If it wasn’t for Jay-Z and his friends in high places, The Roots’ 2006 classic Game Theory would have been missing a small but vital piece.
During Jay’s tenure as Def Jam president, from 2004 to 2007, one of the rap acts he was managing was The Roots, who had come over from Geffen Records. While working on their first Def Jam release, Roots frontman Questlove ran into an issue with one of the album’s tracks, “Atonement” which sampled Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army.”
“We toured with them in Europe when Kid A came out,” Questlove said in an interview. “I felt my relationship was cool enough with Thom [Yorke] to ask if the Roots could have liberal use of “You and Whose Army.” Of course the label said no. The lawyers said no.”
The sample clearance put the whole album release plan in jeopardy since Def Jam lawyers wanted to make sure everything was resolved before dropping it. With no other choice, Questlove went to Jay-Z.
Questlove: Jay-Z was still president of the label then. I was like, “Can you get me on the phone with those guys in five minutes?” He was like, “Yeah.” I said, “Do you know those guys?” He said, “No.” I was confused. So I asked, “Well, how are you going to get through to those guys?” He said, “Watch.” Sure enough, in five minutes I was jogging on the treadmill talking to the Radiohead guys. Lawyers can’t make it work, but Jay-Z can.A Brief History of Rappers Sampling Radiohead | Spin