Kardinal Offishall Appointed Global A&R at Def Jam

"I love that (Def Jam) was not afraid to have somebody from outside of America come in and really play a pivotal role in what they're trying to do"

Photo: Mark Maynard

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jan 11, 2023

Girl, I can't notice but to notice that Kardinal Offishall has never been satisfied with merely partaking in the music industry as a rapper himself. After joining Universal Music Canada's A&R team as creative executive director just shy of a decade ago, the Scarborough-hailing MC and exec became the department's senior vice president, helping shape the careers of artists like Zach Zoya, Savannah Ré and Emanuel. Now, he's going global with Def Jam.

The artist born Jason Drew Harrow announced yesterday (January 10) that he has joined the iconic label as Global A&R. He'll work alongside CEO Tunji Balogun and Executive Vice President LaTrice Burnette, signing and developing emerging talent around the world with Def Jam, which was founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons in 1984.

"It's part of the DNA of hip-hop," Offishall told the Toronto Star's Richie Assaly, likening the label's influence to the pervasiveness of the Rolling Stones logo in rock culture. Def Jam was an integral part in launching the careers of some core instigators of the genre (Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J), and its roster continues to boast major artists like Pusha T, Justin Bieber, 2 Chainz, Alessia Cara, Jeremih, YG and 070 Shake.

An industry veteran who has even served as a judge on Canada's Got Talent, Offishall has occasionally been known in the press as "Canada's hip-hop ambassador" — a designation he doesn't exactly approve of. "My name is only synonymous with Canadian hip-hop in Canada," he explained to Assaly. "Globally, over the last 20 years, I've built a foundation in the UK, in Africa, in the Caribbean … I've always been a globetrotter, whether that means doing concerts, collaborating with other artists, or on the exec side."

Offishall continued, "I love that (Def Jam) was not afraid to have somebody from outside of America come in and really play a pivotal role in what they're trying to do. And I think this is great for all of the younger execs, the younger managers, the younger artists — people who might think that they're only limited to our border. What it shows is that if you continue to just build at your craft and, you know, level up, the world is your oyster.

"Of course Toronto, and Canada as a whole, have always, unquestionably been a place that I have always promoted, that I've always loved and I've always championed," he added.

The MC assures that his new role, which he called "a dream experience," doesn't mean he's abandoning where he comes from: "Nothing is changing," Offishall said, "but the stakes are bigger."

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