Oct 30, 2023 2 min read

Jay-Z discusses reclaiming his recording rights from Def Jam

Jay-Z has said that he isn’t looking to sell his music rights, adding that securing ownership of the recording rights in his Def Jam released albums in the 2000s was the “fight of my life”

Jay-Z discusses reclaiming his recording rights from Def Jam
Credit: CBS News;The JAY-Z interview: Part 1

Jay-Z has spoken about how he secured ownership of the rights in his Def Jam released albums, suggesting that - having gone through that process in the 2000s - he is in no mood to sell his music rights in a mega-bucks deal any time soon.

Instead he is leaving any decision about a catalogue sale to his children in the more distant future.

The rapper made the comments in an interview with CBS News recorded at the 'Book Of HOV' exhibit that is currently being staged at Brooklyn Public Library. During that conversation, interviewer Gayle King notes how many artists have been selling the rights in their music in recent years.

“I get why people do it", he says, but adds, "I’ve been fortunate enough to make money in this place, but for me, [getting to own my rights] was the fight of my life".

Jay-Z and his Roc-A-Fella label allied with Universal Music’s Def Jam ahead of the release of his second album ‘In My Lifetime, Vol 1’ in 1997. The major label got the rights in the rapper's recordings through that deal, but he was ultimately able to negotiate them back when he became President of the Universal division in 2004.

He told King: “You know from being an independent company from the beginning and then going through the Def Jam system, not really understanding how that works, and them having my masters. Then going back to Def Jam as the President and then saying, ‘Okay, I’ll do this job and part of this job is my masters have to be reverted back to me'. I want my kids to see my work and if they decide to sell it, then it’s up to them".

Elsewhere in the interview, Jay-Z discusses his 2008 headline set at the Glastonbury Festival, and the criticism that booking initially garnered, especially from a certain Noel Gallagher.

He says that, amid that criticism, he did think "if they don't want me there, I won't go". However, then Chris Martin intervened.

"He was like, 'Jay they love you. It's just like the old guard, they don't know, it's always been a rock festival’. They didn't have anything against me personally, it was just like, this is a rock festival, this is what it is, but the world was changing".

You can watch the interview here: part one and part two.

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