"It’s time for me to take on new challenges," he reportedly said in a statement.
As part of a separate, long-term recording contract, Jay will still remain with Def Jam as an artist, and owes the label one or two more albums, according to The New York Times. In early November, he released his 10th studio album, American Gangster, which was distributed through his own Roc-A-Fella Records via Def Jam.
Three years ago, Jay-Z signed an incentive-based contract to take over the storied hip-hop label, and in 2006, he returned from "retirement" to put out a new album, Kingdom Come. The project was met with mixed reviews but was best known for the controversies that surrounded it. Several artists who were signed to Def Jam voiced their displeasure that the president of the company was busy promoting and supporting his own album rather than helping to market works by other acts on the label.
During his tenure, however, Jay enjoyed a number of highs.
Under his watch, the Def Jam roster was bolstered, once again making the legendary label the most formidable house in rap. Young Jeezy became an instant hip-hop superstar, while Rick Ross finally broke through the streets’ glass ceiling to become one of the most respected MCs in the game right now. Nas came over from Sony with Jay’s help, and Jadakiss recently brought his standard-bearing bars of death to Def Jam from Interscope. Meanwhile, Fabolous fared respectably with his recent Def Jam debut, From Nothin’ to Somethin’. The album went gold and spawned the 2007 monster single "Make Me Better." Jay also had two big successes in Kanye West’s Graduation, which dropped earlier this year, and Late Registration, which was released in 2005.
But as it turns out, El Presidente’s legacy might actually wind up being weighted more heavily toward the R&B stars whose careers he helped jump-start while in office. Jay-Z signee Rihanna is an international superstar, while Ne-Yo — who Hov also ushered through the door — is one of the most bankable stars in the genre right now.
Jay-Z’s presidential term did have its fair share of misses. Ghostface Killah, Method Man and even his own Roc-A-Fella artists Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and the Young Gunz all had difficulties getting their latest projects off the ground.
A lot of the problems Def Jam releases have experienced could be attributed to meager marketing and promotion. LL Cool J, Jay’s most vocal detractor the past couple of years, has said the Jigga Man was only focused on himself as an artist and wasn’t handling business in the rap Oval Office.
Representatives for Jay and Def Jam could not be reached at press time, but just two weeks ago, Hov shot down a newspaper report suggesting that his demands were too steep for Def Jam to keep him. Jay told Entertainment Weekly the issue wasn’t the money, and he stuck to what he’s said often lately in interviews, that he wants to find a new business model for selling records.
But according to the Times, a source who requested anonymity said Universal, the company that owns Def Jam, declined to renew his employment contract under the more lucrative terms Jay-Z was reportedly seeking. The deal that is expiring required Universal to pay roughly $10 million over the course of his contract, so long as he met certain financial goals.
The Times also reports that it’s unclear at this point if Jay-Z’s position will be filled.