Ya boy is back! At 12 a.m. on July 4, Hov released his 12th solo album in a historic deal with Samsung that got him a platinum plaque off the bat. But it took a team to make magic happen. Take a look at the players who helped make #MCHG.
“Industry is shady, needs to be taken over,” Jay-Z rapped back on “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).” And over a decade later, he’s hardly satisfied with record business’ current state of affairs. That probably includes some of the changes he’s helped enact over the course of his storied career, during which he’s created a catalog of music that will go down as some of the most important songs and albums in hip-hop history. His accomplishments run long: he built an empire under the Roc-A-Fella name, opened a chain of 40/40 nightclubs, written a book (Decoded), bought a stake in the New Jersey Nets and helped bring them to Brooklyn (then sold said shares so Roc Nation Sports could rep NBA, scoring god Kevin Durant). And there’s so much more.
We ain’t gotta tell you: he’s a business, man. Just take a look at his latest venture. To release his 12th album Magna Carta Holy Grail, Jay partnered with Samsung to deliver an album for free via an app designed for the company’s mobile phones, forcing the RIAA’s hand to change the rules about going platinum before an LP even hits stores. Hov wanted to write the new rules. All it took was a will, and the way quickly materialized.
Magna Carta Holy Grail is, by all intents and purposes, more of a new Jay-Z business venture than it is a new Jay-Z album. No one knew it was coming and, once we did, all the chatter—whether from Jigga, his camp or the blogosphere—surrounding the rollout focused almost entirely on this nebulous idea of #newrules. Partially redacted lyric sheets, big name collaborators and approved samples of alterna-rock anthems were revealed, but nary a note was heard, save for the tunes we watched on a Yeezus’d out Rick Rubin nod (off) through a singular promo video.
But multi-bazillion dollar priorities aside, it’s not as if Sean Carter was going to totally half-ass the music side of things. For #MCHG, as it’s known in the tweets, Jay did what Jay’s always been wont to do, rounding up a cavalcade of close associates, some of the biggest names in music and a few hotshot up-and-comers (including one 16-year-old producer who’s still in high school) to help him create something that sounds worthy of a couple bazillions. To properly honor MCHG, we compiled an exhaustive rundown of the brands— we mean, people—who helped Jay-Z make his latest work of art.
Allow us to re-introduce... OK, who are we kidding. Such formalities are hardly necessary at this point in Jay-Z’s career. Brooklyn kid from the Marcy Projects becomes arguably the biggest rapper to walk the face of the Earth, amassing a mountain of paradigm-shifting records, monster hits and all-time classics that he continues to build on 17 years into his career. Like seriously, what’s there to say when we could just point you back to “Big Pimpin” or “Hard Knock Life” or “Empire State of Mind” or “Encore” or “99 Problems” or “Can I Get A...” or etc., etc., etc. Kanye may be Yeezus now, but we’ve been bowing down to Jay Hova for years.
Jay-Z, Credit: Official
Todd Pendelton, Samsung Chief Marketing Officer
A Northeastern University grad and marketing whiz, Todd Pendleton spent about 15 years working for Nike, earning the position of Global Brand Communications Director before jumping to Samsung in 2011 to take on the position of Chief Marketing Officer.
Jay Brown, Roc Nation Co-Founder/President
Current president of Roc Nation, which he helped Jay-Z launch back in 2008 after inking a massive deal with parent company Live Nation. Brown has helped build the imprint into a certified empire with branches in management, touring, publishing and, most recently, a sports agency. Brown's career kicked off as a publisher at Quincy Jones Music Publishing/Qwest Records and he's also the former SVP of A&R at Def Jam.
John Meneilly, Manager
Not much is known about John Meneilly, though he's been one of Jay-Z's most trusted managers and business advisors for years now, brokering all kinds of power moves in the upper echelon of the Roc Nation world. What we do know: Jay shouted him out in his "A Milli" remix ("And John Meneilly-onaire is my consigliore") and that he's tweeted just three times, twice to boast that neither Watch the Throne nor MCHG would leak. Good track record so far.
