Meet Tunji Balogun, Def Jam’s New CEO

Universal Music Group, the holding company behind Def Jam recordings, announced that Tunji Balogun would become the Chairman and CEO for Def Jam starting in January 2022. To many within the music industry, Tunji Balogun is that guy, he is the ‘plug’.

Over the span of his 17-year career, he has worked with many big names and played important roles in signing acts like Bryson Tiller, Childish Gambino, Goldlink, Khalid, Wizkid, SZA, and many more. So who exactly is Tunji Balogun and how did he get here?

Tunji’s relationship with the music industry started in 2004. He had just graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, California, and was a marketing intern at Warner Records while in college and that later developed into a full-time role as an assistant at the label.

After learning the ropes, building connections, and just generally getting his foot in the door through Warner Records, he landed a gig at Interscope Records, beginning his work relationship with Universal Music Group. He became an A&R and worked with artists signed through Bad Boy Entertainment and Shady Records. In the seven and a half years he spent at Interscope he worked with Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, The Game, Keyshia Cole and OneRepublic, as well as signing Atlanta rapper, K Camp and bringing Los Angeles rapper Cozz to J. Cole’s Dreamville joint venture with Interscope.

Photo: Tunji with VanJess at Amplify Africa’s 2019 Afro Ball Gala

In 2015, he joined RCA, the record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment. He joined as Senior Vice President of A&R and created a lane with R&B artists, playing an instrumental role in signing Normani, Khalid, Wizkid, H.E.R, Goldlink, Bryson Tiller, UMI, Lucky Daye, Freddie Gibbs, Madlib, Nigerian sisters VanJess, and SZA, whose signing established the label’s partnership with Top Dawg Entertainment to release her Grammy-nominated debut album ‘CTRL’. He is often credited for helping bring R&B back to the forefront. He 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 Tunji, Courtney Stewart, Jon Tanners, and Jared Sherman to establish Keep Cool Records.

Tunji Balogun is considered a heavyweight amongst Music Executives in America and Billboard listed him on their R&B Hip-Hop Power Players list. He was instrumental in the Black Panther OST, and more recently, he worked with Doja Cat, whose third studio album ‘Planet Her’ released in June debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart and No. 2 on the Billboard 200 the same month.

On January 1, 2022, he will officially replace Eminem’s longtime manager, Paul Rosenberg, who became chairman and CEO in 2017 but stepped down in February this year, after being heavily criticized for the company’s inability to create a new range of stars after Logic and Justin Bieber. It is certainly exciting times for Africans in Music, and we are excited to see the fruits of this new hiring at Def Jam. Just in case you needed reminding here are some of the artists under Def Jam; Kanye West, Nas, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, YG, Big Sean, Logic, and Alessia Cara to name just a few!

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