Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter will step down as Def Jam Records president when his contract expires this year, he and Universal Music Group announced today (Dec. 24).

The rapper will continue to record for Roc-A-Fella, the label he co-founded in 1996, which is part of the Universal-distributed Island Def Jam Music Group.

In a statement announcing his departure, Jay-Z acknowledged the artists and executives he had worked with during his three years as label president, including IDJ chairman/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid.

He added, "it's time for me to take on new challenges. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to build upon the Def Jam legacy, helping to move the company into a new era of artistic success."

Reid stated, "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...While he will continue to be one of our signature artists, he will nonetheless be missed in this executive capacity."

Jay-Z had denied rumors earlier this year that he would leave his job as Def Jam president. As an artist, he released his "coming out of retirement" album "Kingdom Come" last year; his latest, "American Gangster," came out Nov. 6.

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