Last night, to the shock of rap fans the blogosphere around, a brand-new track from jobless non-retiree Jay-Z hit the Internet. Produced by Timbaland, "Ain't I" (download it here or here) is purportedly from an upcoming album titled The Blueprint 3, a second sequel to 2001's The Blueprint, we guess. The song's pretty excellent, so we're reasonably sure this isn't just some American Gangster outtake or mix-tape throwaway (also, in the lyrics, Jay claims Timbaland charged him $250,000 for the beat). (UPDATE: Turns out it's actually an outtake from last year's Timbaland solo album Shock Value. Gosh, it would've made that record marginally more listenable.)
But why so soon? Gangster was released only two months ago, and he just left his post as president of Def Jam on January 1. What's he up to? Earlier this month, he was rumored to be launching a record label with Apple. It sounded plausible to us, except that he's supposedly still signed to Def Jam as an artist for either one or two more albums. Is he rushing Blueprint 3 to fulfill his contract (so he can, presumably, rush another one for his new company)? Or was a torn-up record deal a secret part of his Def Jam severance package? Adding to the mystery are reports that Jay's Roc-A-Fella Records is being dissolved, and dropping all its artists (including Kanye West, Beanie Sigel, and DJ Clue, on whose new mix tape "Ain't I" appears). We're not sure what any of this means, except that, for once, we might actually get a new rap album before December this year.
"Ain't I" [You Heard That New]
Jay-Z — "Ain't I" [Nah Right]
Hate It Or Love It: Jay-Z Drops Entire Roc-A-Fella Roster? [Baller Status]
Roc-A-Fella Remaining At Def Jam ... For Now [Billboard]
Earlier: Practically Confirmed: Jay-Z Might Be Launching a Record Label With Apple