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How Universal conquered hip-hop
America's biggest music label is partnering with Jay-Z's empire. Cha-ching!
Jay-Z has more number one albums than any solo artist in history.
Jay-Z has more number one albums than any solo artist in history. Jason Kempin/Getty Images
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ay-Z's record label Roc Nation is having quite a month. Just seven days ago, it announced plans to branch into a sports-agent business, with Yankees star Robinson Cano as its first client. Then this morning, Jay-Z announced a multi-year, worldwide partnership with Universal Music Group, America's biggest music label.

The deal represents an 'round-the-block-and-back-again moment for Jay-Z, who jettisoned his title as president of Universal's Def Jam Records five years ago to start Roc Nation, a joint venture with Live Nation Entertainment, in a deal worth a hefty $150 million.

But what this means for Jay-Z — whose star-packed roster includes Rihanna, Shakira, Timbaland, M.I.A., and Kylie Minogue, among others — may not be as significant as what it means for Universal. Now, hip-hop's biggest earners — Diddy, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Birdman, and 50 Cent — will all fall under Universal's umbrella, making the label a kingdom of kings in the music world.

The biggest coup by Universal might be Jay-Z himself. The most successful solo artist of all time — with 11 number one records and counting — Jay-Z will now release his own music under Universal as well, instead of Atlantic Records, which he worked with for The Blueprint 3.

The details of the deal are still under wraps ("and to hell with the price, cause money ain't a thang"), but the New York Times reports that an anonymous source "said it was one of the more competitive label auctions in recent years, with interest from all the major record companies. Sony and Universal, the two largest record conglomerates, have been competing intensely to sign deals with top artists and independent labels."

Carmel Lobello is the business editor at TheWeek.com. Previously, she was an editor at DeathandTaxesMag.com.

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