Rappers switch labels all the time. Busta Rhymes and Game are industry swingmen at this point, 50 Cent just left Interscope and Jay Z took Roc Nation from Columbia to Universal. But pop stars? Different ball-game. Pop stars do pop numbers, and its no secret that its generally a label’s pop ventures that fund all the other, more niche operations. Like, Columbia Records can put out and fund a Juicy J album, and an Earl Sweatshirt album, that collectively only sold 114,000 copies in their first weeks put together, because Beyonce dropped during the holiday season darn near went platinum in a week. So, as far as Def Jam goes, all those rap albums we love–but rarely support–are possible because, well, Rihanna could sell a blank disc at this point.
That being said, Rihanna has left Def Jam, and signed with Jay Z’s Roc Nation label, which he moved from Columbia Records to Universal a little under a year ago. Def Jam no longer has Rihanna officially listed as an artist, whereas Roc Nation does (she was previously only listed under management, as she’s been managed by Roc Nation for some time now). This is a huge boost for Roc Nation, who now has 3 legitimate superstars on their label: Rihanna, Jay Z & J. Cole.
We’re expecting a new Rihanna album some time this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. This will be her first album since 2012’s Unapologetic, and the first time in her career she’ll be releasing an album through a label other than Def Jam.