For Jay-Z, the end is just the beginning.
The rapper/mogul has decided to retire as a recording artist after 10 years and more than 18 million albums sold. “I always had the dream of moving over to the business side,” Jay-Z says in an exclusive interview with Billboard.
That means turning his focus to developing new artists through his Roc-a-Fella label, continuing to expand his two clothing lines, getting involved with movies and working on his philanthropic endeavors.
“In the beginning, my plan was to only make one album, but then the business kicked in, and we got a co-venture deal with Def Jam. I was the only artist we had, so in order to do that, I had to keep recording.”
Jay-Z will take his final bow as an artist with his 10th full-length release, “The Black Album” (Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam). It is due Nov. 28 — a rare Friday street date.
Def Jam/Def Soul president Kevin Liles welcomes Jay-Z’s unusual decision. “We’re going to celebrate,” Liles says. “We had a fantastic run. Jay’s popularity, consistency and credibility only lent to our current success and our future success.”
Roc-a-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash adds, “Jay deserves to have the biggest and the best send-off. He has done so much for hip-hop that I want to make his departure as easy and effort-free as possible.”
“The Black Album” is being launched with a host of high-profile marketing initiatives. They include an all-black version of Jay-Z’s limited-edition S. Carter sneakers by Reebok; his autobiography, “The Black Book,” from MTV Books; and a multi-city arena tour.
“Everybody that works with me has to work together on this project,” Jay-Z says. “This is the thing that made it possible for there to be a black sneaker, ‘The Black Book’ and for anything else. This is the foundation.
On the touring front, a multi-city trek will kick off Nov. 25 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. That show sold out in four hours; the rest of the tour dates have yet to be announced.
A portion of the proceeds from the shows will benefit the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund.
Jay-Z’s initial concept for “The Black Album” was to have a different producer for each track.
“I just wanted to have all those different flavors,” the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist explains. “It was almost like a wish list of all the different people I wanted to work with before I go.”
He remains tight-lipped about which producers ended up working on the album. Industry buzz names past collaborators Timbaland, Kanye West, Just Blaze and the Neptunes as being involved in the project, as well as Lil Jon of Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz and 9th Wonder of Little Brother.
Although he says his recording career is over, Jay-Z still looks forward to making records — with new artists.
“I love the process,” Jay-Z says. “Seeing a person come in green, not really understanding the process of making music or what they want to say to the world.
“Then, watching them finding themselves, going through the downside of it, having the same people that bring you up putting you down. Just to see them go through all that. Them coming to me saying, ‘Yo, you told me.’ I still love that process.”
Excerpted from the Oct. 25, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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