In case you missed it, since the release of Jay-Z’s recent record 4:44, it seems like Hova isn’t too happy with Kanye West. While the two used to be best buddies back in the day, releasing one of the greatest collaboration albums in history, 2011’s Watch The Throne, recent years have seen the duo’s relationship turn sour, with Jay-Z recently throwing in some relatively harsh bars in regards to his former friend.
But what happened? Where did it all go wrong for one of hip hop’s most beloved duos? Well, we’ve decided to take a look back at Kanye West and Jay-Z’s professional relationship, and their history of conflict, to give a step-by-step breakdown of where it all started to go wrong.
The early days
In 2000, Jay-Z released his fifth album The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. The record was intended to be a compilation mixtape of sorts, featuring acts from Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella record label, but was turned into a solo album along the way. One of the fresh-faced producers on the record was a young Kanye West. Kanye’s contributions resulted in his production of the track ‘This Can’t Be Life’, helping bring his name into the spotlight for the first time.
Their friendship grows
As years went on, Kanye was promoted to the in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella records. His production work gained him much recognition, even seeing him credited as helping to revive Jay-Z’s fledgling career with his work on 2001’s The Blueprint, including the huge hit ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.)’. Despite this, West’s true aspiration was to become a rapper. Even after a number of meeting with executives in the music world, West’s dream was denied until Roc-A-Fella signed him on the advice of label executives who didn’t want West defecting to another label.
Surprisingly, Jay-Z wasn’t a fan of West’s rapping, believing his true strengths to be in producing, and believing that his background wasn’t exactly comparable to other artists on the label. In 2005, Jay-Z said to TIME; “We all grew up street guys who had to do whatever we had to do to get by. Then there’s Kanye, who to my knowledge has never hustled a day in his life. I didn’t see how it could work.” Despite giving him his big break, Jay-Z never really gave Kanye his full support, though they remained very close friends along the way.
Tensions grow, but friendships remain
In 2006, Jay-Z collaborated with Coldplay’s Chris Martin on the track ‘Beach Chair’. Despite the song’s success, Kanye wasn’t exactly a fan, since he was already organising a collaboration with Chris Martin for his song ‘Homecoming’. Kanye even went so far as to lightly criticise the collaboration on his song ‘Big Brother’, which itself was a tribute of sorts to Jay-Z. As time went by though, any sort of tensions that arose were quickly dissuaded, and the two kept on making great music together.
When they released Watch The Throne in 2011, Jay-Z told Zane Lowe that they had arguments together that would last as much as four days. “Soon as I thought we had wrapped up ‘Watch The Throne’, I made two records – I had ‘Holy Grail’ and ‘Oceans’,” Jay-Z said. “I played those records for Kanye. And he was like, ‘No those have to go on Watch The Throne’, so we spent four days arguing about those records and I was explaining to him why it wasn’t right for this project.” According to Jay-Z, while these feuds would last for a while, they were never really nasty, or as Jay-Z says; “Well, there was some pushing at one point but not between us, just everyone else got a little excited.”
Cracks start to appear
Things continued to get a little rough though. When Jay-Z collaborated with Justin Timberlake for his track ‘Suit & Tie’, Kanye dissed Jay-Z and the track, claiming as much as he loved Jay, the track just wasn’t for him. Likewise, when Jay-Z’s much-anticipated Magna Carta Holy Grail dropped in 2013, Kanye remained silent, choosing instead to Tweet about movies that he had seen.
While folks were certain that Kanye and Jay still had their friendship, cracks were undoubtedly beginning to appear, and many fans of both rappers were beginning to get worried.
It all falls down
The real decline of the friendship could be seen at Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s wedding. West and Kardashian married in Italy in May of 2014, and according to numerous sources, Jay-Z was tipped to be Kanye’s best man. However, both Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé were not in attendance, instead choosing to go on a vacation in New York state. Reports surfaced that Jay-Z turned down the best man offer because he didn’t like the sound of the wedding being filmed, as it was initially reported to be. Kanye didn’t speak much on this matter, instead saying to GQ: “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.”
Things just got worse from there. In 2016, following Kim Kardashian’s robbery in Paris, Kanye criticised Jay-Z’s silence, saying on stage that he wished Jay would have come to see him, rather than just call him and ask how he and Kim were faring after the ordeal. In the wake of this, Kanye also stated that there was never going to be a Watch The Throne 2, much to the disappointment of countless fans.
Most recently though, Kanye has announced his exit from music streaming service Tidal. The company, bought by Jay-Z in 2015, was said to be the first artist-owned music streaming service. Its launch featured a veritable ‘who’s who’ of music, including Daft Punk, Madonna, Arcade Fire, and Kanye West, and served as yet another venture in which Jay-Z and Kanye were involved in. Now two years later, Kanye has announced his exit from the company, stating that he is owed millions of dollars, though Tidal has threatened to sue Kanye if he leaves.
Kanye seemed to have made some enemies with Tidal previously though, having initially announced that his most recent record The Life Of Pablo was to be a Tidal exclusive. Upon its release, West tweeted, “My album will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale… You can only get it on Tidal.” But months later, the record was found almost everywhere except Tidal, with folks streaming it from Spotify, Apple Music, and almost everywhere that music could be streamed from.
With that, we’ve reached the current day. Who knows what the future holds for the once-beautiful bond that was Jay-Z and Kanye West’s. Egos seem to have won out in recent years, turning one of hip hop’s most famous friendships into something regrettably unrepairable. While we can always hold out hope that the two will bury the hatchet, we’re not too sure whether the damage can be undone. So at this stage, all we can do is listen to our copy of Watch The Throne and pine for days gone by.