NEW YORK — Erstwhile Fugee and multiplatinum hip-hop solo artist Wyclef Jean has inked a joint venture with Arista founder Clive Davis’ new label J Records — the first such deal announced by J since its formation last month.
Under the terms of the deal, Wyclef will sign and produce new acts under his nascent Clef Records imprint, and J will cover sales, marketing and promotion. The two labels will split any proceeds down the middle.
The deal won’t affect Wyclef’s recording contract with Sony Music unit Columbia Records, which recently released his newest solo album, “The Ecleftic — 2 Sides II a Book.”
In fact, Columbia had the opportunity to be Wyclef’s partner in his new label venture, but had let its option expire, according to manager David Sonenberg, who will likely become part of the Clef Records executive team.
“Wyclef had an opportunity to be free and pursue his interests elsewhere, and he took it,” Sonenberg told Daily Variety.
Davis and Wyclef already have a successful collaborative history at their backs: Wyclef produced and co-wrote the wildly popular single “Maria Maria” from Santana’s multiplatinum 1999 Arista album “Supernatural.”
The Haitian hip-hop veteran also produced the title single off Whitney Houston’s album “My Love Is Your Love” for Arista.
“Wyclef and I have done a lot of business in the past that has been pretty historic,” Davis told Daily Variety. “He’s a proven talent spotter and he knows what a star looks like.”
Davis hasn’t ruled out doing deals like the Wyclef venture in the future with other artists, but maintains that he will be extremely selective in picking partners.
“I’ll do it only sparingly, like I did with LaFace and with Bad Boy,” he said, referring to partnerships with Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Sean “Puffy” Combs, respectively. “If I’m as selective as I have been in the past, I can make it count.”
Davis, whose career in the industry spans four decades, split with Arista earlier this year, reportedly because of a dispute with executives at parent BMG Entertainment over his succession.
Then in August, he announced the formation of J, the largest ever startup label, with the help of a cash infusion from BMG estimated to be near $150 million.