Roc-A-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash put just a little more of a pimp stroll than usual in his confident swagger as he walked into the penthouse of Manhattan’s Hotel Giraffe Thursday night. Dash was about to show a handful of invited guests his trump card – the new Jay-Z album, The Blueprint, which features appearances by Eminem and, apparently, Michael Jackson.
“I don’t want to say we’re the backbone of hip-hop, because that may sound arrogant, but it is what it is,” Dash said before playing seven songs from the LP, which comes out September 18 and features the single “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”.
“Y’all can’t f
with Jay, what type of ex y’all on?” Jigga asks on the first track, an intense barrage of metaphors and punchlines called “The Ruler’s Back.” Staking claim to the title of “king of hip-hop” on the cut, Jay’s letting everybody know that although he’s reaped the benefits of reigning supreme in the rap world, he’s still “representin’ for the seat where Rosa Parks sat.”
Speaking of the Ruler, Slick Rick, who earned that title in the ’80s with his superb wordplay, helps Jay out on the hook on “Girls, Girls, Girls,” as do Q-Tip and Biz Markie. The Diabolical B.I.Z. beatboxes, while Ricky Dee and Tip sing, “Girls, girls, girls, girls/ Girls I do adoorrrrre.” Meanwhile, Jay humorously describes the women he has in his stable, including a “young chick” who complains about him not buying her Reeboks and a “project chick” who hides his guns for him.
Things turn more serious as Jay Hova teams up with none other than Eminem for “The Renegades.” Eminem, who also produced the track, provides a dementedly savory piano-chord backdrop while he and Hov release some stress. “Do you listen to music or just skip through it?” Jay asks critics who call his tunes one-dimensional. He then blasts the government, saying that he was “influenced by the ghetto you ruined.” Slim Shady, who likens himself to a “modern day Shakespeare,” tells everyone (this is a shocker) that he’s “never been afraid to say what’s on his mind.”
On the soulful “Song Cry,” Jay says, “I can’t see it coming down my eyes so I gotta make the song cry.” Like “Soon You’ll Understand” on his last LP, Jay raps about losing a true love because of his unwillingness to settle down. He tells the “good girl turned bad” it’s a struggle to “live with the fact I did you wrong, forever.”
Dash said that the Timbaland-produced “Hola O Vito” will be the third single – “Girls, Girls, Girls” will be the second. On the club knocker, Timbo uses a buzzer-sounding bassline and Jigga boldly proclaims to be “Michael, Magic and Bird rolled up in one.” He goes on to say that “If I’m not better than Big, I’m the closest one.”
One track that Dash didn’t play is Jay’s duet with Michael Jackson. He did, however, confirm that M.J. is supposed to be on The Blueprint and that Jay-Z will be on Michael Jackson’s upcoming album. Dash also said that Jay has worked on a dis record to address all the MCs who have been coming at him, and that the song is so harsh that the careers of Jay’s foes won’t be able to be rehabilitated.
Jay probably won’t be lashing out at DMX. Dash admitted that there was speculation as to whether X was aiming at Jay in a recent song, but he says the two are friends, they talked and that is not the case – it’s all gravy.
“It was never going to be a beef,” he said of the friction between his artist Beanie Sigel and Jadakiss, noting that Roc-A-Fella and the Ruff Ryders have had a good relationship over the past few years. He did say that Russell Simmons wanted to act as a mediator between the two MCs, but things were squashed before “the Godfather of rap” needed to get involved.
The Blueprint marks the end of Roc-A-Fella’s contractual partnership with Def Jam. Dash said they are going through renegotiations but are contemplating selling off half of their company to other parties. The exec also said that he and Jay could start up a whole new enterprise elsewhere.
This uncertainty hasn’t stopped Dash from trying to sign a few artists, both new and established. He wouldn’t mention any names except Brownsville, Brooklyn, headbangers M.O.P.