Celebrity Encounters

That time I had a Two Way with Jay-Z

While I was working as a car salesman in Poughkeepsie, New York. My boy George (not the singer) called me and said he had the hook up to the Jay-Z Hard Knock Life tour- after party. He said his guy knew one of  Jay's people, and that I could have VIP access if I came. So I left my job to the chagrin of my employer and headed for Albany. Once I got there, I waited down in an empty VIP room for what seemed like hours to meet my favorite rapper. George had assured me that Jay would show up. I needed the added reassurance because I was leaving my job for the day without permission, or a guarantee that i'd still have a job. Plus artists hardly ever come to the after party after a concert.  It was usually a ploy by the promoter to attract more party goers. However after some time Jay-Z did show up. He walked through the door with one lone security guy. And as I approached the security guy extended his hand as if to say, ""hold up." He looks at Jay and asked: "You know  him?" Jay just shook his head to the negative. At that moment I opened my jacket to reveal that I was unarmed- I just was there to meet him. I shook his hand and afterwards he proceeded to the upper level where  an eager and increasing crowd awaited. I hurried up to the upper floor to see what was supposed to be a mini performance by him. He took the small stage to perform, to my pleasant surprise, and in the pandemonium that ensued the very packed crowd started to overwhelm the venue's security. To the point where there wasn't  even enough security to contain the now surging crowd. My eyes were fixed on Jay the whole time. He had a look of pure worriment on his face. It was as if the audience wanted to love him to death, and that was the start of me not wanting to be like Jay-Z.

Fast forward about 2 years later, I’m living in the Bronx now, and attending all the parties I can catch wind of. I end up at Joe’s Pub one night, and met a guy who had all the makings of a big shot; a table, bottles, and beautiful women. He told me that he was a finance guy, and after I spit a verse for him he made a call on the spot, and put me on the phone with a guy who introduced himself as Beef. I met up with Beef days if not a day later at Game Records down in SoHo. Although I imagined that Beef was managing me, he was more mentoring me than managing me.

Back then in the early part of the turn of the Century, smart phones were unheard of. You were considered to be balling not too long before then, if you had a StarTac Motorola.

Beef and his crew of tastemakers who called themselves BBS, came through one week with two-way pagers. They were like flip phones configured like a calculator, but with alpha-numeric keyboards. They also had an infrared beam that would allow you to transmit contact info on the spot. It was a strange, seemingly futuristic  ritual to line up two-way pagers with another person and hear the confirming squelch that let you know the transfer of info was complete.

 Only movers and shakers had two-way pagers in the places we frequented, and thanks to Beef, I had one too. Mine however came already loaded with contacts. I was amazed and afraid at some of the names in my contact list. This was around the time when the Jay-Z and Nas beef was really heating up. I was a fan of both emcees naturally, and battling was a rite of passage since the early days of Hip-Hop. However I took issue as a fan, and as a man with some of the things Jay-Z had said on record. So I Two-Way paged him, and after he responded: “Who is this?” I lightly chastised him for “going there.” I told him that he knew better, and that he was better than that. If Motorola keeps logs of communications somewhere, I’d like to see exactly what I typed. Nothing more became of my communication with Jay-Z, that is to say, there was no further communication on the two-way between him and I. The next and last time I saw him was some time later at a Club called Spa, on 13th Street and 4th Ave.  I was so happy to be in the spot too, because it was not an easy spot to be in. Justin Timberlake sat in the booth near where I and my people sat. He was with a bunch of girls that seemed more like his relatives than groupies. Lennox Lewis was in the club as well and standing near the dance floor in a white basketball Jersey was Jigga. We made our way over near the dance floor, where he was and when I mustered up enough courage, I leaned over during a lull in the music, and said: “So what’s up with a meeting at Def Jam?” Feeling very pleased with myself, as I leaned back, studying his face, awaiting his reply. He replied semi-sarcastically: “I don’t know, I don’t own Def Jam.”

I walked away defeated, and come to think of it, I should have said more or just hit him on the Two-Way. Sadly Two-Way pagers had a short stay in the technological stream of time. Shortly afterwards Jay-Z and company, went back to their table and then left the club altogether. That's when we went and unabashedly raided the remaining vodka, and chasers that were on his table. For a bunch of hungry and thirsty emcees, all had not been lost.

Kanye no longer holds the record

When I first met Kanye West, he had recently got signed to Roc-A-fella Records. Somebody put on a shin-dig for him at a bar in Chelsea. I don’t recall the name although I had been there once or twice before. The one where women dressed as Mermaids swam in a life-sized aquarium in the wall behind the bar. It reminded me of the “Hypnotize” video by the late B.I.G. Kanye wore grey dress slacks with a matching vest, but without the sport jacket and he was with another gentleman who I would soon find out was his manager. I approached him genuinely happy to meet him, and he warmly welcomed me, even throwing his arm around my shoulder as I explained that I was an independent artist “out here promoting myself on the street.” He shook his head almost reassuringly, as he motioned, with his arm turning my attention towards the aforementioned gentlemen. The whole time I had my CD in my hand, and as I tried to hand it to Kanye, he politely refused, and told me  to give it to the guy standing by. I took it as disrespect, which in hindsight was foolish of me, seeing the way that he had warmly received me. But I had a similar situation, some years back with another well-known artist that had left a bad taste in my mouth. So I took my CD, and exited the party. I should have realized though that accepting any unsolicited music could prove problematic for professional artists and musicians, and that all he was doing, and probably the other artist as well, was following protocol. The lesson: Learn the business and don’t burn bridges. More importantly don’t repay kindness with pride.

Lucy Liu Gimme the Loot

  I saw Lucy Liu coming from about a quarter of a block away. I was standing on 6th Avenue in front of Fat Beats. I had just enough time to gather myself, clear my throat, and smooth down my shirt and as she walked passed me I offered: “Check out my record.” As she took hold of it, I went right into my spiel. She kept walking however as I was describing my music to her. So I finally had to cut my spiel short, and say: “Lucy it's for sale.” She glances down at the disc, and then back up at me, and says: “Marvalousss,” still moseying along. So then I said: “Lucy, I'm selling it,” trying to sound firm, and again, she says: “Marvalousss.” As the distance between us continued to grow, I then said, with a slight panic in my voice: “Uh, Lucy, you have to buy it.” She responded again with the: “Marvalousss,” and then she finally disappeared into the drugstore. I didn't have the heart or the nerve to go into the store after her, or to even wait her out, but I have to say I felt more victorious, than victimized. Lucy Liu had just taken my album from me; I couldn't have written it any better. Now here's the kicker; Lucy comes by again a day or two later, and as I'm standing in almost the same spot holding a copy of the same album. I made eye contact with her, and then I said flatly: “Lucy, remember, the album?” Pointing to the one in my hand. She then responds even more matter-of-factly, and flatly: “Oh yeah, I already got that one.” I was dumbfounded, what could I say? She is, after all, Lucy Liu.


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