Last week, the world woke up to two Billboard Music covers, one featuring Davido and Tiwa Savage and the other featuring Mr. Eazi. This kind of exposure is unprecedented but well deserved, reinserting Nigerian popstars into the global music conversation the way K-pop dominated music conversations in 2016 – 2018. Africa’s time has finally come with Nigeria leading the charge towards global pop charts domination. The streaming platforms were the first to see the potential in African music, dedicating playlists to African music and expanding their playlists to include features that introduced the world to Mr. Eazi, Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage and Burna Boy. The record labels followed, with Sony Music and Universal Music Group all launching African publishing imprints. Now Def Jam is joining the race to corner the African market by coming to represent the culturally relevant but commercially underrated rap scene on the continent with Def Jam Africa.
Def Jam Africa is a subsidiary of UMG Africa, and will focus almost entirely on signing and managing rap stars. They are already starting strong by signing on 6 of the continent’s most charismatic acts, including South Africa’s Nasty C and Cassper Nyovest and Nigeria’s Vector the Viper, who just released his new EP under the imprint. Rap in Nigeria has always had an outsize impact on the culture of the continent. American rap stars are treated as global super stars and African born British rappers Skepta, Stormzy, Notes and SantanDave, have all retraced their roots to their home countries and built secondary fanbases across the continent. Rap’s domination is global, with at least half of all top 10 billboard songs in 2020 being rap song or songs that feature a rapper.
This is the leverage that Def Jam is hoping it can convert into bankable stars. Its starting line up is already impressive and with the return to purist rap and the recent show of force that Nigerian rap legends Naeto C and M.I Abaga showed over the weekend, it is only right to capitalize on the potential now.