Jay Z and Lil Wayne — two guys who have certainly led lives that we can all write books on (respectively). “Sex, murder, and mayhem, romance for the street,” rapped Jay Z about such a tale on 1998’s “Money, Cash, Hoes,” while Weezy, himself, shared similar plans on 2010’s “Talk That,” rapping, “I ought to be an author, damn, man and I tell ya it’d be a best seller.” But where they each have life stories that can be turned into New York Times best-sellers — Wayne, himself, released a memoir last year about his 2010 prison stint — the relationship between these two rap juggernauts have enough chapters to make its own rich narrative.
During a recent show at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, Weezy made a big announcement concerning his Roc connection. According to the New Orleans rapper, he is “a member of that team.” And by “that team,” the “No Worries” rapper means Jay Z’s Roc Nation. “Is it cool if I just say it? It’s the Roc,” Wayne told the crowd. “You know I’m a member of that team now.” Just after sharing the news, Wayne threw up the Roc sign before going back into his performance. The label tease is just one of many instances from Wayne, who has been contemplating a deal with Jay Z for years — going back to the Roc-A-Fella Records via Def Jam Records days. If true, this would mark Weezy’s official jump from Cash Money records. But, there’s a good chance this may end up being yet another false alarm.
It’s a Family Affair: Lil Wayne vs. Birdman
In 2015, Wayne caused a media frenzy when he announced that he “signed a deal” with his “motherf–king idol, Jay Z,” during a performance at KMEL Summer Jam in Oakland. The news garnered attention and rumors about the “deal” and whether or not involved Jay Z’s Roc Nation label. Of course, the chatter was soon calmed after Wayne’s manager Cortez Bryant said the rapper was only referring to his involvement with TIDAL, which he joined in as co-owner. “The Internet and blogs took his words out of context,” Bryant told Billboard. “When Wayne was speaking about the partnership with Jay Z, he was speaking about his deal as an artist owner with TIDAL.”
Last year, Wayne took to the stage as a headliner on Tyler, the Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw Festival at LA’s Exposition Park and while performing “I’m Me,” not only did he throw up the Roc sign synonymous with Jay Z, Roc Nation, and Roc-A-Fella records, he also declared full allegiance to Hov. “That ain’t fair, but I don’t care, I’m a muthaf-ckin R.O.C. millionaire / That ain’t fair, but I don’t care, I’m a muthaf-ckin Roc-A-Fella millionaire,” he rapped.
As this latest update in the ongoing “is he” or “isn’t he” on Roc Nation saga, we look back at the growing relationship between Lil Wayne and Jay Z within their competitive, complicated, and compelling history as two of the best rappers alive. In light of this latest chapter, let’s go back in time to document the road that has opened up partnership for the books.
Early 2004: Lil Wayne Pays Homage To Jay Z On ‘The Prefix’
With nine out of its 13 tracks comprised of Jay Z instrumentals, 2004’s The Prefix culled from Jay’s pseudo swan song The Black Album and introduced Wayne’s fandom for the rap game’s Michael Jordan.
June 29, 2004: Wayne Picks Up Where Jay Z Left Off On “Bring It Back”
For his fourth album, which very much felt like his first, Tha Carter, Wayne stepped away from the shadows of Cash Money’s past and emerged as its future. While doing so, he also made it a point to let listeners know where he’s going. So on “Bring It Back,” track 12 on the album, he made it a point to borrow claim Jay Z’s “best rapper alive” title, respectfully rhyming, “I’m the best rapper alive, since the best rapper retired.”
November 2004: Lil Wayne Collaborates With Destiny’s Child For “Soldier”
Reportedly after a suggestion from Jay Z, Destiny’s Child works with Wayne (and T.I.) for their 2004 smash single “Soldier.”
December 2004: Jay Z Considers Signing Lil Wayne To Def Jam
Following the success of _Tha Carter _and his contribution to Destiny’s Child hit “Soldier,” Wayne found himself in a bidding war as he entered free agency. After fielding offers from Jay Z, who was then-president of Def Jam, with the possibility of becoming an added member to Def Jam’s revamped roster (Kanye West, Fabolous, Rihanna), Wayne decided to stick with loyalty and officially re-signed with Cash Money on February 7, 2005. “It was very very tough,” said Wayne to MTV News. “But you know, I’m a loyal dude, I stick with the fam. But I hope we can do something in the future with my fam and his fam.
