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Should Def Jam drop Jay-Z?

Word on the streets (i.e. the Internets) is that Jay-Z might be leaving Def Jam for real this time.

In that hilarious interview on Sirius Satellite Radio from this past weekend, in which Fiddy makes fun of Nas and Kelis, and Fat Joe, and Irv Gotti and Ja Rule, and pretty much everyone, Fiddy suggests that Jay is leaving Def Jam for Columbia Records, to start a new label with his boo-slash-beard Beyonce.

You’ll recall that Columbia Records is now run by Rick Rubin, whom Jay worked with on the Black Album. One of Jay’s old bag handlers, Hip-Hop, is an A&R or some such over there, and both the Clipse and Jim Jones (whom Jay has had beef with in the past) supposedly recently signed lucrative joint venture deals with the label.

According to an item today in the New York Daily News’ Rush & Molloy column contract renewal negotiations between Jay and the TIs at Universal Music have broken down. Supposedly, Jay is demanding way too much money, considering he’s hardly ever even in the office.

In particular, they’re complaining that he’s spending too much time touring, which probably doesn’t serve to benefit the label itself much, especially since American Gangster probably isn’t selling nearly as well as the label would have liked. After a month in stores, it’s only sold something like 600,000 copies.

Here’s the operative bit from the Rush & Molloy column, from an unnamed source inside the label.

“People have lost count of how many times he’s come out of retirement,” the source says. “Everybody knows he’s not around the office much. Everybody at Universal loves him, but they can’t justify paying him the money he wants when so many people have been laid off.”

Now granted we’ve heard all sorts of rumors before, about Jay planning to leave Def Jam to start his own label with Beyonce, and about Jay having beef with LA Reid, and what have you. And these TIs have been known to plant a story in the paper while in the midst of contract negotiations.

My guess is that Def Jam really is interested in keeping Jay around, not so much in the sense that they think he’s an effective executive, but because they don’t want all of their rappers jumping ship to other labels. They just can’t justify paying him very much, if he’s not gonna do anything.

If anything, they’d probably like to have a piece of that touring money, let alone whatever else Jay’s got his hands in these days – hardly any of which probably actually serves to benefit Def Jam. I mean, if he’s not gonna generate much in the way of income actually selling records.

To play the white devil’s advocate for a second, if I was Def Jam, I’d demand such a deal, or else I’d drop his ass like a bad habit. Worse case scenario, maybe Kanye West, who’s still got some buzz, follows Jay to Columbia or whatever, but maybe he doesn’t. Maybe the TIs at Universal can work some of their Dame Dash divide and conquer magic and find ‘Ye a fake executive position, just like they did with Jay.

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