Def Jam Strikes Joint Venture With Nigeria-Based Native Records to Develop African Talent

Def Jam signed an exclusive worldwide joint venture with Native Records to develop African artists, the label announced Tuesday (Sept. 20).

Founded in 2016 by Seni Saraki, Teni Zaccheaus, Shola Fagbemi, Addy Edgal and Suleiman Shittu, Native Records is dedicated to the discovery and development of young African artists and youth culture, with special attention given to the burgeoning Afrobeats movement. Based in Lagos, Nigeria and the U.K., it serves as the music division of the Black-owned and operated, multi-platform media and content company Native Networks.

In collaboration with Def Jam chairman and CEO Tunji Balogun, who has had groundbreaking success with artists like WizKid and Tems, Native’s founders will use their proven A&R sensibilities and extensive expertise and contacts in the creative community to sign and develop talent across the African musical diaspora.

“We’ve known Tunji for quite a while now, and his ear and track record for breaking Black artists from all over the world to a global audience, is second to none,” said Saraki and Zaccheaus in a statement. “We are honored to be invited into his new home, and to be the first joint venture partnership with an African company in Def Jam’s legendary history. We truly believe that for music, the continent is the most exciting place in the world right now. … Africa is not a monophonic continent, and we believe this partnership will prove just that.” 

Added Balogun, “As we build a culture here at Def Jam that connects the best in the global Black music diaspora — from hip-hop and R&B to reggae, Afrobeats and more — clearly some of the best, most vital, interesting and cutting-edge new artists and sounds in music today are coming out of the continent. Seni, Teni and the Native crew have their fingers on the pulse of what’s truly happening in the scene, as an engine for discovery, and as a hub for creators and artists.”

In addition to the record label, Native Networks produces live experiences including the Nativeland festival in Nigeria, where artists including J Hus, Dave and NSG have performed in past years. The company also puts out an editorial magazine, both in print and online, which has featured such major African stars as Burna Boy and Tems on its cover. Native is currently planning to build a studio hub in Lagos to further nurture African artists.

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