Years later, Jay Z would recall the deal, telling The Breakfast Club in 2013, “The truth is after I had a meeting with Wayne — I had a relationship with Baby, when I used to go to New Orleans I would meet up with him. So, I felt it was only right to call him. I called him out of respect like ‘Yo, I was talking to Wayne. Just to let you know. Boom boom boom.’” In renegotiating with Cash Money, Wayne received his own label, Young Money.
2005: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records
In 2005, during a concert, Lil Wayne tells a crowd that he has left Cash Money Records for Def Jam Records.
December 6, 2005: “Who Am I? Best Rapper Alive”
Months after re-signing with Cash Money, Wayne drops Tha Carter II to critical acclaim and sales success. Pushing subtlety to the side, he boldly claimed, “Who am I? The Best Rapper Alive,” on the album track of the same name.
November 2006: Lil Wayne ‘Must Be LeBron James If He’s Jordan’
Just as he did on The Prefix, Wayne hopped on a Jay Z instrumental, this time as the latter’s comeback (Kingdom Come) single, “Show Me What You Got.”
“When it comes to this recording, I must be LeBron James if he’s Jordan,” raps Weezy, before adding, “No, I want rings for my performance, I’m more Kobe Bryant of an artist.” The Weezy-mix turned heads not just for his analogy, but because he conquered the Just Blaze production much better than Jay did on the _Kingdom Come _single. The freestyle made its way to the much-talked about mixtape, Da Drought 3.
November 2006: Jay Z Sends Veiled Response On “Trouble”
With all the talk surrounding the self-appointed (and fan-respected) “best rapper alive,” Jay took some time to quell the debates on Kingdom Come‘s “Trouble.”
“I can only view lil’ niggas like lil’ niggas, but in lieu of lil’ niggas trying to play that boy/I phew, phew* lil’ niggas with the latest toy, unlike you lil’ nigga, I’m a grown ass man, big shoes to fill nigga, grown ass pants,” Jay rhymes over the Dr. Dre-produced record. “Probably hustled with your pops, go ask your parents/It’s apparent you’re staring at a legend who, put a few lil’ niggas in their place before/Trying to eat without saying their grace before/Blasphemous bastard get your faith restored.”
December 2006: Let the Games Begin: Lil Wayne Tells Complex “I’m Better Than Jay Z”
Like Jay Z’s rhymes on “Trouble,” it was just a matter of time “before the levee” broke. In an interview with Complex, for the publication’s December 2007/January 2007 cover story, Wayne made it explicitly clear “I’m better than [Jay Z].”
“I don’t like what he’s saying about how he had to come back because hip-hop’s dead and we need him. What the f—k do you mean? If anything it’s reborn, so he’s probably having a problem with that. You left on a good note, and all of the artists were saying, ‘Yo, this is Jay’s house. He’s the best.’ Now he comes back and still thinks it’s his house,” Wayne said. “It’s not your house anymore, and I’m better than you.”
April 2007: Lil Wayne ‘Apologizes’ To Jay Z In XXL Cover Story
Stepping away from his previous comments, Wayne told XXL in his April 2007 cover story “I wanna apologize to Jay and his family and friends, because I was asked that question and they put it in there like I was just feeling like, “Oh, you know what, nigga? I’m better than Jay!” They came at me like, “So you say you’re the best. Can you say that you’re better than everybody? Would you say you’re better than Jay?” I was like, “Yeah, nigga, I’m better than everybody!” But I’d like to throw that apology out there ’cause of whatever trouble I caused, I ain’t want that to happen.”
July 2007: Jay Z to Wayne: “Watch What You Say To Me”
Well aware of the comments, Jay Z decided to fire back in classic Jay Z fashion, as he used a guest spot on T.I.’s “Watch What You Say To Me” as armored weapon.
