It’s often been put forth that I’m a hypocrite because a) I refer to Jay-Z as the fake president of Def Jam, but b) I blame everything that’s gone wrong with the label in the past three years on Jay-Z – the idea obviously being that if Jay-Z isn’t the real president of Def Jam anyway, then how can you blame any of this on him?
But I’m gonna go ahead and put forth that this doesn’t make me hypocritical in the least bit. My theory is that Def Jam is in the state that it’s in because it’s run by a buncha fake-ass executives. You didn’t hear all this complaining when the label was being run by the original tall Israeli Lyor Cohen, now did you?
Granted, Jay-Z became fake president of Def Jam during a time in which hardly any rap albums are selling very well anyway, but the general consensus has been that his effort to promote anyone other than himself has been pretty feeble. The result has been a series of high profile flops by ostensibly talented artists and the attendant subsequent fingerpointing.
Later this year will mark the end of Jay-Z’s current three-year deal with Def Jam, and word on the street is that he won’t be back for another term. Obviously there’s a case to be made for getting rid of him for performance reasons anyway, but word on the street is that the real issue is a personal rift between Jay and Island Def Jam chief LA Reid.
You’ll recall that LA Reid is the original artist turned failed record exec slash cause celebre of the black ignorati. He failed to turn a profit at Arista Records despite the fact that R&B albums by acts like TLC and Ursher were selling like baggies with cocaine in them. So he was canned from there, only to ascend to the top position at Island Def Jam around the same time they hired Jay-Z.
To hear the rumor mill tell it, Reid is pissed at Jay because Jay gets more pub than he does, and he spends more time attending to his umpteen various other business ventures than he does at his actual job as the fake president of Def Jam. But my guess is that Reid may be concerned that there isn’t room for more than one quota hire at IDJ. After all, somebody’s gotta know what they’re doing, right?
According to one rumor, Jay might be leaving Def Jam to form a new label with Beyonce. I’ll believe that one when I see it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t end up back at Def Jam one way or the other.