Complex Content Boss Noah Callahan-Bever to Exit for EVP Role at Def Jam: Exclusive

Noah Callahan-Bever
Courtesy of Noah Callahan-Bever

Noah Callahan-Bever

As Complex chief creative officer Noah Callahan-Bever tells it, he first met Eminem manager and incoming Def Jam chairman/CEO Paul Rosenberg in 1998 at NYC record store Fat Beats, a year before Eminem would shake up the hip-hop game with his major-label debut album, The Slim Shady LP.

"Paul came by and was playing a CD that had 'My Name Is' and 'Guilty Conscience' on it -- Max Glazer was the DJ there -- and I was hanging out drinking coffee with my friend who worked the register on a Saturday afternoon," the veteran journalist remembers. "All of a sudden I heard 'My Name Is' and I ran over to the DJ booth and said, 'What's going on here?' [Paul and I] got to talking and I ended up flying out to Burbank and spending a week with Em while he mixed The Slim Shady LP. I've known Paul ever since."

Twenty years later, the two will officially be working together: today, Def Jam announced that Callahan-Bever has been named executive vp of brand strategy and content, working with the label's senior executive team and reporting directly to Rosenberg beginning at the top of 2018, when the latter executive takes over from outgoing CEO Steve Bartels.

"I’ve worked with Noah for nearly 20 years in his various capacities with different companies as writer, editor and CCO,” Rosenberg said in a statement provided to Billboard. "Throughout that time, Noah has demonstrated an incredible ability to create, innovate and connect with audiences. I’m especially excited to have Noah and his skill set become a part of the future of Def Jam as we begin to reimagine the label’s platform, further develop the brand and realize our plan to connect with fans in previously unimagined ways."

Callahan-Bever got his start in journalism two decades ago as a 17-year-old senior editorial assistant at ego trip magazine, and went on to contribute to publications like Vibe, Blaze, MTV News and XXL before being named Editor-In-Chief of Mass Appeal in 2002 and then senior editor at Vibe in 2003. Since 2005, Callahan-Bever has been a staple at Complex, starting out as deputy editor before rising to Editor-In-Chief the following year and then, later, his current role as chief content officer.

While at Complex, Callahan-Bever led the publication through a series of changes, expanding its reach as it morphed into the multi-site Complex Media; was acquired in a 50-50 joint venture deal by Hearst and Verizon last April; launched multi-day convention ComplexCon in mid-2016; and shuttered its print magazine early this year. Most recently, he shepherded the company through a pivot to video, which has produced popular web series like The Blueprint -- hosted by Callahan-Bever himself -- and Everyday Struggle, the latter of which is among the shows Complex is bringing to Fuse TV as part of a deal announced in August.

At Def Jam, Callahan-Bever will be tasked with helping Rosenberg and recently-promoted executive vp/head of A&R Steven Victor to expand the reach of the Def Jam brand and further articulate its brand identity, and to help tell the stories of an artist roster that includes established veterans like Jeezy, Fabolous, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Nas, Pusha T and Kanye West and younger artists like Dave East, Desiigner, Vince Staples, Logic and 2018 Grammy Award best new artist nominee Alessia Cara, among others.

"It's the most important label in hip-hop history, bar none, and I'm a guy that grew up on Public Enemy and Slick Rick and EPMD, and then became an adult with the rise of Roc-A-Fella and Murder Inc. and Ruff Ryders," he says. "Def Jam has always been an important pillar in my cultural lexicon, and the idea that I would be able to participate in giving this brand new meaning and new life and helping Paul execute his vision for the future of the label was incredibly exciting. [Paul said] it is his belief that record companies are digital content companies, but most of them just don't know it yet. That really resonated with me, because I do think that in so many ways, the things that the successful labels today do are not so far removed from the type of things that I was doing ... It's really about storytelling and articulating a narrative. The format's changed, but the fundamental function is the same."

As for Callahan-Bever's increasingly-popular interview series The Blueprint -- which has featured the likes of Jimmy Iovine, Scooter Braun and Chance the Rapper's manager Pat Corcoran, among others -- he'll continue to host the show for "as long as Complex will have me," albeit with a less frequent publishing schedule than had been established.

"I got offered my dream job [at Complex] when I was 26 years old, and I've had the incredible fortune of living that dream for 12 years," Callahan-Bever says. "It changed my life, and I hope that people feel like I affected change in what Complex is. I leave with, of course, mixed emotions, but I'm extremely excited to take everything I've [learned] at Complex and apply it to new challenges and new opportunities."

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