If I were President of Def Jam

February 2007

"I ain't going to talk about what Jay ain't doing"

It's been a little over two years since Jay-Z took over as president of Def Jam and the results have been unremarkable. The expectations may have been too high, but it does not look as if Mr. Carter has improved the label. None of his signings have made a splash and the incumbents on the roster are not shy about voicing their discontent with his lack of support for their projects.

In the past two years, DMX has left the label, Ludacris' album is by far the lowest selling of his career, Joe Budden is buried in Clipse like record label purgatory, Method Man has publically expressed his disappoint, and there are rumors that The Roots are not to happy with the promotion Game Theory received. Not to mention everyone, excluding Kanye, on the Roc-A-Fella has seen their albums flop like they took marketing advice from Memphis Bleek.

While Jigga readily admits that he is learning on the job and is still making mistakes, he grades his performance as a "B+", which is far too kind. If not for Shakir Stewart's brilliant signings of Jeezy and Rick Ross and the continued success of Jay-Z's former producer, Kanye, the Def Jam label would be experiencing its worst period since the early 90s before DMX, Ja Rule and Jay-Z, the artist, saved the label. Unfortunately, another Irv Gotti discovered trio is not on the horizon and its doubtful the current structure of Def Jam marketing could promote them successfully.

So with all the problems and turmoil, what does Jay-Z do to save the staggering label? He releases an album by his most marketable artist, himself. It's a sound financial move in the short term but could have huge negative ramifications in the long term. In the present, the already upset artists see their boss hogging the spotlight and using up the promotional dollars fattening his $400 million back account. Instead of helping his artists with catchy hooks, like 50 Cent does, or some guest verses, he uses all of his material for his album.

Before Kingdom Come, I always thought the best for Jay-Z the artist and Shawn Carter the CEO to coexist would be to release an album called Jay-Z and Def Jam Records Present The Dynasty Pt. II. This album would have Jay-Z songs featuring everyone from the label, similar to the first Dynasty album, and all the songs would also appear on the respective artist's albums. The other artists could split a certain percentage of the royalties, with Jay-Z keeping some royalties for himself. They would be happy because they were getting a check, and the song, on a surefire platinum record, would help promote their album and boost their sales. At the same time, this would quench Jigga's thirst for rhyming and show his versatility by adapting to different artist's styles. Some artists like Kanye and Jeezy would not need the help but for someone like Ghostface, the addition of a Jay-Z song could have earned Fishcale a gold plaque.

If I were President of Def Jam this would be my 15 track compilation. I used each artist only once and did not worry about egos and hurt feelings, i.e. I did not consider how Memphis Bleek would feel about rapping with four other people on his track.

1. "Intro" featuring Shareefa
No one in the history of rap does the intro track better than Jay-Z. After hearing the Kingdom Come intro, I would keep the same idea and beat but let Shareefa sing a little bit on the hook a la Mary J. on "Can't Knock The Hustle".

2. "Me, Him and Her" featuring LL Cool J and Foxy
After the intro, the next track has to be an attention grabber. Foxy's first real song was on LL Cool J's "I Shot Ya remix" also featuring Keith Murray, Prodigy, and Fat Joe, and she definitely held her own with the veterans. Reuniting the two with Jigga would give each a chance to show off their underrated lyrical side. (The song title is also a play on the "You, Me, Him, and Her" from the Dynasty album).

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