Jay-Z and Kanye’s chemists in the studio has to be one of the greatest working relationships in hip hop ever.
Over the past two decades, Kanye had laced Hov with some of the best beats, of both their careers, including “Takeover”, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)”, “Encore”, “Lucifer”, “Run This Town”, and of course, most of their 2011 collaboration album, Watch the Throne.
It all started back in 2000 when Jay-Z was checking for new beats to rap on his fifth album, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. While Jay had previously scored a bunch of big hits working with producers like Timbaland, Jermaine Dupri and Swizz Beatz for his last two albums, he decided to switch up the formula.
A majority of The Dynasty was produced by The Neptunes as well as relative new-comers Just Blaze, Bink and a young Chicago producer by the name of Kanye West. As explained by Kanye on the closing track of The College Dropout.
Kanye West: I was stayin’ in Chicago, I had my own apartment. I be doin’ like, just beats for local acts just to try to keep the lights on, and then to go out and buy, get a Pelle Pelle off lay-away, get some Jordans or something or get a TechnoMarine, that’s what we wore back then. I made this one beat where I sped up this Harold Melvin sample I played it for Hip over the phone, he’s like, “Oh, yo that shit is crazy Jay might want it for this compilation album he doin’, called The Dynasty. And at that time, like the drums really weren’t soundin’ right to me So I went and I was listening to Dre Chronic 2001 at that time. And really I just, like bit the drums off “Xxplosive” and put it like with a sped-up sample, and now it’s kind of like my whole style, when it started, when he rapped on “This Can’t Be Life.”Kanye West – “Last Call” | The College Dropout
The soulful Harol Melvin sample paired with the crisp drums was the start of the formula the two artists would later explore on The Blueprint. It would also inspire Hov to get more introspective on the track, talking about the stresses of the drug game, watching Biggie, Nas and Craig Mack blow up while he was still trying to get put on, and his girlfriend at the time going through a miscarriage.