“I hear you baiting me lately, I been doing my best just to stay hater free, still watch what you say to me,” Jay rhymes, later adding, “Sooner or later I take you up on your offer and put you all in your place like I’m replacing your father/You talking to the author the architect of The Blueprint/My DNA in your music, motherf—ka you stupid?” Check… mate.
November 2007: Surprise: Jay Z & Lil Wayne Unite For “Hello Brooklyn 2.0”
With beef rumors at an all-time high (especially considering Jay’s “Watch What You Say To Me” verse), the two rap kingpins shocked the world with 2007’s “Hello Brooklyn 2.0.” Collaborating for the first time ever, the Beastie Boys-sampled track appeared on Jay’s American Gangster album. “When I was asked the question, I told them it wasn’t even a question, he’s got it,” Wayne told MTV about the dream collaboration. “Everybody in the world knows how I feel about Jay… he’s the king, utmost respect.”
That same month, the two took their peace treaty to the stage and performed the record for the first time during Jay’s American Gangster concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. During the performance, Wayne shut down the rumors of a beef, pointing at Jay and telling the audience, “The best rapper alive,” and then back at himself, “The next rapper in line.”
June 2008: Jay Z Passes the Torch To Lil Wayne On “Mr. Carter”
Jay returns the favor on Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III, only this time passing along the torch for their second-ever collab “Mr. Carter. “I’m right here, in my chair/With my crown and my dear/Queen B, as I share/Mic time with my heir/Young Carter, go farther/Go further, go harder/Is that not why we came?/And if not, then why bother?” This wouldn’t be their last collaboration.
June 7, 2008: Jay Z Counts Up “A Billi” On Lil Wayne’s Mega Hit
“I know a million people already did this… make it a billion,” raps Jay over Wayne’s _Carter III _smash “A Milli” for his own freestyle.
July 14, 2008: Lil Wayne Reveals He Has A Tattoo Of Jay Z’s “Lucky Me”
In an interview with _People _about the four albums that changed his life, Wayne listed Jay’s 1997 LP, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1.
“[The song] “Lucky Me” is my favorite song of all,” he revealed, adding “Period. I actually have “Lucky Me” tattooed on my neck. And I have a verse of that song tattooed on my leg.”
August 23, 2008: Jay Z & T.I. Round Up Lil Wayne And Kanye West for “Swagga Like Us”
Jay Z and T.I. teamed up for “Swagga Like Us,” which was originally set to appear onboth_ The Blueprint 3 _and Tip’s Paper Trail. Eventually, the record appeared solely on the latter. Joining Tip and Hov was Lil Wayne and Kanye West. This marked the third time Weezy and Hov collaborated. Together, the foursome saw the mega-collab strike big on the charts and later with the Recording Academy, as they picked up a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
October 27, 2008: The Infamous Powerhouse Concert
Although the relationship between the two titans seemed better than ever, things seemed like the opposite once it came time for Power 105.1’s Powerhouse in 2008. While they were both billed as the night’s co-headliners and expected to share the stage to perform “Mr. Carter,” Jay and Wayne instead performed their sets separately. Wayne would later blame security issues at venue for the missed opportunity.
October 2009: Birdman Says Lil Wayne Is Richer Than Jay Z
During an interview, weeks after Jay Z was named MTV’s “Hottest MC in the Game,” Birdman champion his “son,” saying, “I don’t think [Jay Z] is the number one emcee in no kind of way. Wayne’s the best. He do the most and he make the most money. I don’t think no ni—a in the business make more money than us. How can you be the best if you don’t make the most money? Lyrically, come on man, be for real, can’t nobody f—k with Wayne…If you number one and you ain’t getting no money it don’t mean nothing.”
September 2009: Jay Z Champions Lil Wayne On “A Star Is Born”
For one of the gems on 2009’s The Blueprint 3, Jay Z champions Wayne with the line “Wayne’s scorching, I’ll applaud him/If he keeps going, pass the torch to him.”
