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Old 08-26-2005, 02:10 PM   #1
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Default Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

MEET THE NEW BOSS
By LOLA OGUNNAIKE@
2005 New York Times News Service@

NEW YORK — Jay-Z, the veteran rapper turned president of Def Jam
Recordings, sat in his sparsely decorated office in Manhattan one
sweltering August afternoon. He was staring intently at Tru Life,
an up-and-coming rapper from the Lower East Side. Desperately
seeking a record deal, Tru Life, his patter at turns poignant and
comical, was doing his best to convince Jay-Z and the coterie of
A&R men in the room that he was worthy of being signed.
“Yo, Jay,” he said, “this has got to work! I got a bad back!
I can’t be packing boxes at Home Depot!”
“The dude who gives me the right lane,” he continued, “ain’t
going to lose.”
“I’ve been shot too,” he said, “been pronounced dead at
Bellevue and all of that, but I don’t like to talk about it cause
that’s 50’s thing,” referring to the rapper 50 Cent. “Everybody
can get a record deal, but you can’t buy a star, you can’t buy
charisma, and I got that.” And so it went, an animated
Tru Life delivering his sermon for more than 10 minutes. Spent, he
finally slumped back in his chair.
Jay-Z leaned forward in his. “Somebody,” he declared in
delighted exasperation, “get this kid in front of a camera!” The
room erupted in laughter. Tru Life was signed to a six-figure deal
later that evening.
“It’s weird,” Jay-Z said the next day over a steak dinner at
the 40/40 club, the Chelsea sports bar he owns. “Because I’ve been
there. I was in his shoes before and now I’m the one making the
dreams come true.”
It has been more than seven months since Jay-Z, 35, born Shawn
Carter, accepted an offer from Vivendi Universal, the world’s
biggest record corporation, to assume the presidency of Def Jam,
its seminal rap label. He’d be the first to admit that going from
international superstar to swivel-chair-riding executive has been
no easy leap.
Though he successfully ran the boutique label Roc-A-Fella
Records with his former partners Damon Dash and Kareem (Biggs)
Burke, managing a company like Def Jam is an entirely different
proposition. He has quickly had to learn that his success in this
new venture will depend more on his abilities as a talent scout,
marketer and office politician than on his past successes.
Initially, he said, he was reluctant to take the job. “I knew
Def Jam was in a transition period,” he explained. “The artists
that had set the brand on fire had been there for a while. It was
time to get new blood in the building and I know that takes a
minute, but I also knew that people would expect me to be
successful tomorrow. ‘You’re here. Let’s get a hit.’ People
wouldn’t be realistic.” In fact, he raps about the problem on the
remix of “Diamonds Are Forever” by Kanye West, one of the
company’s biggest stars: “I’m not a businessman/ I’m a business,
man/ So let me handle my business, damn!”
At this time last year, Jay-Z was in the throes of a major
bidding war. Lyor Cohen, the chief executive of Island/Def Jam, had
left for Warner Music. Def Jam’s president, Kevin Liles, clashed
with Antonio Reid, who replaced Cohen as his boss, and quit. That
left an opening at the top of Def Jam — and it also left Cohen and
Reid, two big corporate rivals, pursuing the same man. Warner
offered Jay-Z an equity stake in the company, but Universal
prevailed, with a deal that is said to include a three-year
contract and ownership of his master recordings starting in
approximately 10 years.
In the end, he says, he took the job because he was seeking a
challenge. Starting with the classic “Reasonable Doubt,” Jay-Z,
in less than a decade, had released 10 albums, which sold more than
33 million copies, rising from the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn,
where he once dealt drugs, to become one of music’s most respected
and prolific artists.
“I’d been in my comfort zone for a while” is how he describes
it. “I was bored. I didn’t want to be doing rap just to do it: Oh,
it’s November again. Time to put out another record.” He said he
was eager to prove that there can be life after rap, that artists
can do more than star in “Where are they now?” specials. The
dearth of African-American executives in the music industry was
also a concern, he said, pointing to the Billboard magazine on his
desk. Its headline read, “Where Are the Black Execs?” “See what
I mean?,” he said with a wry chuckle.
It may be too early to determine whether Jay-Z will sink or soar
as a big label executive, but many are eager to see him succeed.
“If he pulls this off, he’s the modern-day bootlegger turned
president, dating a movie star, ” said the veteran music executive
Andre Harrell, a founder of the Nu America marketing company. “He
is the American dream.”
Reid, chairman of the Island Def Jam Music Group, says betting
on Jay-Z has already paid off. “He is simply the most talented
person that I know,” Reid gushed. “He understands the music, he
understands the culture, he understands artists. When I look at
Jay-Z, I see a genius.”
And yet when Jay-Z looks at himself, he sees someone who is
doing OK. When asked what grade he would give his own efforts, in a
rare moment of humility, he settled on a C.
True, he has had modest success with acts like the R&B singer
Bobby Valentino and the ingenues Rhianna, whose single “Pon de
Replay” was one of the summer’s hits, and Teairra Mari. He is also
proud of the gangster rapper Young Jeezy, an Atlanta-based phenom
whose debut album, “Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101,” entered
the Billboard chart at No. 2 earlier this month, selling 176,000
copies in its first week.
But Jay-Z largely blames himself for the lackluster sales of new
albums by Memphis Bleek and the Young Gunz, both signed to
Roc-A-Fella, which Universal purchased when it hired Jay-Z last
December.
“Logically, I shouldn’t have put them out because the numbers —
the video spins and radio spins — didn’t indicate that they were
ready to go,” he said. “But me, relying on the brand, figured
they’d do 100,000 anyway, but they didn’t. So that was a mistake.”
Another one of his big signings, Foxy Brown, a combative female
rapper whose career has lately faded, could also prove a mistake.
“That’s going to be his biggest challenge,” said Elliott Wilson,
editor of the urban music magazine XXL. “He’s going to have to
start from scratch introducing her to a new audience.”
And then there’s the problem of his celebrity overshadowing the
very artists he has been hired to guide. “He’s made a habit of
rapping on his artists’ records in the hopes that this will
jump-start their careers — and it does draw immediate attention —
but that’s just a shortcut,” said Erik Parker, music editor of
Vibe magazine. “He’ll need to do real artist development to ensure
these guys have actual long-lasting careers.”
Jay-Z did not dress the part of the anxious young executive one
day this month when he strolled into work — at just before 1 in the
afternoon — wearing denim shorts, a striped polo shirt and gleaming
white sneakers from his own Reebok shoe line, S. Carter. On his arm
was Beyonce Knowles, the pop diva who has been his girlfriend for
nearly two years.


