Nearly a year after announcing his retirement, Jay-Z is busier than ever. The rapper, currently on tour with R. Kelly, is expected to record two new tracks for a greatest-hits compilation scheduled for next summer. But he may soon find himself hard-pressed for studio time — Jay-Z may be named president of Def Jam Recordings within the next few months, according to a source close to negotiations between the rapper and Universal Music Group, Def Jam’s parent company. He would report to Island Def Jam Music Group chairman Antonio “LA” Reid.
Universal would pay about $10 million to buy out Jay-Z and partner Damon Dash from their current Roc-A-Fella deal and install the rapper at the helm of the storied hip-hop label. While Jay-Z might not have a typical major-label exec’s resume, he has a proven track record as a hitmaker, selling 21 million solo albums and nurturing stars such as Kanye West, Beanie Sigel and Cam’ron on his Roc-A-Fella label. “It makes sense,” says the source. “You don’t want a lawyer or a salesperson in that role. You want someone with an extensive network of artists and producers and creative ties. Jay-Z is at the top of that game.”
The news surprised some who expected Jay-Z to follow Lyor Cohen, former head of Island Def Jam, and Kevin Liles, former president of Def Jam Records, to Warner Music Group; the two execs left Def Jam earlier this year and were instrumental in developing Jay-Z’s career. Warner declined to comment.