Pioneering hip hop label Def Jam launches UK offshoot

Def Jam Recordings, the influential hip hop record label that helped bring Public Enemy and Jay-Z to a global audience, is launching a UK offshoot.

The new label, named 0207 Def Jam after London’s dialling code, will champion a roster of currently unannounced British artists.

Universal Music Group, which acquired the New York-founded label in the late 90s, has appointed Ghanaian, London-born twin brothers Alec and Alex Boateng as co-presidents.

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Jay-Z and wife Beyonce (Adam Davy/PA)

Alec has spent more than a decade hosting shows on BBC Radio 1Xtra and has worked at Warner Music, most recently as co-head of A&R at Atlantic, for seven years, with stars including Jess Glynne, Stormzy and Nigerian singer Burna Boy.

His brother Alex takes on the role of co-president after a decade at Universal Music UK, most recently as president of Island Records’ urban division.

He oversaw campaigns for Drake, Giggs and Buju Banton and spearheaded the launch of George The Poet’s debut book release.

Def Jam was co-founded in 1983 by acclaimed producer Rick Rubin in his dormitory at New York University, with the aim of releasing a single by his punk rock group Hose.

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Chuck D from Public Enemy (Anthony Harvey/PA)

He was joined by co-founder Russell Simmons, an established rap manager and promoter, and the pair signed early releases by LL Cool J and Beastie Boys, both in 1984, sometimes holding meetings in Rubin’s student halls.

The late 80s and early 90s saw Def Jam release a string of albums by pioneering rap acts including Public Enemy and EPMD.

In the mid-90s, Jay-Z signed a distribution deal after a bidding war and was later appointed Def Jam president.

His two-year tenure saw the arrival of future international stars Rihanna and Ne-Yo.

Def Jam’s current roster features contemporary rap names including 2 Chainz as well as pop acts such as Justin Bieber.

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Justin Bieber (Yui Mok/PA)

Universal Music UK’s chairman and chief executive David Joseph, who the Boateng brothers will report to, said: “Bringing the Boateng brothers together at 0207 Def Jam is an important moment in British culture.

“Alec and Alex have always done things their own way with success always quick to follow. They have already assembled an exceptionally talented top team with a clear vision for this exciting new chapter in the history of one of the world’s most famous labels.”

Alec Boateng said: “Music, art and artists really, really matter. I’m super excited to play a leadership role in this brilliant new space we’re creating for amazing music and talent to live and evolve.

“A space which will support both our teams and our artists to be the best version of themselves.”

Alex Boateng added: “Especially in these times, this is a real privilege. I’m proud our collective journey now includes partnering a legendary label with a style that only London and the UK can provide.

“Looking forward to watching and guiding where the music and art takes the journey next.”

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