Rapper Jay-Z close to a deal with Sony

Rapper Jay-Z performs at the Glastonbury Festival 2008 in Somerset in south west England June 28, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Rapper Jay-Z is close to signing a deal that will bring his future recordings to Sony, sources told Billboard.

The deal, which will link Jay-Z’s Roc Nation releases with Sony’s Epic Records for distribution, “is 95% complete,” according to people familiar with the negotiations. A formal announcement is expected in the coming weeks.

Just last week, Jay-Z confirmed his departure from longtime label home Def Jam, where he was once president and CEO. His split from the Universal Music Group-owned label reportedly cost him $5 million, but left him in control of his future master recordings. Jay-Z’s eleven solo records (including the live “Unplugged” album) and collaborations with Linkin Park and R. Kelly have sold more than 29 million units according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Last year, Jay-Z and concert promoter Live Nation struck a wide-ranging deal that included touring, publishing and albums. The roughly $150 million pact includes a partnership in Roc Nation, as well as the rapper’s own recordings and tours for the next 10 years.

“He definitely didn’t want to release his album via Def Jam,” said a Universal Music source. “And given his close relationship with (Sony executive and producer) Rick Rubin, it comes as no surprise that he’d make the switch.”

Speculation has intensified in the past week that a Sony deal is in the works. Sony Corp CEO Howard Stringer and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation partner Jay Brown have been spotted meeting in Los Angeles and New York; Epic Records president Amanda Ghost is managed by Roc Nation and Brown; and Jay-Z’s wife, Beyonce, is an artist on Sony’s Columbia Records label.

If the deal goes through, Jay-Z highly-anticipated eleventh studio album, “The Blueprint 3,” will most likely be the first release on Roc Nation to be distributed by Epic.

(Editing by Dean Goodman)