March 2010: Lil Wayne Makes Surprise Appearance On Blueprint 3 Tour
Just days before heading to a courthouse, Wayne made a surprise appearance during the Madison Square Garden stop of Jay Z’s Blueprint 3 tour with Jeezy. Unfortunately, the two didn’t perform together, but Wayne did hit the stage during Jeezy’s set, where he also brought out Drake and Nicki Minaj.
June 2010: Jay Z Credits Lil Wayne for the Making of Blueprint 3
“One of the reasons I wanted to make Blueprint 3 was because of the challenge,” Jay told Rolling Stone in his 2010 “King Of America” cover story. “We’ve seen people like LL [Cool J] have longevity, and we respect the heritage of what he’s done, but it’s not like, right now, he’s competing on the same level as Lil Wayne. So for me to still be able to compete at that level at my age, that’s rarefied air. It’s never been done.”
January 2011: The Birth of “Baby Money” – Jay Sends Subliminal Shot On “H.A.M.”
“I’m like, really half-a-billy nigga, really?’/You got baby money,” raps Jay, responding to Birdman’s previous claims (see above), on the initial Watch The Throne single “H.A.M.” This eventually leads to Wayne telling MTV in March 2011, “I wouldn’t make it a competition, because actually, the subject that he’s talking about in that line, I can’t box with the god. I’d be the first one to tell you that, given my wit, and the type of person that I am, I’d capitalize and I’d play off of it.”
August 28, 2011: Lil Wayne One-Ups Jay’s ‘Baby Money’ Line On “It’s Good”
In response to Jay’s subtle jab, Wayne sends one right back on Tha Carter IV‘s “It’s Good.” “Talking bout baby money, I got your baby money, kidnap your bitch, get that ‘How much you love your lady?’ money,” he raps. In an interview about the verse, Wayne told Vibe, “I know there won’t be any repercussions behind what I did. I know for a fact music is about perception. You can’t do anything but perceive what you hear. I know that for a fact. So I can’t ever be upset about someone’s reaction. I’m not going to say I don’t know what would happen before I even say [something on record]. I do know what will happen. I’m aware of it. But it is what it is.”
February 2012: Lil Wayne Disses The Throne
During a pre-Grammy party, Wayne kicked a freestyle that sent yet another (months after “It’s Good”) thinly veiled shot at Jay, and this time his Throne partner Kanye West. “I met a bad red bone, I took the b-tch home/ I asked her what she want to watch, she said surely not The Throne,” he rapped.
July 4, 2013: ‘Good Luck With That Bruh’
Two years after threatening to kidnap his “lady,” Weezy got a response from Jay on Magna Carta Holy Grail‘s “La Familia.” Over the Timbo-produced track, Jay raps, “Wanna kidnap wifey? Good luck with that bruh/You must gonna hide your whole family, what you think we wearing black for?”
May 16, 2014: Lil Wayne Shouts Out Jay Z On “D’usse”
As one of the many tracks leading up to his Carter V album, Wayne shouts out his idol on “D’usse.”
Talking to MTV about why he name-dropped Hov, Wayne said, “Hov is the god — I’ll give Hov a big shout out at all times,” Wayne told MTV News on the set of his “Krazy” video in LA. “But we was just on that D’usse heavy. I don’t write none of my music — I don’t write it down, so I just go in there and say whatever come to my mind.”
June 3, 2015: Lil Wayne Signs On With TIDAL, Drops “Glory”
Years after collaborating on “Hello Brooklyn 2.0,” “Mr. Carter,” and “Swagga Like Us,” Wayne and Hov partner up on the latter’s streaming service, Tidal and drops his own album, The Free Weezy Album on July 4th.
November 2016: “I’ma Roc-A-Fella millionaire”
Wayne once again fueled speculation about his alignment with Hov and Roc Nation, telling a crowd that he’s a “mother—kin’ Roc-a-Fella millionaire.”
April 10, 2017: “I’m a member of that Team now”
During a concert at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, Weezy announces that he’s a “member of” the Roc Nation team. “Is it cool if I just say it?” Wayne said during the show before throwing up the Roc sign. “It’s the Roc. You know I’m a member of that team now. We’ll talk about that later, though.”
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