Stormzy leaves record label to sign with Def Jam

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Stormzy has left Atlantic Records after just one album to sign with iconic hip-hop label Def Jam.

The rapper has joined the label’s newly-formed 0207 Def Jam imprint, which will champion UK talent.

He joins some of the biggest names in rap on the Def Jam roster, from Nas and Q-Tip to Public Enemy and Kanye West.

No details were given about the move, beyond a message from parent company Universal Music that hailed him as “a once in a generation artist”.

Stormzy’s only album for Atlantic, Heavy Is The Head, reached number one in the UK and was certified platinum last week – representing 300,000 copies sold. It also saw him win his second Brit Award for best male earlier this year.

The rapper signed to Atlantic in 2018 after the breakout success of his independently-released debut album Gang Signs And Prayer.

At the time, the label said the deal covered “the next chapter for Stormzy the artist, as well as the joint development of an exciting roster of new talent” via his Merky imprint.

However, relations were said to have soured last year after “offensive” photographs of Atlantic’s boss Ben Cook dressed as a member of Run-DMC circulated online.

Tabloid reports claimed Stormzy had played a crucial part in Cook’s departure – although the label later denied this was the case, saying: “No artists were involved in our decision-making.”

Def Jam expansion

It is not clear whether Stormzy has outstanding recording commitments to the label.

In moving to 0207 Def Jam, the rapper follows A&R executive Alec Boateng – aka Twin B – who was instrumental in signing him to Atlantic two years ago.

Boateng and his brother Alex were announced as the heads of the UK label last week. Between them, the Ghanaian-British twins share a wealth of music industry experience, having worked with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Drake, Dizzee Rascal, Ed Sheeran, Jess Glynne and Rudimental.

The launch of the London imprint is part of a global expansion for Def Jam, which is looking beyond the horizons of US hip-hop with ventures in South Africa, Nigeria, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, among other countries.

Stormzy’s Heavy Is The Head is currently the fifth best-selling album of 2020 in the UK.

In June, the star and his brand #Merky revealed that they would be donating £10m over 10 years to black organisations in the UK to fight racial inequality.

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