In May, Def Jam launched Def Jam Africa, a new division based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Lagos, Nigeria focused on the continent’s hip-hop, Afrobeats and trap talent. Just two months later, the division is expanding into three new markets in French-speaking Africa: Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon.
The expansion brings additional A&R, marketing and digital resources to parent Universal Music Group’s offices in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; Dakar, Senegal; and Douala, Cameroon; operating under the leadership of Universal Music Africa directeur général Franck Kacou. He will work closely with Sipho Dlamini, the CEO of Universal Music Sub-Saharan Africa & South Africa, who leads the Def Jam Africa teams in Johannesburg and Lagos.
“There is a wealth of domestic hip-hop talent here and in the surrounding countries, that has the potential to transcend language and geographical boundaries to appeal to audiences throughout Africa, France and beyond,” Kacou said. “I look forward to working alongside Sipho to expand our community of artists across the continent, and to help elevate hip-hop from Africa to new heights.”
The first signings to Def Jam Africa from the new markets are rappers Suspect 95 (Côte d’Ivoire), Tenor (Cameroon) and Omzo Dollar (Senegal) — who are today releasing the new singles “Merc*On,” “Ce Que Je Veux” and “Dictature 1,” respectively. They join a larger roster at Def Jam Africa that includes such influential artists as Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C and Larry Gaaga.
“African hip-hop is one of the most exciting movements in music today. In recent years we have seen an increase in its popularity in France, but the appetite for African hip-hop continues to grow amongst audiences around the world,” said Universal Music France chairman/CEO Olivier Nusse.
Over the past few years, the major labels have invested heavily in African music talent. This spring, Universal Music Group Africa also launched the joint-venture label Afroforce1 in South Africa with Universal Music Central Europe & Africa senior vp A&R Joe Chialo.
“The reaction to the recent launch of Def Jam Africa showed the weight and respect that the Def Jam name and brand carries globally,” added Def Jam interim chairman/CEO Jeffrey Harleston. “We are excited to welcome these new markets to the Def Jam Family. It provides an important opportunity for audiences worldwide to discover the incredibly talented hip-hop artists emerging throughout the continent.”