Jay Z's "Drug Dealers Anonymous": Revisiting The '89 Trip To London

Looking back at the famous trip through Hov’s rhymes.

  /  06.01.2016

“I wasn’t really doing anything musical in London.”

As mentioned in rhyme times ago, Jay Z led a life you can write a book on—and he did. In 2010, seven years after scrapped plans for The Black Album companion piece “The Black Book,” the Roc mogul released his first book, “Decoded.” Teaming with writer dream hampton, Jay delivered a manuscript of sorts that presented a track-by-track breakdown of select lines from signature songs within his catalog. In the book, he opened about his first trip to London, which is a standout mention in his telling verse for Pusha T’s “Drug Dealer Anonymous.”

Pusha T & Jay Z Paint Triple Beam Dreams On New Song, “Drug Dealers Anonymous”

In the line, Jay cleverly rhymes, “Google me baby, you crazy/ ’89 in London pull the Benz up.” Additionally, he goes on to advise listeners to pull up a Google Images search for the aforesaid mention and as you can see below, the story matches the pic.

The line also follows another potent mention, “I been brackin’ since the ’80s”—a lyric that goes hand in hand with a reference Jay once made on 1996’s “Dead Presidents”: “I dabbled in crazy weight, without rap I was crazy straight / Partner, I’m still spending money from ’88.” On the whole, Hov’s ferocious two-minute verse brings back a lot of memories for not just only the self-professed “master of the double-entendres,” but also the fans who’ve followed them since Reasonable Doubt.

Jumping back to that aforementioned London trip, in “Decoded” Jay recalled his first experience venturing across the pond with Irv Gotti and former partner-in-rhyme Jaz O to record the latter’s 1989 debut, Word to the Jaz.

“Up until that point, my life could be mapped with a triangle: Brooklyn, Washington Heights, Trenton,” Jay wrote.

“It was a surreal, disorienting experience: two niggas from Marcy in a flat in Notting Hill,” he added. Besides being his first trip outside of the country, the London trip presented a fork in the road for Jay.

As the story goes, the rhyming upstart at the time was originally there to shadow Jaz, who was signed to EMI Records, through the recording of his debut album. This album would feature the pair joining forces for the poppy collaboration, “Hawaiian Sophie.” Despite high hopes of the record taking them from Marcy to Hollywood (“We were looking at the plaques on their wall and thinking about the radio play”), what ended up happening was, as Jay described it, “career suicide.”

“[Jaz] went from being courted at the highest level to not having EMI return his phone calls,” he wrote. “After the way EMI handled Jaz, I buried my little rap dreams. If I had any pent-up resentment or anger, I took it out on the block.”

Seeing this as a wake-up call, the Marcy-bred spitter then went back the street-pharmaceutical route and went to Maryland, where, as discussed in the book, it was “was an adventure.”

“Shootouts in clubs, police investigations, whole crews arrested,” he scribed, before adding, “I got out of there just in time. Some of my best friends weren’t so lucky. It was tragic.”

On “Drug Dealers Anonymous,” even this moment gets referenced. In it, Jay raps “Ask the Federalis ’bout me, tried to build a cell around me / Snatched my nigga Emory up, tried to get him to tell about me.”

In 2000, Emory Jones, Jay’s best friend and cousin, went to jail for 16 years after pleading guilty to cocaine charges. In 2010, Jay wrote a letter to a federal judge that was included via a variety of documents stapled to Jones’ motion for sentence reduction. This letter did the trick (so did 2006’s “Do U Wanna Ride” for rap fans) and, in 2010, Jones was released six years early.

All in all, this long list of fact-checking is common whenever Jay shifts the gear into nostalgia mode. Same scenario has happened on past guest verses like on Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix),” Jeezy’s “Go Crazy” and “Seen It All.” Now, thanks to Pusha T, Google and, yes, even Jaz-O, we have a new entry in this return-to-form Hov, that not only harkens back to the days he was “brackin,” but also reiterates his 2001 rhyme on The Blueprint‘s “Never Change”: “This is before rap, this is all fact.”



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