Are rap superstar Jay-Z and hip-hop mogul Damon Dash ready to call it a day?
Insiders have been buzzing for months that the co-founders of Roc-A-Fella Records aren't the big-pimpin', hard-knock buddies they once were. Now that Jay has announced he's retiring as a performer, he's easing out of their partnership, according to sources.
"Damon wants to be a baby Puffy [Combs]," says one source, referring to the more famous Bad Boy Records chieftain. "He's spending aimlessly on the company. He signed [former Wu Tang Clan member] ODB against Jay-Z's consent. Jay has had enough of it."
"This has been brewing for years," contends the insider. "Jay is reserved and cool. Damon is flashy. He's had liposuction twice." (Damon's rep denies he's had fat extracted.)
One of Dash's friends argues that the two guys haven't been hanging out as much because "Jay has a girlfriend" - the bootylicious Beyoncé Knowles.
The two men are said to be in the early stages of divvying up their mini-empire of music, fashion and movie production. Last year, Roc-A-Fella signed a four-year extension of its agreement with Island Def Jam, which distributes the label's artists, including Beanie Sigel, Cam'ron and Victoria (Posh) Beckham.
But according to one source, Def Jam honcho Lyor Cohen has sanctioned a plan that would allow Dash and Jay (aka Shawn Carter) to each have his own label and artists under the Roc-A-Fella umbrella.
Sources say Jay may want to develop artists with Steve Stoute, the former Universal Music executive who helped launch his "S. Carter Collection" sneaker line for Reebok, and is planning a black sneaker laced to "The Black Album," Jay's supposedly final CD, due in November.
Word is that Dash has also approached other record companies with new artists.
Dash's spokeswoman denies any friction between him and Jay, but admits he's approached other labels.
"We have 21 acts coming out," says the rep. "Damon is not sure they could all come out on Def Jam. A couple of them might come out of another company. But it's not for sure."
An Island Def Jam spokesperson says, "The company is working all Roc-A-Fella acts as usual."