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It’s The Roc, B**ch

I got a lot of appreciation from yesterday’s Rap-A-Lot post. But as much as I LOVE the house that J. Prince built, being from Brooklyn, I can’t imagine the pride that fans from Houston had when they had someone reppin’ them at a time when the South got little to no recognition. Shit, I was just a fan because the music was dope, but for the South, Rap-A-Lot’s rise meant something much more. And that brings me to today’s topic: Roc-A-Fella Records.

I’ve been a Jay-Z fan since he dropped a 16 on Original Flavor’s “Can I Get Open” (Anyone who says they’ve been a Jay fan since “Hawaiian Sophie” is a DAMN liar—all he did was ad-libs). Granted Jay did rhyme like the Fu-Schnickens at first, but back then so did 80-percent of all rappers.

From there, were appearances on Big L’s album, Mic Geronimo’s album and a ton of R&B verses (who remembers Hi-Five’s “She’s Playing Hard to Get (Remix)” with Jay and Ski rhyming back to back?). But the first time I really took notice of Roc-A-Fella is when Jay dropped the “In My Lifetime” 12-inch single on Pay Day. I was already familiar with the song thanks to Stretch and Bobbito, and Ralph McDaniel—who played the video constantly—so when I saw the single on sale at my local record store on Flatbush and Beverley, I automatically copped. There was no cover art, just a brown sleeve with a Pay Day logo and the original Roc-A-Fella logo (You know, the one with the record and champagne bottle). I went home; played the record and just stared at the logo. Don’t ask me why but that shit just always stood out to me.

Back then, Jay was as underground as they come, it was a big deal to hear “Dead Presidents” and “Ain’t No Nigga” on Hot 97. Most forget that even Jay’s classic debut, Reasonable Doubt, was initially an independent release through Freeze/Priority. The growth of Roc-A-Fella felt organic and fans really connected to that shit, so when they signed a joint venture with Def Jam (in or around 1997) it was a win for Brooklyn.

While it originally started as a home for Jay-Z, Roc-A-Fella went on to put out classic material from DJ Clue, Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek, Cam’ron, Freeway and Kanye West. It’s amazing, considering Dame, Biggs and Hov’s humble beginnings. It’s a damn shame they couldn’t hold it together, but that’s another story.

In honor of my favorite record label of all-time, here are some of the best Roc-A-Fella clips by artists not named Shawn Corey Carter. —Rob Markman

Since Universal killed the embed codes on a lot of these YouTube videos, it kinda crippled me. Booooooooooooooo!

Memphis Bleek ft. Jay-Z “What You Think of That”

Amil ft. Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel & Jay-Z “4 Da Fam”

Diplomats “Dipset Anthem”

State Property “Roc The Mic”

State Property “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”

Freeway ft. Beanie Sigel & Jay-Z “What We Do”

Kanye West “Through The Wire”

State Property “One For Peedi”

Cam’ron “Get ’Em Girls”

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