Tracey Lee has pointed that the connection between JAY-Z‘s 2003 single “What More Can I Say” and his own 1997 hit “Keep Your Hands High” has never been properly acknowledged.
Hip Hop fans familiar with the older track — which features an early posthumous appearance by The Notorious B.I.G. — are likely already aware that the two songs share a very recognizable horn sample from MFSB’s “Something For Nothing,” which was released in 1973.
More astute listeners are also aware that Hov’s lyrical homage to Biggie on his song — “So them rings and things you sing about, bring ’em out/ It’s hard to yell when the barrel’s in your mouth” — is also from Tracey Lee’s song.
Yet JAY-Z fans might be surprised to learn that, despite those similarities and Hov first hearing the collaboration before it was even released, T.Lee has not gotten any formal credit.
In an upcoming interview with Doggie Diamonds No Filter Podcast, the rapper turned entertainment attorney revealed he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that JAY-Z ended up using the line from “Keep Your Hands High” over the same sample.
“I got an interesting story about the the JAY situation,” Tracey Lee says in a preview clip. “I walk in the studio, Big is already there. Jay’s in there too, choppin’ it up with Big. This the first time I meet Jay, but he’s across the hall doing Streets Is Watching. I find it interesting that he’s there. Cuz the beat is still playing, you know how Big do. You how he formulates his rhymes, everything is in his head but he’s still kinda piecing it together, writing as he’s talking, all this other stuff.”
“But I find it interesting that, couple years later,” he adds, “he [was] in our session, and he takes a piece of what was in our session, and the sample, and does that.”
Neither the Notorious B.I.G., who died two weeks before “Keep Your Hands High” was released, nor Tracey Lee are listed as songwriters on “What More Can I Say,” which is customary when a song — or part of one — is used to create another.
And while Tracey Lee does acknowledge that he should have gotten credit for his contribution to The Black Album track, he doesn’t seem too pressed about it, telling Doggie Diamonds that he “hasn’t knocked on any doors yet.”
“What More Can I Say” was one of seven songs from The Black Album to be released as single and remains a standout track on what was meant to be JAY-Z’s swan song project.
As for “Keep Your Hands High,” on the 15th anniversary of Big’s death, Tracey Lee told The Urban Daily about one move that might have prevented the song from reaching more fans.
“We didn’t get rights to actually advertise that B.I.G. was on the record,” he explained at the time. “And I’ma go out there and say it ’cause this is what I heard … Puff really didn’t give us the rights to advertise. We didn’t have sticker rights, we couldn’t say “featuring B.I.G.” nowhere on the cover, nowhere on the back, so people basically just had to find that shit. They had to go get my album and just figure it out that B.I.G. was on the record. And I think that’s the reason why it was never put out there like it was supposed to be.”
Tracey Lee went on to share that there had been plans for him to open for Biggie on the Life After Death Tour, which, sadly, never came to fruition due to Big’s untimely death.