Jay-Z has dabbled in so many extraneous industries to varying levels of success — fashion, sports, film production, cologne — that you always have to double-take when he announces a new thing to make sure he hasn’t done it before. Although he penned the 2010 memoir Decoded, Jay-Z’s latest empire extension is something new. His flagship company, Roc Nation, is starting a publishing imprint with Random House.
The imprint, dubbed Roc Lit 101, already has a full slate of high-profile releases in the tank for next summer, including CC Sabathia’s memoir Till the End, which zeroes in on his upbringing and struggles with addiction, and Shine Bright a history of Black women in pop music from journalist Danyel Smith. But the publisher teases a few more built-in bestsellers coming further down the road, like Lil Uzi Vert’s “fantasy fiction,” a book from Meek Mill focused on “criminal justice and survival,” along with memoirs from Yo Gotti and Fat Joe.
Chris Jackson, who also heads up Random House’s One World imprint as publisher and editor-in-chief, will oversee Roc Lit 101. Here’s what he had to say about the latest Roc Nation venture in a statement:
“Our aspiration for the imprint is to create books that draw from the best of pop culture—its most imaginative and talented storytellers, innovators, and literary chroniclers—to create beautifully written and produced works that will entertain and enthrall readers, but also illuminate critical issues. But the partnership isn’t just about the books – it’s also about audiences: we want to find new voices and new stories, but also new readers.”
Roc Lit 101 marks just the latest blockbuster move in a month full of mass consolidation in the publishing industry. Back in November, Penguin Random House announced plans to acquire Simon & Schuster from Viacom CBS for a gargantuan $2.18 billion. It’s an incredibly worrisome development, narrowing the field of publishers for authors to pitch their books, along with limiting variety and the ceiling for mid-range and smaller authors to succeed. Combined with the film industry’s grotesquely monopolistic streak, this makes for a bleak environment for any creative type striving to make anything less than an outright tentpole.