If you didn't know who Lyor Cohen was until a few weeks ago you'd certainly recognize him from the Kanye West selfie that set the internet ablaze. Cohen, a long-time music industry figure who has held senior positions at major labels including Def Jam and 300 Entertainment and is currently YouTube's Global Head of Music, appeared alongside Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge and Kanye in a MAGA hat in the picture tweeted out in April.
Pitchfork spoke to Cohen as he promoted YouTube's new streaming service and quizzed him about the picture. Cohen was quick to distance himself from the political connotations of the image, saying: “We were [in Calabasas] because Kanye wanted to play us some music. I was on the way to the restroom and there was Lucian and Kanye was coming out, and he said, ‘Oh wow, we’re all together. Let’s take a photo.’ I thought he was going to take a photo and send it to Lucian and myself. I had no idea that he was going to put that on social media.”
Cohen added that the new music he heard pleased him. “I don’t love his politics but I was really impressed with the music," he said. "I think he’s doing himself a disservice by not leading with the music.”
The industry exec also responded to the criticism from Migos who said in a recent Complex cover feature that 300 Entertainment had provided "the biggest hurdle" to their success. The group were signed to 300 between 2014-2017 under Cohen's watch and released Culture on the label.
“Culture was a huge success, right? Cohen said to Pitchfork, arguing that it is his job to make unpopular decisions in pursuit of greater results. "I believe Culture was a classic. It was very tightly constructed—much more tightly constructed than Culture II was.”