Troubled teen - turned multi-platinum/diamond selling CEO and media exec
Corey Johnson is a British born music producer, record label owner, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He has been a guiding force behind some of the biggest success stories from the UK commercial and underground community, steadily developing and nurturing their growth and driving the expansion into the mainstream for the last two decades.
With a career encompassing music, business development, brand building and youth work he has established several media companies who work alongside each other in an all in one creative hub known as Digital Holdings Empire. Corey, a man of many talents is driven by his experiences growing up in Brixton, South London and his passion for entertainment but also for supporting young people who aspire to share their talents no matter their personal circumstance, the area they come from or educational attainments. Read about Corey’s journey in his own words in this recent article he wrote for Metro.
His most notable achievement to date was the licensing of Crazy Cousinz & Kyla’s single ‘Do You Mind’ through his record label Defenders Ent. The track was used for Drake’s worldwide smash ‘One Dance’ featuring Kyla and Wizkid, which went on to become the third longest running single in the UK chart history, as well as achieving Drake his first Number 1 in Canada, USA and 13 other countries.
Corey’s work with Defenders Ent and The Digital Holdings studio have been profiled recently in media such as Financial Times, Crack, DJ Mag, M Magazine, GQ and the critically acclaimed YouTube Originals documentary on Drill ‘Terms & Conditions’. The studio in particular has forged a special place in the hearts of the UK Rap scene as a safe space for artists from across London’s different boroughs to create and record in safety, with many dubbing it ‘Switzerland’ due to its impartial presence.
In recent months Corey has been outspoken of the UK government’s handling of the serious youth violence crisis, calling on positive action to be taken with some of the strategies he has put forward, starting with a borough to borough knife amnesty. He called for this on Sky News’ Kay Burley show and also campaigned for action on ITV London Tonight, London Live and spoke to BBC Breakfast about other issues relating to youth crime.
Speaking of the driving force behind all his work, Corey explains:
“As a brother, Father, Businessman and producer, the community and how our young people are supported has always been at the center of what I do. Be it young talents and creatives who frequent the studio or young people who access the creative media courses, programs and campaigns through our independent charity Community Youth London – it’s always about the grass roots and community.”
Defenders Ent and The Digital Holdings Studio:
The South London record label Defenders Ent and their onsite audio/visual studio Digital Holdings are set to celebrate their 15-year Anniversary in 2022. The Digital Holdings space has played a pivotal role in helping the early stages of artists such as Stormzy, Jessie J, Tinie Tempah and Chip as it accommodates to a vast array of talented MCs, producers and directors, giving these artists affordable studio time. Having spawned hundreds of Grime and UK Rap singles and videos over the years, it has found its own niche as the go-to place for a generation of urban talent across the city and a hugely valuable asset to the London Music scene.
On the label side, Defenders Ent is known for unearthing the next big talent in London’s urban scene. Over the years they have had a hand in releasing music from artists as varied as Drake, Akon, Swedish House Mafia, The Vamps and Dizzie Rascal - and more recently have been championing some of the UK Drill’s scene’s biggest acts like Cristale, Back Road Gee, SL, Zone 2, Harlem Spartans and Headie One (all of which went on to sign to major labels.) Corey explains their ethos:
“Unlike other labels, we pride ourselves on not only spotting new talent but developing and nurturing their sound, visuals, branding and strategy to reach an audience.” Corey Johnson CEO
On the Defenders label, they also release regular compilations (though PIAS) – the ‘This Is...’ series have had numerous releases through ‘This Is Grime’, ‘This Is Dancehall’ and ‘This Is UK Rap’, resulting in hundreds of thousands of sales over the years.
Community and charity work – Community Youth London (CYL)
Corey Johnson is also known for his philanthropy and charity work, he launched the ‘Don’t Trigger’ campaign through his charity, Community Youth London (CYL) in conjunction with The Home Office in 2016 and continues to work with youth groups to offer young people free studio time, helping them off the streets and providing encouragement to use their creative mind.
CYL was set up as a registered charity in January 2007 and since then has received accolades (for its campaigns to raise awareness for a range of youth and community issues) from local and central government to BBC 1Xtra DJs, the London Mayor’s Office, Transport for London, Arts Council, Operation Trident (with the Metropolitan Police) and Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark Local Authorities. CYL has also ran campaigns with live TV broadcasts including Channel 5 Street Crime Live, Channel 4 News and T4 Sunday.
His latest venture, SafeZones was founded by two members of the local community that felt the emotional impact of violent images being shared across social media platforms. The project, which is initiated by Community Youth London, aims to bring together the solutions by creating a template, where community networks are developed across the country and by providing bespoke training and delivery programmes to each SafeZones location. It is “a great initiative which helps young people make their way in the music game, shout out to Defenders and Corey Johnson for making all this happen. We all need to work together and help each other to push the music game, so projects like this can be really important in that respect.” Kenny Allstar (BBC 1Xtra)
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