Inside Kanye West & JAY-Z's Tumultuous Relationship Through the Years
Kanye West was first recruited to produce tracks for Roc-A-Fella Records — which was founded by JAY-Z, Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke, who began the label in 1996 — after he worked on the self-titled track off Beanie Sigel's The Truth album in 2000. The sample left the founders so impressed they enlisted the Chicago rapper to produce "This Can't Be Life," the fifth track off of Jay's 2000 album, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia — thus launching Jay and Kanye's working relationship, which is also documented on Kanye's "Last Call" outro off of The College Dropout.
THE START OF SOMETHING NEW
While Kanye had aspirations of becoming a rapper, it took some time before Roc-A-Fella Records took him on as an artist. In 2002, he was reluctantly signed to the label since he was viewed as a producer first and foremost — which sparked rumors that Jay didn't want to sign Kanye. Jay addressed those rumors in 2009: "I wasn't saying don't sign Kanye, I was saying, at least keep the beats in-house, if anything."
JUST LIKE FAMILY
Kanye and Jay's working relationship eventually blossomed into a friendship, which Kanye chronicled on his 2007 song, "Big Brother." The song tells the story of a relationship that is both loving and difficult — much like a bond shared between siblings. "My big brother was B.I.G.'s brother /Used to be Dame and Biggs' brother," Kanye raps on the hook. He also recounts the time he asked Jay for two tickets to his Madison Square Garden concert — and how he was told to buy them instead. He raps: "Only thing I wanna know is why I get looked over /I guess I'll understand when I get more older /Big brother saw me at the bottom of the totem /Now I'm on the top and everybody on the scrotum."
Jay opened up about the backstory behind Kanye's "Big Brother" lyrics during an interview, clarifying that he had already given Kanye four tickets before the Chicago native asked for two more.
STICKING UP FOR BEY
During the 2009 MTV VMAs, Kanye infamously took the mic from Taylor Swift when the country crooner took home the Best Female Video Award for "You Belong with Me" over Beyoncé's "Single Ladies." The rapper said: "I'm really happy for you, I'll let you finish. But Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time."
A COLLAB TO REMEMBER
In 2011, Kanye and Jay collaborated on their joint album titled Watch the Throne, which spawned hit singles like "No Church in the Wild" and "N——s in Paris." A year earlier, Kanye posted a now-deleted tweet documenting the experience: "Sitting here in the studio 2 hours out of London, It's really setting in on me that I'm actually doing a rap album with JAY-Z."
KIM & KANYE'S WEDDING
While Beyoncé sent well wishes on the day of Kanye and Kim Kardashian's 2014 wedding via Instagram, the performer and her rapper-husband did not attend the couple's nuptials. When asked about their notable absence, Kanye 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."
Since Jay's 2015 launch of his streaming service, Tidal, Kanye became an ardent supporter of the new venture — even joining artists J. Cole and Nicki Minaj onstage to help announce its debut. But by July 2016, Kanye was singing a different tune, calling out Apple to acquire the service on Twitter. He tweeted: "Apple give Jay his check for Tidal now and stop trying to act like you Steve."
During an October 2016 concert, Kanye went on a rant about Jay and the fact that their daughters North and Blue Ivy, respectively, still haven't had a play date. "Our kids ain't never even played together," he said after addressing the possibility of a future Watch the Throne 2 album, which for the record, he says, won't happen because of "TIDAL, Apple bulls—." Kanye also addressed his wife Kim's horrific Paris robbery and Jay and Bey's lack of reaching out during the difficult time. "Don't call me, after the robbery, and say 'how you feelin?' " Kanye vented to his concertgoers. "You wanna know how I'm feelin'? Come by the house."
REFLECTING ON THE PAST
Following Kanye's onstage rant, Roc-A-Fella co-founder Kareem "Biggs" Burke opened up about a conversation he had with Jay about Kanye's antics. "We're both just like, 'We miss the old Kanye,' " Biggs told Page Six. "At this point, with everybody's career, we're a little too old for rap beef."