Contribution: Vocals, "Holy Grail,” “BBC”; Writing, “Holy Grail,” “Heaven,” "BBC,” “Jay-Z Blue”; Additional Production, “Jay-Z Blue”
After his stint as a member of the little-known boy band N Sync, Justin Timberlake (the curly-haired one) mysteriously disappeared from the face of the Earth. No one has heard from him since.
Contribution: Vocals and Writing, “Oceans”
The Grammy-winning Ocean connected with Hov and Kanye for Watch the Throne, with the R&B crooner and songwriter featured on “No Church in the Wild” and “Made in America” as both an artist and composer. The talented 25-year-old grew into one of music’s most critically acclaimed artists with his debut studio album channel ORANGE last year, and coupled with his bold open letter addressing his sexuality, he’s one of the most dynamic and adventurous musicians today. The fit was only natural—just look at the track’s name.
Contribution: Vocals, "BBC," "Part II (On the Run)”
She’s not just Jay-Z’s little wife, and Hov ain’t about to leave his queen out of an album named after the Magna Carta. Bey has been working with Jay-Z since The Blueprint 2, memorably duetting with her future husband on “‘03 Bonnie and Clyde,” among other tracks including “Crazy in Love,” Beyoncé’s lead single off her 2003 debut solo album Dangerously in Love. But really, is there a more obvious inclusion on this record?
Contribution: Vocals and Writing, "BBC"
Jay’s long since buried the hatchet with the man who once came up with the one-two punch of “Gay-Z” and “Cock-A-Fella Records” on “Ether,” inviting Nas on stage at his 2005 “I Declare War” concert for a duet/mash-up of “Dead Presidents” and its source material, “The World Is Yours.” About a decade earlier, Hov was hoping to score a feature from Nas and his Firm co-hort AZ for “Bring It On” off his 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt, though according to Dame Dash, the two kept ditching the sessions. Ill will also allegedly grew on Nas’ side over payment for “Dead Presidents”’ sampling of “The World Is Yours” refrain, “I’m out for dead presidents to represent me.” A handful of barbs at Jay-Z from Mobb Depp’s Prodigy, some accusatory freestyles, Summer Jam slams (Nas even attempted a faux lynching of Jay-Z with a dummy but got shut down) and a conclusive, unassailable Hot 97 listeners poll that declared Nas’ “Ether” the supreme diss track over Jay’s “Supa Ugly” freestyle by a margin of 58 to 42 percent and we’ve got ourselves one of the most storied hip-hop feuds of all time. The chatter died down in the early aughts, though, and in 2006, Nas inked a deal with Def Jam while Jay-Z was still president.
Contribution: Vocals and Writing, “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt”
Jay-Z has rolled with the Maybach Music boss since adding a verse to an official remix of Ross’ breakthrough 2006 hit “Hustlin’,” and Hov soon guested on the Trilla cut “Maybach Music.” The Teflon Don also shared the crown on the God Forgives, I Don’t cut “3 Kings” with Jigga and Dr. Dre last year, and the respect is clearly mutual.
Jay-Z and Frank Ocean, Credit: Getty Images
Contribution: Production, "BBC," “Oceans”; Vocals, “BBC”
Skateboard P is the man responsible for a sizeable chunk of the songs you’ve had stuck in your head for the past 15 years—we're still “wut wut”-ing along to Noreaga’s "Superthug" and bashing out the "Grindin'" beat that he and Neptunes partner Chad Hugo gifted Clipse. Pharrell first teamed up with Jay-Z on 2000's "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)" off The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. His other Hov credits since then include tracks like "Excuse Me Miss," "Change Clothes," “Blue Magic” and baby Blue Ivy's anthem, "Glory." In between his work with The Neptunes, N.E.R.D. and his own solo material, Pharrell's produced for artists including Clipse, Justin Timberlake, Busta Rhymes, Mystikal, Fall Out Boy and oh so many more. You may have heard him recently singing a song called "Get Lucky" by these French guys named The Daft Punks.
