Here’s a History of Jay Z and Kanye West’s Friendship
Kanye West started producing for Roc-A-Fella Records artists in early 2000, when he landed a placement on Beanie Sigel's The Truth album with the intro of the same name. His chopped up, soulful style caught the ears of Dame, Biggs and Hov, who recruited him to produce on "This Can't Be Life" from The Dynasty: Roc La Familia later that year.
So began Jay Z and Kanye West's working relationship. Though Yeezy always wanted to be a rapper in his own right, he was relegated to in-house producer at the Roc for years, helping produce for The Blueprint in 2001, and cementing himself as one of rap's best new emerging beatmakers. Despite fancying himself a solo artist, the label didn't quite see him that way, and though he was signed to the Roc by August 2002, he was still being treated as a producer, not a rapper.
By November 2003, that changed. Def Jam didn't believe in him enough to finance a video for his single "Through the Wire," so Kanye paid for it himself, and when it took off, everyone in the rap game and beyond began to take him seriously. By February of 2004, his debut album, The College Dropout, was in stores.
Throughout the years, Kanye and his "Big Brother" Jay have had somewhat of an odd relationship. Rumors circulated around the time of Kanye signing to Roc-A-Fella that it was Dame, not Jay, who wanted to bring 'Ye onboard as a solo artist and not just a producer, and though Hov later denied that, their relationship off wax has remained somewhat mysterious; one might liken it to a Rolling Stone writer's characterization of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as "work friends."
In late October of this year at a Saint Pablo Tour show in Seattle, Kanye seemed to reveal the nature of their relationship, saying his daughter North West had never even played with Jay and Beyoncé's daughter Blue Ivy. 'Ye also claimed that he and Kim didn't get more than a phone call from the Carters after she was robbed in Paris. Days later, Kareem "Biggs" Burke, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, recalled a phone conversation he had with Hov after Kanye's blow-up in which Jay said he missed "the old Kanye." The sibling relationship looked to be fraying at the seams.
So while the world wonders just how tight Hov and Yeezy are these days, XXL takes a stroll down memory lane to look at the history of their friendship throughout the years.
At an August 2002 concert, Jay Z and Dame Dash welcome Yeezy as the newest member of the Roc-A-Fella crew.
In the years after Kanye was signed to the Roc, people always said it was Dame who believed in signing Kanye as a solo artist, not Jay. In a 2009 interview with XXL, Jay explained what really happened, saying he signed Kanye to at least get access to the Chicago native's production: "I wasn’t saying don’t sign Kanye, I was saying, at least keep the beats in-house, if anything."
On Nov. 23, 2003, Jay Z threw his star-studded "retirement" show at Madison Square Garden. As a new member of the label and one of rap's hottest producers, Kanye must have thought he could get as many tickets as he wanted. But as he said on "Big Brother," he was told he could buy two tickets instead. Jay later clarified that Yeezy had actually been given four tickets, but wanted two more.
Hov's 2006 album, Kingdom Come, featured "Beach Chair," a collab with Coldplay's Chris Martin, and a year later the Coldplay frontman was featured on Kanye's Graduation album for the song "Homecoming." But on "Big Brother," Yeezy says he told Hov about a collab he had with Martin, only to see Jay Z go and do the same thing himself. "Beach Chair" might have been released first, but knowing how long Kanye holds on to songs, he very well might have had "Homecoming" with Martin recorded before Hov.
Everybody remembers when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift while she was receiving her Best Female Video award at the 2009 MTV VMAs to let everyone know that Beyoncé actually had one of the best videos of all time. Bey's face might have foreshadowed the future of her husband's relationship with the Chicago rapper.
In July 2010, Hov and 'Ye were caught out having dinner together, just the two of them, at Nello's in New York City. To the public, it was a sign that they weren't just work friends, but real buddies who could grab a bite outside of the studio.
Watch the Throne was released on Aug, 8, 2011. Billed as a collab album, it felt more like a Kanye project with Hov verses on it, though they recorded it together in locations like Paris and New York City.
Kanye was performing at a London show in February 2013, when he went on one of his extended rants (or freestyles, however you classify them) and threw a shot at "Suit & Tie," Hov's collab with Justin Timberlake: "I got love for Hov, but I ain't fucking with that 'Suit & Tie.'"
When Kanye West and Kim Kardashian got married in Florence, Italy in May 2014, two people were conspicuously absent: Hov and Bey. They were said to be in the Hamptons instead, and when asked about their absence, Kanye later told GQ, “All that, I wouldn’t even speak on. It doesn’t even matter to me whatsoever, who would show up. Because the most important person to show up there, to me, was Kim. And that’s all that matters to me."
In March 2015, Jay and Kanye appeared onstage together, along with artists like J. Cole and Nicki Minaj, to announce the launch of TIDAL. For awhile, Kanye was a staunch supporter of the service, encouraging people to use it and even initially making it the only streaming service to carry The Life of Pablo. But by July 2016, Kanye wanted Apple to buy out the service, tweeting, "Apple give Jay his check for Tidal now and stop trying to act like you Steve."
On Wed., Oct. 19, at a Saint Pablo Tour show in Seattle, Kanye said Watch the Throne 2 would never happen because of "TIDAL, Apple bullshit." But more surprisingly, he said, "Our kids ain't never even played together," alluding to his and Jay Z's children. He then criticized Jay for not reaching out more after Kim got robbed: “Don’t call me, after the robbery, and say ‘how you feelin?’ You wanna know how I’m feelin? Come by the house.”
Days after Kanye's Seattle blow-up, Kareem "Biggs" Burke, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella with Jay and Dame, said he had a talk with Jay about Yeezy's comments. "We’re both just like, ‘We miss the old Kanye,’" said Biggs. "At this point, with everybody’s career, we’re a little too old for rap beef.”