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Abou ‘Bu’ Thiam Joins Columbia Records as Executive VP

The industry veteran worked on hit albums for T-Pain, Rihanna and more before managing Kanye West.

Columbia Records announced that Abou “Bu” Thiam, who previously served as an A&R at Def Jam and more recently managed Kanye West, will join the company as executive vp on Tuesday (April 12).

“Bu’s incredible musical instincts distinguish him as a great executive,” Ron Perry, Columbia’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “His experience and success with some of the greatest artists of recent times make him a truly valuable addition to the Columbia team.”


“I didn’t see myself inside a major label again,” Thiam added, “but after working so closely with Ron and the Columbia team over the last few months, it was an opportunity I wanted to take on. Ron is one of the best leaders in the industry; we share a similar perspective on music and the future of the business. I’m excited to join the Columbia Records family.”

Thiam got his start in the music industry by working with his brother, Akon, on the singer’s breakout album Trouble. He went on to serve as an executive producer on early T-Pain albums like Rapper Ternt Sanga and Epiphany, which spawned ubiquitous, platinum-certified hits, including “I’m Sprung” and “Bartender.”

Thanks in part to these successes, Thiam was appointed to the position of vp of A&R at Def Jam at 28 years old. He subsequently worked on several massive albums in the early 2010s: Rihanna’s Loud and Talk That Talk, plus Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne, each of which sold several million copies.

Thiam’s association with West eventually led him to become the star’s manager; the two worked together on Donda, among other projects. In a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone, Thiam credited West with encouraging him “to start to speak up.” “When I came into the industry, I entered the game with a brother who was an artist,” Thiam explained. “I’ve always had to be second to someone. And I didn’t mind being second in command to my brother, because in my mind we were one.”

But in 2020, “Ye was like, ‘Man, you’re smart, educated, and great at what you do,'” Thiam continued. “‘Your opinion and your story will eventually spark someone else’s brain and will give courage and hope to a kid that wants to be like you.’”

In the same interview, Thiam also hinted at what his own approach might be if he returned to label life. “Instead of developing new talent — like they used to do back in the day — many executives just sit behind a desk and look for what’s popping on TikTok and all these other platforms,” he said. “I’ve never been that guy.”