Contribution: Vocals, "BBC"; Writing, “Versus”
Swizz Beatz stopped, dropped, shut ’em down and then opened up shop as a surefire producer with DMX’s “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” in 1998, and soon after found himself with three cuts on Jay-Z’s Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life: “Coming of Age (Da Sequel)” with Memphis Bleek, “If I Should Die” featuring Da Ranjahz and the DMX-featuring “Money, Cash, Hoes.” Swizz later helmed “Jigga My Nigga” and The Blueprint 3’s “On To The Next One,” while his sprawling, hit-laden production credits also include tracks like Beyoncé’s “Check On It” Cassidy’s “Hotel” and T.I.’s “Bring ‘Em Out.” In 2007, Swizz released his second solo record One Man Band Man (scoring a minor solo hit with “It’s Me Bitches”) and has been working on the follow-up Haute Living for the past few years.
Contribution: Production, “Holy Grail,” “Picasso Baby,” “Tom Ford,” “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” “Oceans,” “F.U.T.W.,” “Heaven,” “Versus,” “Part II (On the Run),” “Jay-Z Blue,” “La Familia”; Writing, “Holy Grail,” “Picasso Baby,” “Tom Ford,” “F.U.T.W.,” “Heaven,” “Versus,” “Part II (On the Run),” “BBC,” “Jay-Z Blue,” “La Familia”; Vocals, “BBC”
Forty-two-year-old Timothy Mosley is deeply involved with Jay-Z’s new album, and the two go way back: Tim first produced for Mr. Carter on the rapper’s 1998 release Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life. The Virginia Beach native was behind two tracks on Hov’s best-selling record– “Paper Chase,” which featured Foxy Brown, and “Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99),” featuring Amil and Jaz-O (who used the name Big Jaz on the track). Their partnership continued on 1999’s Vol. 3... The Life and Times of Sean Carter, where Timbaland produced four tracks, including the unforgettable tropical hit “Big Pimpin’” featuring UGK. But Timbaland was left off Jigga’s 2000 release The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, and only produced one track on 2001’s The Blueprint—“Hola’ Hovito”—as new Jay-Z associate Kanye West took the reigns on four album cuts and a bonus track, including the memorable Nas and Prodigy diss track, “Takeover.”
Timbaland returned for three tracks on Jay-Z’s 2002 album The Blueprint 2: The Gift and The Curse: the Sean Paul collaboration “What They Gonna Do”; “The Bounce,” which featured Yeezus himself; and the Disc 2 cut “2 Many Hoes.” Timbaland kept the hits coming on The Black Album with “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” but he didn’t pop up on a Jay-Z album until 2009’s The Blueprint 2, keeping busy with Pussycat Dolls, Justin Timberlake, OneRepublic, Nelly Furtado and his own album Shock Value. He teamed with fellow producer J-Roc for three tracks on The Blueprint 3: “Off That” featuring Drake, “Venus vs. Mars” and “Reminder”, but sat out 2011’s Watch the Throne.
Timbo recently described patching up a damaged relationship with Jay-Z in an interview with REVOLT, saying Mr. Carter contacted him while he was working with Justin Timberlake on The 20/20 Experience. “It was over petty stuff. . . personal stuff, disagreements,” Timbaland said in the interview. With Kanye tinkering away on Yeezus, Timbaland really put in the work for Jay-Z’s newest album.
Timbaland, Jay-Z and Beyonce, Credit: Getty Images
Producer and songwriter extraordinaire, boundary pushing solo artist, the self-proclaimed Love King and wearer of hats bought at the swap meet, The-Dream adds to his massive, remarkable catalog—which you can peruse here, here, here and here—with contributions to “Holy Grail” and “Heaven.” Though The-Dream (née Terius Nash) has worked plenty artists within the Hovaverse (and found particular success with Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella”), Nash first worked with the Hov on Watch the Throne’s “No Church in the Wild.” Considering The-Dream’s track record, it’s no surprise he got the call to lend his talents to MCHG.
