Jay-Z, Scarface, Beanie Sigel and DMX, photographed during a recording session for The Blueprint²: The Gift & The Curse at Hov’s Baseline Studios in 2002.
Brad later explained how this session went down: “Our studio session was more or less like a big joke… You go in there and see Jay shooting pool. You see Beans on the sofa asleep. Jay always plays shit for me, torturing me, playing the new Blueprint. I think he does that to fire me up. Then he’ll play the songs he wants me to get on. I’m like ‘How can you do this to me, man? You play all this heat and you want me to compete with the heat?’”
Jay-Z, photographed at his Baseline Studios in Manhattan for USA Today by Todd Plitt on November 12, 2003.
Hov was featured in the newspaper in support of the release of his retirement album The Black Abum. The release date had just been pushed up, after bootleggers had leaked it onto the streets three weeks early: “That right there is the gift and the curse. To still be relevant and what the streets want after all this time is a great feeling, but at the same time, we don’t like getting bootlegged.”
In the interview he revealed adding to his decision to retire was the creative stagnancy in the hip-hop genre: “Commercially, it is as big as it’s ever been. You’ve got all of these Fortune 500 companies wanting to be involved with hip-hop artists. Creatively, I think we are getting too caught up in making the hot single instead of making albums. I’ve always tried to make a good album, but people right now think that all they have to do is to make the club single or the girl song or the thug record.”
“Nigga I’m going to Japan tomorrow! You understand what I’m saying? Can you believe that?”
Jay-Z and the Roc-A-Fella Records crew during a trip to Japan in May 2002.
Hov was in the country to perform at the
MTV Super Dry Live festival in Tokyo; and to attend the inaugural MTV Japan Video Music Awards where he accepted the first ever “Inspiration Award: International” and performed during the show. The day before boarding the flight to Japan he recorded “I Did It My Way” at Baseline Studios in New York.
Jay-Z wrote his classic track “Public Service Announcement” after he had already handed in The Black Album to be mastered. After being given a record with the opening notes by a friend, Just Blaze made the final beat in ten minutes. He then ran the 20 minute journey from Battery Mastering Studios around to Baseline Studios - but Hov had already left for the day.
The next day Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella Records were there hosting the album’s listening session and doing press with various outlets. Just Blaze played him the “PSA” beat in the morning, and then Hov proceeded to do his press rounds - coming back every hour or so to drop a few lines over the beat. This means, as he was doing the press rounds, Hov was thinking of the beat in the back of his head while free-forming verses for one of his best ever tracks. He took one take at the end of the day to record the full song, then removed “Lookin’ @ My S. Dots” from the album and replaced it with “PSA.”
Celebrating Jay Electronica releasing another track I’m posting this pic I took from when we recorded Exhibit C at Baseline Studios. Just Blaze made the beat (using a MPC 4000), Jay wrote and we recorded it all that same night. It’s one of the very last things we worked on at Baseline.
We recorded it in Pro Tools thru a Nuemann U87, Sheps SN8, and Tube Tech CL-1B.
Jay-Z’s favorite card game is a three-card version of Guts; he is a highly proficient and feared player. It was a staple pastime among the Roc-A-Fella Records crew, and you would see it being played anytime they were together. “You can’t stop,” Jay has said of the game, “it’ll claim your life.”
At one point the amount of money Memphis Bleek owed Jay-Z reached over $3 million. In 2003 Kevin Liles lost a $10,000 bet during a game, and when he tried to send payment via an assistant to Baseline Studio Hov refused to accept it and told him to “come pay him in person” and “serve his debt with honor.”
When Hov was in the studio recording his verse for Cam'ron’s song “Welcome to New York” he and a few friends were playing several hands of guts while the beat played. After about an hour of playing cards, Jay walked into the booth and knocked out his verse in one take; he had been writing the verse in his head while playing the high-stakes game.