Tunji Balogun on Carrying the Def Jam Kingdom forward by VOFO.
by Rapjoint Lagos
Tunji Balogun is a Nigerian American record label executive. A co-founder of Keep Cool, he is the executive vice president of A&R for RCA Records. Balogun has signed or played an integral role in signing artists including Brockhampton, Childish Gambino, Goldlink, H.E.R., Khalid, SZA, Bryson Tiller, and Cozz.
Balogun began his career as a marketing intern at Warner Brothers Records and was hired as an assistant at the label after he graduated from Pomona College in 2004. He later held a position in A&R at Interscope, where he worked with artists signed through Bad Boy Entertainment and Shady Records, in addition to Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Keyshia Cole, One Republic, and others.
He joined RCA in 2015 as senior vice president of A&R, and was promoted to executive vice president in 2018. At the time of his promotion, RCA announced that it had entered into a joint venture with Balogun, Courtney Stewart, Jon Tanners and Jared Sherman to establish Keep Cool. The first artist signed to Keep Cool was Normani. He was also instrumental in the Black Panther OST. He introduced Jorja Smith to Kendrick Lamar.
SANTA MONICA, August 10, 2021 — Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based entertainment, today announced the appointment of celebrated A&R executive Tunji Balogun as Chairman and CEO of Def Jam Recordings, effective January 1, 2022.
Over his 17-year career. His appointment marks a return to UMG where he served as an A&R executive at Interscope Records from 2007 to 2015. In his new role, Balogun will be based in Los Angeles and report to UMG Chairman & CEO, Sir Lucian Grainge.
He is set to replace Paul Rosenberg, Eminem's manager who became Chairman and CEO in 2017, but stepped down in February 2021, after being strongly criticized for the company's inability to create a new range of stars after Logic and Justin Beiber.
Balogun, said, “I grew up on Def Jam’s music – collecting, listening to and studying their albums and singles – those early moments as a young fan have had a lasting influence on who I am today. Def Jam remains one of music’s most iconic brands and has always represented forward-thinking artists and partners that continue to shift ideas and impact culture around the world. I’m honored to lead Def Jam into its next chapter and thank Lucian and Jeff for their support and this incredible opportunity.”
What is Def Jam?
Def Jam was co-founded by Rick Rubin in his dormitory in Weinstein Hall at New York University in 1984 and its first release was a single by his punk-rock group Hose. Russell Simmons joined Rubin shortly after they were introduced to each other, according to one story, by Vincent Gallo.
The label became one of the biggest subsidiaries in the music industry by taking advantage of the burgeoning sounds of Hip-Hop and R&B in the 80's and early 90's.
As reported on Mogul Podcast by the late great Reggie 'Combat Jack' Osei, the label was saved by Chris Lighty and Warren G when problems arose in the 90's.
Def Jam began as a maverick independent label inspired by downtown New York City’s vibrant art scene and the emerging sound of hip-hop; pioneered by iconic stars like LL Cool J, Slick Rick, The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. Over the following two decades, Def Jam established its dominance with superstar acts and living legends like Jay-Z, DMX, Ja Rule, Method Man & Redman, Ludacris, Rihanna, Jeezy, and the inimitable Kanye West. Now in its fourth decade, Def Jam’s music and lifestyle has grown into a global brand encompassing a diverse roster of marquee and emerging stars like West, Justin Bieber, Alessia Cara, Logic, Pusha T, Jadakiss, Jeremih, Big Sean, YG, 2 Chainz, Dave East, and Jhene Aiko, among many others. Today, Def Jam has expanded its global brand reach to become the most-followed major label across all major social media platforms.