After an unusual three-year turn in the corporate suite, rap superstar

Jay-Z

said this week that he would step down from his post as president of Def Jam Recordings, one of the world's best-known record labels.

Jay-Z made the announcement with Def Jam's parent, Universal Music Group, as his employment contract was expiring. Under a separate long-term recording deal with Def Jam, Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, still owes the company one or more albums.

Jay-Z's exit from the executive role comes after Universal, a division of Vivendi, declined to renew the contract under more lucrative terms he sought, according to people briefed on the talks, who requested anonymity because the negotiations were confidential. Under the deal that is expiring, Universal was to pay Jay-Z in the range of $10 million over the course of the contract, if he hit certain financial targets.

Jay-Z offered no hints about his plans. "It's time for me to take on new challenges," he said in a statement.

He is already one of music's most ambitious entrepreneurs, with business interests that include nightclubs, an investment in the New Jersey Nets, and a fashion line. There has been speculation that he might strike a deal with the concert giant Live Nation, which has been seeking stakes in artists' various business lines beyond concerts.

As an executive, Jay-Z met with varied results. Def Jam released two top-selling albums from

Kanye West

. The rap act

Young Jeezy

enjoyed a smash debut but a modest follow-up album, and sales of rappers such as

Freeway

and

Beanie Sigel

have been slow. On the pop side, Jay-Z is credited with discovering top-selling artist

Rihanna,

and as a performer he lent his skills to an array of Universal acts, even rapping on a version of "Rehab," the best-selling single from

Amy Winehouse

, the British retro-soul singer.

Jay-Z, one of the best-selling rappers in music history, also found that running the record label that releases his album does not always guarantee success. His 2006 album,

Kingdom Come

, which he said was too "sophisticated" for some fans, sold about 1.5 million copies, an underwhelming figure for him. His latest album,

American Gangster

, inspired by the

Denzel Washington

-

Russell Crowe

movie of the same name and acclaimed by critics, has also performed modestly, selling about 784,000 copies in its first six weeks on sale.

- New York Times News Service

Smith incensed over Hitler stories

Will Smith

is angry over celebrity gossip Web site articles that he says misinterpreted a recent remark he made in a Scottish newspaper about

Adolf Hitler

. In a story published Saturday in the Daily Record, Smith was quoted as saying: "Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'Let me do the most evil thing I can do today.' I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good.' "

The quote was preceded by the writer's observation: "Remarkably, Will believes everyone is basically good."

Over the weekend, dozens of celebrity gossip Web sites posted articles about the comment, many saying that Smith believed that Hitler was a "good" person.

"It is an awful and disgusting lie," Smith said in a statement Monday provided by his publicist. "It speaks to the dangerous power of an ignorant person with a pen. I am incensed and infuriated to have to respond to such ludicrous misinterpretation. . . . Adolf Hitler was a vile, heinous vicious killer responsible for one of the greatest acts of evil committed on this planet."

- Associated Press

Daly cites pressure to return

For

Carson Daly,

the phrase "the show must go on" has taken on a whole new significance. "An ultimatum was put in front of me," Daly told the Los Angeles Times of his decision to return to host NBC's

Last Call With Carson Daly

during a continuing writers' strike. "It was, 'Put a new show on Dec. 3 or 75 people are fired. What's your answer?' "

Daly, the first late-night host to return to the air, said he quickly decided he couldn't live with putting loyal staffers out of work, the newspaper reported. When asked who at NBC delivered the ultimatum, Daly said it was his "immediate bosses." Messages left with an NBC spokeswoman seeking comment Monday were not immediately returned.

Since Daly's return, fellow late-night hosts

Jay Leno

,

Conan O'Brien

,

Jimmy Kimmel

,

Jon Stewart

and

Stephen Colbert

have all announced plans to return next month.

- AP

R. Kelly fan jailed for cell-phone photo

A woman who snapped photos of R&B star

R. Kelly

in a Chicago courtroom with her cell phone pleaded guilty Monday to contempt of court after spending the weekend in jail.

Jean Johnson

, 49, was sentenced to five days in jail after entering the plea Monday, but she was released after Judge

Vincent Gaughan

gave her credit for the days she had spent in custody. He also ordered her cell phone destroyed.

Describing herself as Kelly's "biggest fan," Johnson said she couldn't resist snapping four grainy pictures of Kelly as he sat across from her last Thursday. She said she didn't realize cameras weren't allowed in courtrooms.

"I feel stupid," Johnson said. "I just got carried away. I'm a big fan of R. Kelly. I wanted it so that every time my phone rang, I could open it up and he'd be right there."

Johnson had been in court to resolve a probation violation charge. Kelly faces child-pornography charges.

- AP

Shopping with Britney

In a stop-by-stop report on a weekend shopping trip that started after midnight Saturday, People.com says

Britney Spears

and her assistant

Carla

did a little shopping at a Hollywood Rite Aid. After parking in a handicapped-designated parking spot, she told photographers, "I have stuff I have to buy for my babies,"

Sean Preston

, 2, and

Jayden James

, 15 months. What did she buy, you ask? According to People.com:

"After testing - but not buying - deodorant sprays, she emerged, spending a total of $57.46, with Lucky Charms cereal, Purex laundry detergent, Mrs. Field's chocolate chip cookies, and a 32-inch plush horse (regular price $29.99, marked down by 50 percent) labeled 'For ages 4 and up.' "