NEW YORK — The Mike Jordan of rap says he's coming through in the clutch with his American Gangster album, much like he's done time and time again.
"That's my thing," Jay-Z smiled on Wednesday night at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Jay was there to tape an episode of "VH1 Storytellers," and before showtime, he was scribing some last-minute additions to his November 6 release, including a track called "American Dreaming" that samples Marvin Gaye vocals, and "Hello Brooklyn," which features Lil Wayne.
"I'm the fourth-quarter man," he added. "At the end of the album, I stand up stronger. I made '[I Just Wanna Love U] Give It 2 Me' at the very end of the [recording of The Dynasty: Roc La Familia]. 'PSA' was the last record [I wrote for] The Black Album. I believe in finishing up strong."
"Hello Brooklyn" is the tag-team combination that has been talked about by hip-hop fans for the past year or so, as it features Weezy F. Baby, MTV News' Hottest MC in the Game. What compounds the excitement even more is that the two haven't exactly had the fondest of words for each other in the recent past. Jay described "Hello Brooklyn" as not being a back-and-forth lyrical exercise — like, say "Renegade" or "Black Republican" — but more of a conceptual song.
"[Wayne's camp] sent the record and it was done," Jay elaborated. "So it wasn't like a collaboration thing. It was done already. Gee [Roberson] and [Kyambo] 'Hip Hop' [Joshua], who came from Roc-A-Fella and went on to do great things — I'm very proud of them — manage Wayne. That whole thing came through them. It's more of a great record than a lyrical slugfest. It's more a creative, great record than two guys spitting. 'Success' [another American Gangster track] is more of what people wanna look at when you judge that type of [collaborative] stuff. It's me and Nas going at it."
"Success," Jay explains, is about being at the house of achievement and asking yourself, "Is that it?" "I used to give a sh--," he raps. "Now I give a sh-- more/ Truth be told, I had more fun when I was piss poor/ I'm pissed off/ Is this is what success is all about?/ All this stress, all I got is this big house/ Couple of cars, I don't bring half of them sh--s out."
Nas comes in with lines like, "I climax from paper, then ask, 'Why is life worth living?' "
But back to "Hello Brooklyn." Wayne said the Beastie Boys-sampling "Hello Brooklyn" was actually made for his upcoming album, Tha Carter, Vol. 3. "It was produced by my homeboy Big D a long time ago," he said. "Jay heard the song some type of way, and when he heard it, he said, 'Ask the homie if I can get this.' When I was asked the question, I told them it wasn't even a question — he's got it. Everybody in the world knows how I feel about Jay. ... He's the king, utmost respect.
"The song has a sample on there that says, 'Hello Brooklyn,' " Wayne added. "I made it so that I'm talking to a woman and the woman has the traits of the actual place [where the song is set]. I say, 'She love B.I.G. but she like Tupac, and every time I say, "Jay-Z," she say, "It's the Roc." ' Me not being from Brooklyn, I think it's cool because you always wanna know what an outsider thinks of your place."
Just like Wayne called Jay a "king," Hov proved that he is the reigning king of BK when he was treated like royalty at his hometown show on Wednesday night. He had plenty to share during his "Storytellers" set, during which he performed seven songs from his new album and told the story behind them for an audience that featured Beyoncé, Beanie Sigel and L.A. Reid. Songs included "Blue Magic," during which a female audience member came out of the stands and did the Wop with Jay, and "Party Life," for which Hov specifically requested red lighting, because the song reminds him of old-school house-parties. "Hola Hovito, cooler than zee-ro, bee-low/ Fresh one blade, no chemo," he rapped. "Art with no easel, please there's no equal/ Your boy's off the wall, these other n---as is Tito."
"The band is great," he said earlier in the night of his accompanying musicians. "I went to Puff and snatched up a couple of his people 'cause he ... and Snoop [recently] went on an international tour. I know him, he's like a drill sergeant. He put them through the wringer. So I knew they would be ready. I didn't have to do much. I just let them hear the songs, and they learned the songs in one day."
Jay and his band, which he dubbed "The Roc Boys" on Wednesday night, will be going to several major cities at the start of November for a promo run. Next year, probably in the spring, he wants to do a full tour, hopefully with his roster of Roc-A-Fellas.
"We're slowly getting our legs to make another run," Jigga said, before rattling off the label's recent and upcoming releases. "First Kanye, then my record, then Free and Beans. [Memphis] Bleek's got a smoker out there. We're gearing up for Tru-Life at the beginning of the year, and [to] make that Dynasty 2 [album]."
It looks like one person will be added to Jay's dynasty soon: The LOX's Jadakiss is apparently on the way to Roc-A-Fella/ Def Jam by way of Ruff Ryders. "It's not done," Jay said of the deal. But, he added, "It's about 90 percent [complete]."