Resplendent in designer khaki short shorts, a sheer creme blouse
and diamond-encrusted bangles, Knowles passed a portion of the
afternoon lounging on a suede sectional couch in her beau’s office,
languorously flipping through magazines and warmly receiving
whoever walked in the room — in short, playing the part of first
lady.
Meanwhile Jay-Z watched the video for Teairra Mari’s second
single, “No Daddy,” a pseudo-public service announcement about
the dangers of daughters growing up without fathers. Not having
liked the first version of the video, he had ordered a reshoot.
This time around he was pleased.
“I like the energy,” he said as he bobbed his head to the
beat.
Around 2, Ghostface Killer, a founding member of the defunct
Wu-Tang Clan, showed up for a meeting. “What up, family?” Jay-Z
said with a strong handshake and a quick man-hug.
“I just want to dump some heat on you,” Ghostface replied.
“It’s meaty already, but I just want you to add your little
extra.” (Translation: I’ve got some great new music that I’d like
you to hear and I would appreciate your input.) Jay-Z unleashed his
signature chuckle, a high-pitched, machine-gun-like “Heh, heh,
heh, heh, heh.”
“Yeah,” he said, smiling. “I’m going to add the cilantro.”
For the next hour, Jay-Z listened to nearly 20 songs, on topics
that ranged from life in the drug game to a day at a barbershop.
When the music ended, Ghostface started in with questions.
Who do you see on that last record? Should a girl or someone
like Pharrell sing the hook? And can we release it in September?
With that last question, Jay-Z’s manner changed. “That’s not going
to work,” he told his charge, who looked crestfallen. “You need
the proper setup. You don’t just want to throw it out there.”
He suggested slashing the number of songs. “In a good deal,”
he explained, “you get paid on 12 songs. That means that everyone
— producers, writers, etc. — all eat from that same pie. If you do
18 songs and you have 18 producers and writers, instead of 12
people splitting that pie — now 18 people are eating into your
paper.” It’s a fact few artists know and even fewer executives
share, Jay-Z said, but having been on the other side of the
mahogany desk a scant year ago, he feels the need to enlighten
those he’s overseeing.

