Business

Def Jam Executive Rich Isaacson Departs Label

Rich Isaacson
Daniel Dorsa

Rich Isaacson photographed on Aug. 5, 2019 at Def Jam in New York.

"The company is going in a new direction, and it is time for me to move on," he wrote in a memo to staff.

Rich Isaacson is leaving Def Jam, the longtime exec announced in an internal memo obtained by Billboard. The Loud Records co-founder, who has been executive vp and general manager of the iconic hip-hop label since coming on board alongside then-chairman/CEO Paul Rosenberg in January 2018, said his last day was May 28.

"The company," he wrote, "is going in a new direction, and it is time for me to move on."

Isaacson, who co-founded Loud alongside Steve Rifkind in 1991, was the first big hire announced after Rosenberg took over the company following the end of Steve Bartels’ tenure. During his time at Def Jam, the street-marketing pioneer oversaw No. 1 albums from the likes of Kanye West, Logic and Justin Bieber, the signing of a new wave of talent to the label like YK Osiris, and high-profile releases from hip-hop luminaries like 2 Chainz, Pusha T, YG, Big Sean and Jeezy as well as legends like Public Enemy and, most recently, the star-studded posthumous album from DMX.

His track record is now 30 years strong, and includes co-founding street marketing company SRC and Latin marketing firm Fuerte Group, as well as his own management firm, RI Entertainment. He remained in his role overseeing day-to-day operations at Def Jam following Rosenberg’s departure in February 2020, keeping the label ticking under interim boss and Universal Music Group general counsel Jeff Harleston ever since. Isaacson’s next move is not clear.

Read his full memo below.

Today is my last day as General Manager of Def Jam. The company is going in a new direction, and it is time for me to move on.

When Paul asked me to join him at Def Jam and take my first “job” in 25 years, I jumped at the chance to work with him at this most iconic of record labels. Although these past three and a half years have never been easy, my experience here has been amazing on so many levels. First among them, I have loved and valued the camaraderie and excitement of being part of a team, leading a team and the thrill that comes with that.

Together we met the many challenges our business demands: delivering for our artists, competing for number one records (and successfully achieving many), and attempting to develop and break new talent. And together we faced adversity through leadership changes, political upheaval, a social and cultural reckoning around systemic racism, a global pandemic, and more. But through it all, and despite our differences and these difficulties, we managed to come together and even beat our business plan, as the family we are - Def Jam.

For that, I am so grateful. I have made life-long friendships, learned from super smart people, worked with legendary artists, and have had the privilege of being in the trenches with some of the best executives I have known in my almost 30 years in the business. I will miss you all (well almost all of you), and I am here for you all. You know how to find me. I will be around in the wings for a brief period to help with the transition to new leadership so please don't be strangers.

I wish you all only the best of everything.

Now get back to work.

Rich