Hip-hop and R&B A&R heavyweight Tunji Balogun has taken the job as Def Jam Records’ new CEO, according to sources familiar with the situation. The move marks Balogun’s departure as executive vp A&R at RCA Records, where he spent six years.
Jeffrey Harleston, Universal Music Group executive vp business and legal affairs, has been filling the role in an interim basis since it was vacated by Eminem’s longtime manager, Paul Rosenberg, in February 2020.
Balogun — who was recently named to Billboard’s R&B Hip-Hop Power Players list — has been with RCA since 2015 after joining the label from Interscope. He created a lane with alt-R&B artists at RCA, playing an instrumental role in signing Khalid, Wizkid, H.E.R., Goldlink, Bryson Tiller and SZA, whose signing established the label’s partnership with Top Dawg Entertainment to release her Grammy-nominated debut album Ctrl. More recently he has also worked with Doja Cat, whose third studio album Planet Her in June debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart and No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in June.
In 2018, alongside Courtney Stewart, Jon Tanners and Jared Sherman, Balogun co-founded Keep Cool, a joint-venture label with RCA whose roster includes Normani, VanJess, Lucky Daye and Freddie Gibbs & Madlib. At the time, RCA chairman/CEO Peter Edge called the joint-venture a “natural progression” for Balogun, who Edge said has “an innate ability to understand an artist’s musical genius and […] the potential of their cultural impact.”
In Balogun’s new role, which was first reported by Variety, he will oversee a roster that includes Jay-Z, Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, YG, Big Sean, Logic and Alessia Cara.
Balogun started his career as a marketing intern at Warner Bros. Records, setting aside his college aspirations to become a rapper himself. After graduating from Pomona College in 2004, he pursued a full-time job with Warner while — fittingly for today’s news — also working at Def Jam Mobile, which was Def Jam Enterprises’ division for selling ringtones.
The young executive then spent seven-and-a-half years at Interscope, where 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.
Balogun is just the latest in a series of executive shakeups at Def Jam over the past two months. In June, the company announced it had promoted Nicki Farag to executive vp and general manager. Just a few days later, it revealed it had brought on Snoop Dogg as executive creative and strategic consultant. In May, Def Jam’s executive vp and general manager Rich Isaacson departed the label after more than three years.
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