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Best Album of the Year '09

In My Lifetime: My Jaÿ-Z Story

'Hustle' Man: Jay-Z (Circa 1996)

Inspired by VIBE Magazine Tweet:

Vibe Magazine Tweet

Jaÿ-Z -- "Dead Presidents"

"Dead Presidents." And yes, I knew that Jay-Z would become the rap superstar that he is today.

Let me "re-phrase" that -- I knew he would be a superstar, but I never thought that he would be the "rap mogul" that he is today.

It was in 1996, I was the music editor for Beat-Down magazine, a fledging indie rap magazine in New York City. I received a promo CD from Roc-A-Fella Records that read:  Jaÿ-Z -- "Dead Presidents" b/w "Ain't No Nigga" (F/ Foxy Brown). After a couple of listens, I said to myself, 'This guy could be the next rap superstar.'

Real talk. I loved Jay-Z's voice, his flow, his persona and his back story: A former drug dealer turned hype man for Big Daddy Kane to an entrepreneurial rapper. Sure, Jay had a few songs under his belt, most notably with Jaz-O ("Hawaiian Sophie"), who was his mentor at that time. And then there was "In My Lifetime," which never caught my ear. All together, Jay-Z had "the greatest story" that has never been told.

I got in contact with Jay-Z's publicist who then set up a "phoner" interview with Jay and I. It was supposed to be for only 15 minutes -- but we spoke for an hour. We talked about everything: from his days with Big Daddy Kane to how super-producer Clark Kent discovered him to how record labels were dissing him because he had big lips. He also spoke fondly of his buddy/business partner Damon Dash and his love for Brooklyn, in particularly, the Marcy Projects. Finally, we discussed his decision to go the independent route and the future of Roc-A-Fella Records.

All and All, Jay's story intrigued me. So much so, that Beat-Down magazine gave Jay-Z a three-page spread inside the magazine just based off that one single, "Dead Presidents." The other single -- "Ain't No Nigga" -- didn't pop off just as yet.

Rap magazines, even today, would never give an up-and-coming rap artist a three or even a four-page spread in their publication just based off of ONE hit single. So, during that time (circa 1996), Beat-Down magazine was either simply naive or a trailblazer, because no one "really" knew what Jay-Z's potential could be. I would go with the latter, because, for me, I was confident enough that Jay-Z would be a rap superstar. I trusted my ears to the fullest; these two ear lobes have never lied to me.

But I had no inkling that Jay-Z would eventually become the "CEO of Hip-Hop." I figured he would record three, maybe four albums, and he would be done.

I had no idea he would record the classic 2001 album The Blueprint.

I had no idea he would marry the hottest chick in the R&B game.

I had no idea that he would become a "business, man."

"I'm out for presidents to represent me!" -- Nas


The Making Of  "Dead Presidents" (Video) [Props to legendary producer Ski Beats]


On The Level: With Dame Dash and Creative Control

This is a must-watch video as Damon Dash talks about the Black Roc project and his new website Creative Control TV.  You also will learn a new term: "Wack World."

Props to Street Level