DJ Toomp has shared the reaction JAY-Z had when he first played him the beats for “Say Hello” and Kanye West’s “Big Brother.”
During his conversation with B High ATL, the legendary Atlanta producer reflected on the time he was recruited by the Roc-A-Fella crew and played them a selection of beats. Two of those tracks would end up being for “Big Brother” and “Say Hello,” and Hov’s reaction was priceless.
“We played ‘Big Brother’ for JAY-Z for the first time, and word was going around the label, you know, Def Jam was like, ‘Yea, Ye got a record talking about JAY-Z,’” Toomp said. “Nobody knew if it was good or bad. So I was there when Jay came to listen to ‘Big Brother’ for the first time and everything.
“He said, ‘Ha, that’s how you feel,’ and he loved it, bro. Next thing you know, you know how that conversation went. He’s sitting right at the mixer with me. He’s like, ‘Hey, man, gotta link up. Let me know.’ He wanted to get up soon, and next thing you know, he ordered up on the American Gangster album.”
Toomp explained that JAY-Z was flirting with retirement at the time, and his friend told him he needed to make the trip to see the rapper and play some beats for him that could possibly land on what would become American Gangster.
“See that’s the genius of JAY-Z too. He knows how to attach that branding,” he said. “You could just throw an album out like the good old days, but he learned about attaching it to something else. It wasn’t the soundtrack of the movie or nothing. He just attached it to American Gangster because that was the new big Denzel [Washington] movie coming out. So he named his album American Gangster, and it actually felt like a soundtrack to the movie when you listen to it and align it to all the parts.”
Toomp went on to say he had four specific beats that he wanted to play Hov but was instead asked only to play three. Once he played the beat for “Say Hello,” everyone in the studio lost their minds, including Jermaine Dupri, No I.D., Young Guru and more.
“Guru was like, ‘Hey, man, look back there,’ and you just see Jay back there [nodding his head] mumbling,” Toomp said. “About 15 minutes, boy, he was in the booth, no paper, no pen. Only cat I seen do that was Clifford Harris. Go in that booth with no pen and no paper and go in there spit straight fire. Jay did it.”
DJ Toomp also spoke about another time with Roc-A-Fella when he made the decision to stop working with Kanye West. During his visit to Math Hoffa’s My Expert Opinion podcast last week, Toomp was asked what led to him not working with West again after the incredible music they put together for his third album, Graduation.
“Ye started working a different way after that,” Toomp said. “He started really wanting to have a lot of cooks in the kitchen, you know, working on one meal type of shit it’d be different if you say, ‘Alright, we’ll bring these cats in. We’re gonna do an Italian cuisine. Okay, this day we’re gonna do a Jamaican cuisine. Oh, we’re gonna do Mexican cuisine.’
“But it was just so many different — you know how you walk through the mall and food court and you might get sick because you got the wings over here and the Chick-fil-A and all them scents hit.”