September 20, 2022 – Def Jam Recordings has entered into an exclusive worldwide joint venture partnership agreement with the Lagos, Nigeria and UK-based NATIVE Records, it was announced today by Tunji Balogun, Chairman & CEO, Def Jam Recordings, and Seni ‘Chubbz’ Saraki and Teni ‘Teezee’ Zaccheaus, Co-Presidents and Co-Founders of NATIVE Networks.
NATIVE Records is the music division of NATIVE Networks, the black-owned and operated, multi-platform, multi-disciplinary media and content company dedicated to the discovery and development of young African artists and youth culture. Founded in 2016 by Seni Saraki, Teni Zaccheaus, Shola Fagbemi, Addy Edgal & Suleiman Shittu, NATIVE has amassed a track record of breaking boundaries and popularizing new sounds through discovery and development of home-grown artists from the community, with special attention to the burgeoning Afrobeats movement.
Saraki, Zaccheaus and Fagbemi – in collaboration with Balogun, who has had groundbreaking success with artists like WizKid and Tems – will use their proven A&R-sensibilities and extensive expertise and contacts in the creative community to sign and develop talent across the African musical diaspora.
“As we build a culture here at Def Jam that connects the best in the global black music diaspora – from hip-hop and R&B to reggae, afrobeats and more – clearly some of the best, most vital, interesting and cutting-edge new artists and sounds in music today are coming out of the continent,” said Tunji Balogun. “Seni, Teni and the Native crew have their fingers on the pulse of what’s truly happening in the scene, as an engine for discovery, and as a hub for creators and artists. I’ve been a fan of their platform, and have been connected to the guys for some time. Our partnership feels authentic and natural, and I believe we’re going to discover and develop some amazing talent together.”
“We’ve known Tunji for quite a while now, and his ear & track record for breaking black artists from all over the world to a global audience, is second to none,” said Seni ‘Chubbz’ Saraki and Teni ‘Teezee’ Zaccheaus. “We are honored to be invited into his new home, and to be the first joint venture partnership with an African company in Def Jam’s legendary history. We truly believe that for music, the continent is the most exciting place in the world right now. We want NATIVE Records to be about artistic freedom, and as a company, we’ve always been passionate about discovering and working with artists that don’t quite color within the lines, and helping them to express themselves and build community. Africa is not a monophonic continent, and we believe this partnership will prove just that.”
Heralded in a profile from The FADER, THE NATIVE crew “pride themselves on being the collective definitive voice for African youth culture, with the brand evolving from producing live experiences and an editorial magazine (print and digital), to producing one of the continent’s most exciting youth-driven festivals just within four years. Through NATIVELAND and NATIVE magazine, they seek to be the center for young Africans who are into learning what’s next in African music, art and style for generations to come.”
With NATIVE – their wildly influential magazine and digital platform – Native Networks has established credibility for being early, seeing what will come today and tomorrow. THE NATIVE has proudly given artists like Burna Boy, Tems, Naira Marley, Mowalola, Odunsi The Engine, Santi, and others their first-ever covers. NATIVELAND, the company’s sold-out festival event, has hosted J Hus, Dave, NSG, and others for their first live performances in Nigeria. Plans call for building a studio hub in Lagos to further nurture local artists with their own platform, modeled after similar communities that have arisen in New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami, and so on.
NATIVE RECORDS CO-PRESIDENTS:
Seni ‘Chubbz’ Saraki, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of NATIVE Networks, parent company to NATIVE Records, has introduced a new generation of Nigerian stars to the world, breaking and framing landmark stories with global figures Burna Boy, Wizkid, Tems, Damson Idris, Mowalola, and others. Saraki has also struck up partnerships with Nike, Bottega Veneta, and Jameson Whiskey brands, further bringing the narratives of the continent to a global audience. He began as an A&R man with the local Alté music community, working with Cruel Santino fka Santi, Odunsi The Engine, Lady Donli, and others, scoring five #1 albums in Nigeria in the last four years.
Teni ‘Teezee’ Zaccheaus, Artist & co-founder of NATIVE Networks, currently based between Lagos and London, represents a New Generation outlook at the intersection of cultures. His polymathic résumé ranges from collaborations with international superstars Skepta and Kid Cudi, to featuring Davido and Tems on his own projects.
Teezee has also been an integral part of pioneering the Alte movement and African fashion scene taking it beyond the diaspora while also becoming a go to for brands like Nike and Jameson Whiskey (where he is a brand ambassador), creating long lasting and impactful relationships while helping grow the brands global footprints.
His work within The Native Networks involved successful stints as the CMO , and Co lead on live events (Nativeland Festival). Widely viewed as a cultural curator using his relationships with artists, creatives and brands to the benefit of all arms of the company.
Sholz Fagbemi, COO of NATIVE Networks, left his VP Finance position at Barclays after six years, to lead the corporate structure behind one of the foremost respected media companies on the continent and within the diaspora: NATIVE Networks, home to NATIVE magazine, NATIVELAND Festival, and NATIVE Records. He has developed his talent as a music producer with artists across multiple genres, including XXL 2022 Freshman Class member KayCyy, the Kenyan-American artist whom he met during Ye’s Donda recording sessions; as well as Cordae, Daniel Caesar, Lojay, Ayra Starr, and Def Jam’s 070 Shake. Sholz also serves as co-lead DJ of NATIVE Sound System, the company’s budding DJ collective, which has hosted stages at festivals worldwide including Lagos. Ghana, Paris, London, Puerto Rico, and New York.