Jay-Z stepping down as Def Jam president

By | December 25, 2007 at 10:06 AM

Universal Music Group said on Monday that rap artist and hip-hop mogul Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is stepping down as president of its Def Jam Records unit, effective by the end of the year. Carter, 38, has been president of the rap label since 2005, and has signed acts including R&B singers Rihanna and Ne-Yo.

Universal said Carter, a top-selling rapper who performs as Jay-Z, will continue recording for its Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam label. But the company did not give a reason for his decision to quit the executive suite.

“Now it’s time for me to take on new challenges,” he said in a statement. “I am pleased to have had the opportunity to build upon the Def Jam legacy,” he added.

Carter will focus on his expanding franchise of 40/40 Nightclubs over the next year and other businesses, according to a source familiar with his plans.

Carter regularly tops the lists of richest hip-hop moguls, and was No. 9 on Forbes’ Celebrity 100, the annual roster of the world’s most powerful — and best paid — celebrities, with an estimated compensation of $83 million.

Carter, who has said he was a street hustler growing up in the Marcy public housing project in a tough section of Brooklyn, New York, has sold millions of records and launched an array of media and fashion businesses.

Though known for his cutting-edge rap lyrics and rags-to-riches story, Carter often is mentioned in local gossip columns because of his romantic relationship with R&B singer Beyonce Knowles. Last week, he denied rumors that the couple had married in secret.

The rapper joined Def Jam as president to help turn around the fortunes of the then-struggling seminal rap label. His move to management followed his 2003 retirement from recording. His albums, including “Hard Knock Life” (1998), “The Blueprint” (2001) and his classic debut “Reasonable Doubt” (1996).

He returned to recording last year with the album “Kingdom Come” and this year followed up with an album inspired by the movie “American Gangster.”

Def Jam’s successes during his tenure as president, included Rihanna and Ne-Yo, who this month racked up 11 Grammy nominations between them.

“Jay made it clear to us that he feels the time has come to take on different challenges in his life. While we regret his decision to move on, we certainly respect it,” said Antonio

‘L.A.’ Reid,” chairman of Island Def Jam.

Universal Music, a unit of French media and telecommunications group Vivendi, is the world’s largest music company with 30 percent of the worldwide market share.

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