the boundaries of hip-hop from Africa, to reach new audiences globally,” Dlamini said in a press release.
Def Jam Africa is a bold move for Universal Music Group and has the potential to put even more eyes on the talent pouring out of Africa.