When Nas’ first album under his new Def Jam Recordings pact is released later this year, it will be on his own imprint, the Jones Experience. The joint venture is a key component of the newly minted agreement between the artist and Def Jam president Jay-Z, which has Nas switching labels from Columbia to Def Jam. The jump follows on the heels of the rap icons’ headline-making, onstage truce last October during a New York concert.
“I’ve been in this business a long time and know what a great deal is,” Nas (born Nasir Jones) tells Billboard in his first interview since news of the pact was reported. “I signed a significant and excellent situation.”
The deal’s terms have Def Jam parent Island Def Jam and Columbia parent Sony Music participating as financial partners in Nas’ first two albums under the four-album deal. Def Jam will provide A&R, promotion and distribution for the two sets, while the labels will share marketing.
The recording budget for each album is $3 million. It has been reported that the $3 million includes advances for Nas, but sources familiar with the deal say the rapper received a separate, substantially higher advance.
Sony retains ownership of the masters from Nas’ 11-year tenure with Columbia as well as the right to release a greatest-hits collection not shared with Def Jam. Under terms of the pact, Nas will deliver two new tracks for a Sony hits package. Sony may also include up to three tracks from the joint albums on a hits compilation. The company’s executives declined to comment.
“Hip-hop needed this,” says Mark Pitts, who, along with his management partner Wayne Barrow, scheduled a pre-truce sitdown between their client Nas and Jay-Z last fall. Barrow hopes the truce between the rappers can usher in a “different sensibility to hip-hop and take it back to the origin of what a beef is. Battling over lyrical prowess is one thing, but to turn it into a violent scenario is another. Kids are mimicking these situations as if they’re real.”
As for the Jones Experience imprint, it will concentrate “first and foremost on hip-hop,” Nas says, adding that he is open to other genres. Signings will be announced shortly. “This is so much bigger than me and Jay-Z,” he adds. “We’re both excited by what this could potentially mean for hip-hop as a whole.”