On the week of the release of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne, Def Jam A&R Lenny “Lenny S.” Santiago spoke with AlLindstrom.com about his days working with Jay-Z while he was an employee at Roc-A-Fella Records and later Def Jam.
Santiago, who went from Bad Boy Records to Roc-A-Fella Records to his current home at Def Jam, joined Roc-A-Fella during the labels early years.
“I absolutely left Bad Boy at its height. I felt like I didn’t help really build that label. You know, it was like already on fire I just came in during the midst of it all,” Santiago explained. “And Roc-A-Fella was starting from the ground up and I wanted to be a part of a company where I felt like I helped actually build the brand or just be a part of it.”
While most in the Hip-Hop community were focused on Notorious B.I.G. around the time Santiago left Bad Boy, he revealed that he knew Jay-Z was destined for great things from the beginning.
“I definitely always thought Jay-Z was honestly the best, from the beginning. I’m clearly not saying that just cause. I was at Bad Boy when at that time everybody probably thought, and still sometimes probably think that Big was the best or one of the best,” said Santiago. “And for sure he is one of the best, but at the time I just always thought there was something special about Jay. And I felt strongly about that and to have the chance to go and work with him and be under him and be a part of that camp was something that it would have been an honor and a pleasure for me. So I took advantage…From that time I always felt this is the guy that I think is gonna be one of the biggest people in the business.”
Santiago also spoke on Jay-Z’s stint as Def Jam president and why he believed that Jay-Z’s role would “100 percent” work for the company.
“I knew that would 100 percent work because whether they admit it or not all artists respect Jay and like him to a degree,” said Santiago in regards to Jay-Z’s position as president of Def Jam. “Even if they don’t have a relationship with him, even if they don’t like him they respect him and what he does. And I felt that being in a part of a company like Def Jam that was driven on aggression and just hot rappers and rappers and artists in general…I thought that Jay being the president of Def Jam that says it all. This is the guy that was one of those artists who helped build this company.”