By Marcus Jefferson Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
A force in the music industry for over two decades, Lyor Cohen is a hip hop executive who's overseen the ascension of some of rap's biggest names. Chairman/CEO, Warner Music Group, Cohen made his first industry strides as Run-D.M.C.'s road manager. in just a few short years, he was running the iconic Def Jam label.
At Def Jam, Cohen signed a bevy of artists, turning the soon-to-be Island/Def Jam into a powerhouse. It was Cohen who orchestrated the signings of stars like Jay-Z, DMX, Slick Rick, EPMD, and Ja Rule.
A visionary businessman and executive, Cohen devised the now-standard record industry strategy of offering new releases at reduced price for the first week to boost sales on new album.
Taking over at WMG in 2004, Cohen is still very much an aggressive player in some of the biggest deals and near-deals in hip hop. In 2009, he kept Atlantic/Warner Music Group In the bidding to sign budding superstar Drake until the final stages of negotiations when the rapper opted to go with Universal. In what was considered a uniquely ambitious move, Cohen also was rumored to have made a push to sign Jay-Z at WMG.
For the second consecutive year, Atlantic Records was ranked as the #1 label in the music industry – with the biggest U.S. total album market share of 2009. The powerhouse posted 19 albums in the Top Twenty on the Billboard 200 throughout 2009. Also that year, according to the RIAA, 19 Atlantic artists received gold, platinum, and/or multi-platinum awards.
2010 has also been a strong year for Atlantic, with chart success for newcomers like B.o.B., established hitmakers like Plies, and veterans seeking commercial comebacks, like Toni Braxton; who all had albums debut at #1. Warner Music also joined a lucrative partnership with popular video website Dailymotion.com
His devotion to WMG notwithstanding, Cohen hasn't forgotten his roots at Def Jam. During the 2009 VH1 Hip Hop Honors show, which honored the legendary label's 25th anniversary, he extolled the virtues of being forever connected to Def Jam and urged new signees to remember the company's legacy. As for his own, Cohen is still a power player, and his focus and ambition are the bedrock for his (and his company's) ongoing success.
"I’m a lover of rap music, Cohen said in an early 2010 interview. "I want good things to happen to this industry. I have so much good fortune and already have everything. I feel like we have a terrific company."