“Jeezy came in here with 23 songs and I’m like, what are you
doing?” he recalled. “Save half those songs and go make another
album.”
Over the course of the afternoon, Teairra Mari dropped by, as
did the rappers Memphis Bleek, Freeway and the Young Gunz. At one
point, the room felt less like an office and more like the VIP
lounge at 40/40 sans the Cristal Champagne. “He wants the place to
feel like a family environment,” said Jay Brown, a Def Jam
executive.
Despite the convivial vibe, business somehow continued to be
conducted. David Miller, director of international marketing,
needed Jay-Z to squeeze another bonus track out of Kanye West for
the Japanese release of his album “Late Registration.” “I’ll see
what I can do,” Jay-Z said. A woman in the marketing department
asked if he had any interest in a new video series MTV was
starting. “They’ll take all of your videos and chop ’em up, DVD
it, and we’ll split the profit,” she said. “Do you like the
concept?” He declined. Up next, his in-house publicist, Jana
Fleishman, wanted to know if he’d appear on the cover of a downtown
fashion magazine. Flipping through the book’s glossy pages, he
said, “I’ll ask my artsy friends about it first and get back to
you.”
By 5 it was time to talk numbers with Tru Life and his lawyer,
who were waiting down the hall. “I’m supercomfortable with four”
— $400,000 — Jay-Z told his senior vice president of finance, Joe
Borrino. “I’m a little less comfortable with five. After that, I
don’t want to be in that business, especially right now. Only six
hip-hop releases have done over 150,000 this year.”
“So,” Borrino said, “I’m going to say that we can’t go more
than five.”
“No, because if I was hearing you say that, then I would ask
for five because that means I can get five,” Jay-Z explained.
“You tell him that a typical first-time artist deal is between 400
and 450.”
“OK,” Borrino said, looking unsure.
“Be confident, man,” Jay-Z said, noting Borrino’s furrowed
brow. “If there’s a problem, come back to me, OK?”
There was not a problem.
Things tend to move briskly in his office. “When I got there,”
Tru Life recalled, “they told me that if Jay liked me, I wasn’t
going to leave the building. I thought it was a joke. I got there
at 3 in the afternoon and I left 10 hours later.”
When later asked about his aggressive approach, Jay-Z said:
“It’s a competitive business. When you think someone has it,
you’ve got to jump. I live by my instinct.”

His day begins at 8 a.m. with breakfast and a workout. He is
usually in the office by 11, he said, and “I’ll stay until I’m
done or tired.” It was 7 p.m., and he was stretched out in a
private lounge at 40/40, MTV’s prank show “Punk’d” playing in the
background. “I know people think that this is a vanity job or that
I’m the guy that just brings in talent and I’m out of the office
three months a year and I only come in once in while, you know,
like the real president” — Bush swipe noted —“but yes, I’m really
there.”

