LABEL EYES JAY-Z FOR SUIT ROLE
ISLAND Def Jam honcho Antonio "L.A." Reid has reached out to an unlikely candidate to take a high-level executive job at the label: recently retired rapper Jay-Z, PAGE SIX has learned.
Reid has sought out Jay-Z essentially to replace recently departed Kevin Liles, who was president of Def Jam Records, the largest hip-hop label in the U.S., inside sources told The Post's Tim Arango.
Jay-Z, who last year retired as a recording artist but has been pursuing other business interests, declined the overture, these sources said, although one cautioned that the hip-hop star may change his mind and take the post.
A source said Reid's overtures to Jay-Z — whose own Roc-A-Fella Records is run as a joint venture with Def Jam — were made in part to keep him from joining up with Lyor Cohen's Warner Music Group.
"This was L.A.'s attempt to keep him so he doesn't go with Lyor," said a source.
While Jay-Z is locked in with Def Jam for his own recordings — should he come out of retirement, he would be obligated to produce the album at that label — he could go to another company as an executive. It has been rumored for months that Jay-Z might flee to Warner to start his own label called Shawn Carter Records.
An Island Def Jam spokeswoman denied that Jay-Z was offered an exec job there, saying, "It's absolutely not true."
Cohen left Def Jam earlier this year to take on a senior role at Warner — leaving a big void at Def Jam in terms of credibility within the hip-hop world. Reid, a prodigious hitmaker in his own right, has built a career nurturing R&B and pop stars including Usher and Avril Lavigne.
As previously reported in The Post, Liles' departure prompted Def Jam founder Russell Simmons to end his involvement with the label, deepening the scarcity at the label of executives with extensive experience in urban music.
Meanwhile, Jay-Z's long partnership with Damon Dash on Roc-A-Fella continues to be rocky, and sources say that the two hip-hop giants will eventually part ways. Next summer, Island Def Jam has an option to buy out the 50 percent of the venture that it doesn't already own, but a buyout could come much sooner, sources say.
While Dash and Jay-Z remain personal friends, they have clashed over business strategy. For example, Dash has been intent on expanding into movies, while Jay-Z would prefer that the venture focus on music.
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