Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jay-Z to Quit His Day Job as President of Def Jam

After an unusual three-year turn in the corporate suite, Jay-Z, the rap superstar, said Monday that he would step down from his post as president of Def Jam Recordings, one of the world’s best-known record labels

Jay-Z is not revealing his plans after he leaves Def Jam Recordings, but he will continue to record for the record label.

Jay-Z made the announcement with Def Jam’s parent, Universal Music Group, as his employment contract was expiring. Under a separate long-term recording contract with Def Jam, Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, still owes the company one or more albums.

Jay-Z’s exit from the executive role comes after Universal, a division of Vivendi, declined to renew the contract under more lucrative terms he sought, according to people briefed on the talks, who requested anonymity because the negotiations were confidential. Under the deal that is expiring, Universal was to pay Jay-Z in the range of $10 million over the course of the contract, if he hit certain financial targets.

Jay-Z offered no hints at his future plans. “It’s time for me to take on new challenges,” he said in a statement.

But he is already one of music’s most ambitious entrepreneurs, with business interests that include nightclubs, an investment in the New Jersey Nets and a fashion line. His next move is unclear, though there has been speculation that he might strike a deal with the concert giant Live Nation, which has been seeking stakes in artists’ various business lines beyond concerts.

It is not clear whether Universal will fill the job Jay-Z is vacating.

Though Universal pursued Jay-Z as an executive so that he could imbue Def Jam’s then-uncertain rap business with credibility, he leaves with a mixed legacy. Under his leadership, Def Jam released two top-selling albums from Kanye West, the producer turned rapper who first came to Def Jam through Jay-Z’s own imprint, Roc-a-Fella Records.

But elsewhere, Jay-Z’s results have ranged from muddled to lackluster. The rap act Young Jeezy enjoyed a smash debut but a modest follow-up album and sales of rappers like Freeway and Beanie Sigel have been slow.


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