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Jay-Z Splits With Def Jam

He may have ’99 Problems,’ but Def Jam ain’t one … thanks to the reported $5 million check Jay-Z wrote to get out of his contract. Jay-Z announced yesterday he’s leaving his long time label and will release projects “independently” from here on out. The rap icon has spent most of his entire career on Def Jam, even as the president and CEO for awhile. He left that position in early 2008.

Jay-Z spoke to yesterday to confirm the split. “I can honestly say, working with Doug Morris and LA Reid has been a unique and fulfilling experience and I respect them immensely. I’ve been in the family for almost my entire career. Doug and I spoke directly and had one of the most unique ‘negotiations’ ever,” Jay said. “Doug won the toss but, we both won in the end. I thank him for allowing me to be a completely independent artist. Not every artist can say they own or are given the opportunity to own all of their music.”

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What was that coin toss about? Relocating the Nets to Brooklyn? Lifetime VIP access for Morris at 40/40? A coveted ‘featuring’ spot on ‘The Blueprint 3’? Such is speculation, as is the paltry sum of $5 million that Jay had to cough up to Morris to buy out his contract.

That he’s truly “independent” is a bit of a mystery. He did ink a reported $150 million, 360 deal with Live Nation in April of 2008, joining the ranks of U2 and Madonna as an all around, comprehensive entertainer and brand. He was supposed to deliver one final record to Def Jam, but that’s looking like it never happened. But fear not, purists: according to this 2008 New York Times article on the Live Nation particulars, maybe we should just trust Mr. Carter. While indeed, he’ll be getting his direct deposits from Live Nation, it looks like they’re just ponying up cash for a new label, music publishing and talent management firm. And really: who’s going to tell who what to do in this situation?

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