Except, of course, when he’s out in the world, representing Def
Jam at public events around the country. Several weeks ago, in the
empty bar under the main floor of Hollywood’s Key Club, the label’s
new artists — Teairra Mari, Rihanna and Ne-Yo — took turns preening
for the cameras and “Access Hollywood” before a concert staged by
Teen People magazine. But the way the cameramen scrambled when
their boss strode into the bar, shortly before showtime, made clear
who the event’s main draw really was. And he later acknowledged
that he can use his celebrity to promote the new prospects in a way
few if any executives can. One moment, he was reassuring Teairra
Mari about a minor casting dispute on her new video. The next,
people were shoving copies of his own concert DVD, “Fade to
Black,” into his hands for him to autograph.
His charisma plays just as a big role in the office. When he
first arrived in January, he recalled: “I sat in on a couple of
meetings and it was like a machine. The passion was gone. No one
really said anything. There were no ideas.” So he set about to
improve morale. He organized several retreats and a weeklong
team-building exercise inspired by Donald Trump’s show “The
Apprentice,” in which several teams competed for a $50,000 prize.
Their task? Land a record deal for a fictional artist. He has also
held a bowling night and a movie night at the private Manhattan
club Soho House. And because there’s nothing like Champagne to
bring people together, bellinis are served in the office on Friday
afternoons.
He said he still finds addressing a staff a bit uncomfortable.
“When you’re on stage it’s like: ‘What’s up, Cleveland? Wave your
hands in the air, say ho.’ But to stand in front of people and give
a speech and talk about the things you’re trying to do, it’s not
easy.”[/
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Old 08-26-2005, 02:38 PM   #2
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

damn
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Old 08-26-2005, 02:53 PM   #3
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

thanks for the info...

peace!
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Old 08-26-2005, 02:58 PM   #4
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

good read
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Old 08-26-2005, 02:59 PM   #5
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

man jay-z probaly not feelin hat shit. thats y the roc a fella nigga went copper this year!!!!
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Old 08-26-2005, 03:10 PM   #6
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

The DEFUNCT Wu-Tang Clan?
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Old 08-26-2005, 03:33 PM   #7
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

Good thread. One.
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Old 08-26-2005, 03:46 PM   #8
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

Quote:
Originally Posted by OwnageNinja
The DEFUNCT Wu-Tang Clan?
lol...i was thinking the same thing.
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Old 08-26-2005, 03:50 PM   #9
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

U can tell a white man wrote that article
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Old 08-26-2005, 03:55 PM   #10
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

zzz..zz...zzz...
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Old 08-26-2005, 04:05 PM   #11
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

wu-tang defunct? please

this is not a good look. didn't appreciate that story. what the fuck happen? did ghost officially sell out? now jay z is tellin him which direction to go. what the fuck. ghost should be going againts the grain, that corporate shit. let's be real he's never gonna be a superstar like jayz, cause that 's not for him. he's a lyrical chemist and should stick to his domain, which is real NY hiphop.

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Old 08-26-2005, 04:09 PM   #12
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

I'm not surprised at Jay-Z tellin Ghostface how many songs he should have on the album. That shit is so typical that happens at record labels. I wish these bitch ass people at the record labels would just let the artists do their thing & stop fuckin up their careers. Ghostface knows what works for his audience.
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Old 08-26-2005, 04:10 PM   #13
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

jay said about producers and writers. wtf? what writers?

i dont even want to think that ghost hire some ghostwriters...... whats the deal'y?
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Old 08-26-2005, 04:59 PM   #14
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

First, Jay was speaking kinda generally to Ghost about the industry. The other thing is that there's more that goes into beats than just one producer's work, there are music writers and sometimes people actually playing instruments. Jay wasn't telling Ghost what to do, he was advising him from his own experience.

Plus, am I the only one who thinks that a shorter album is often the better choice QUALITY-WISE as well? If it'll make the record better AND earn Ghost more cash, then why not? And it does seem like it's all Ghost's choice in the end anyway when it comes to the number of tracks on the album
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Old 08-26-2005, 05:00 PM   #15
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Default Re: Ghostface gives Jay-Z taste of new album

“I know people think that this is a vanity job or that
I’m the guy that just brings in talent and I’m out of the office
three months a year and I only come in once in while, you know,
like the real president”

^^^ lol, I like that shot at bush.
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