JAY SPEAKS OUT
The pair's rocky relationship hit its peak when Jay called out Kanye's erratic behavior on "Kill JAY-Z," a track off his 2017 studio album, 4:44:
"I know people backstab you, I feel bad too / But this 'f--- everybody' attitude ain't natural / But you ain't the same, this ain't KumbaYe / But you got hurt because you did cool by 'Ye / You gave him 20 million without blinkin' / He gave you 20 minutes on stage, f--- was he thinkin'?/ 'F---in' wrong with everybody?' is what you sayin' / But if everybody's crazy, you're the one that's insane."
COMING TO AN END?
Kanye and Jay's rift took another turn a few days after the release of 4:44. The Watch the Throne collaborators have reportedly found themselves at odds over a money dispute involving Tidal, TMZ reported. West reportedly alleged that the company owes him more than $3 million and he has reportedly attempted to end his agreement with the music service only to have the company threaten to sue him for breach of contract, according to TMZ.
It's official: Kanye has cut ties with Tidal, leaving the streaming service following financial disputes. On July 6, a source close to Kanye confirmed the news to Billboard, who reported that "Tidal's exclusivity rights have been terminated based on what is alleged to be Tidal's failure to honor its financial obligations."
The dispute frames the rapper's The Life Of Pablo album, which brought 1.5 million new subscribers to Tidal – a swell in users which was supposed to see Kanye granted a bonus, which Tidal has allegedly yet to pay. It also concerns a number of music videos, which Kanye reported Tidal are yet to reimburse him for.
JAY-Z chatted with Rap Radar hosts Elliott Wilson and Brian “B.Dot” Miller in August 2017 to discuss his song “Kill Jay Z.” The single off his latest album, 4:44, in which he sent a few jabs Kanye’s way. “It’s not even about a Kanye diss. It’s not a diss, I’m talking to myself the whole time,” the rapper said.
He also opened up about West’s infamous 2016 Sacramento concert rant in which he called out JAY-Z and wife Beyoncé. “What really hurt me, you can’t bring my kid or my wife into it,” JAY-Z said of West’s world. “We’ve gotten past bigger issues, but you brought my family into it, now it’s a problem with me.”
The “99 Problems” rapper added: “You know it’s a problem because me and him would have been talked about it, been resolved our issues. And he knows crossed the line. He knows. And I know he knows. ‘Cause we’ve never let this much space go between one of our disagreements and we’ve had many. That’s part of who we are.”
In a candid interview with Dean Baquet for T, The New York Times Style Magazine, Jay revealed that he's back on speaking terms with Kanye. "[I talked to] Kanye the other day, just to tell him, like, he's my brother," the 47-year-old told the magazine in November 2017. "I love Kanye. I do. It’s a complicated relationship with us…. 'Cause, you know — Kanye came into this business on my label. So I’ve always been like his big brother. And we’re both entertainers. It’s always been like a little underlying competition with your big brother ... So it’s like, we both — everyone wants to be the greatest in the world. You know what I’m saying? And then there’s like a lot of other factors that play in it. But it’s gonna, we gonna always be good."
Jay continued: "It's just that there's certain things that happened that’s not really acceptable to me. And we just need to speak about it. But there’s genuine love there."
WHAT STARTED THE FEUD?
Kanye, who married wife Kim Kardashian West in a lavish 2014 ceremony in Italy, told Charlamagne Tha God he was "hurt" by JAY-Z and Beyoncé's absence at his nuptials. The pair's move, he says, is what caused his rift with Jay.
"I was hurt about them not coming to the wedding. I understand they were going through some things, but if it’s family, you’re not going to miss a wedding," Kanye said in a two-hour interview, referring to allegations that JAY-Z had been unfaithful to the "Formation" singer.
“I’m not using this interview to put out any negative things, but I gotta state my truth,” he continued. “You just start coming up with all type of crazy things in your head, like ‘Why?'"
As for whether he is still disappointed by his mentor’s absence, Kanye said he's "past it, but at the time I was hurt." He admitted he never asked JAY-Z about why he skipped his wedding.