Contribution: Production, “Holy Grail,” “Picasso Baby,” “Tom Ford,” “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” “F.U.T.W.,” “Heaven,” “Part II (On the Run),” “Jay-Z Blue,” “La Familia”; Writing, “Holy Grail,” “Picasso Baby,” “Tom Ford,” “F.U.T.W.,” “Heaven,” “Versus,” “Part II (On the Run),” “Jay-Z Blue,” “La Familia”
The fledgling Fort Worth, Texas producer has worked closely with Timbaland over the past few years, and when Timbo teamed up with Jay-Z for The Blueprint 3, he brought his protégé along to help out on “Reminder,” “Off That” and “Venus vs. Mars.” J-Roc’s other credits include production for Ashlee Simpson, Jamie Foxx and extensive work on Chris Cornell’s Scream (which Timbaland executive produced). Following his work on BP3, J-Roc has teamed up with artists like Demi Lovato, Chris Brown and Keri Hilson. Along with his increased duties on MCHG, J-Roc recently helped out on “Suit & Tie” and “Mirrors” from Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience.
Contribution: Production, “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt”
Thank “Best I Ever Had” for bringing Boi-1da into the pop consciousness. Since producing Drake’s breakout hit, the Canadian producer has continued to work extensively with everyone’s favorite dispenser of sentimental swag (“Forever,” “Over”), while also crafting tracks for some of hip-hop’s biggest names including Eminem (“Not Afraid”), Nicki Minaj (“Freedom”) and Slaughterhouse (“Goodbye”). “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” is his first track for Jay-Z.
Vinylz has had a fairly busy two years, working with artists like French Montana ("We Go Where Ever We Want") and Joe Budden ("NBA," "Castles"). In a recent interview, Vinylz revealed he's been working with Kelly Rowland, Future and Sammy Adams. Along with their collaboration on MCHG, Boi-1da tapped Vinylz to help out on one of DJ Khaled’s recent cut, "No New Friends.”
In just a few years, Hit-Boy has more than earned the right to use such a brazen, hubristic moniker. Breaking out in 2009 with Lil Wayne's Eminem-featuring "Drop the World," Hit-Boy's since been behind surefire bangers for artists like A$AP Rocky ("Goldie") and Kendrick Lamar ("Backseat Freestyle") while producing for a wide array of artists like Rihanna, Kelly Rowland, Pusha T, Nicki Minaj and more. Oh, and how could we forget how he helped Kanye West craft "Clique” off the G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Summer? And as if Jay-Z wasn’t gonna hit him up after his sublime work on the Watch The Throne anthem "Niggas in Paris."
Darhyl “DJ" Camper Jr.
Contribution: Writing, “Somewhere in America”
A member of John Legend's Homeschool Entertainment, DJ Camper's been playing piano since age six, producing records since 15 and, by 21, has helped craft tracks for R. Kelly ("Echo," "Bangin’ the Headboard"), Trey Songz ("Pretty Girls Lie") and Keyshia Cole ("Trust and Believe"). Camper also reportedly contributed to Legend's upcoming fourth solo record Love in the Future, out on September 3rd.
Contribution: Production and Writing, “Somewhere in America,” “Crown,” “Nickels and Dimes”
A Houston native and pioneer of Dirty South hip-hop, Dean entered the music world in the early ’90s when he began producing, writing and composing for artists like UGK, Geto Boys and Scarface. Entering the aughts with a nearly impeccable repertoire, Dean continued to work with artists like Gang Starr, Ashanti and E-40, and soon began mixing albums for Kanye West. Then, in 2005 the two put together this song you might've heard called "Stronger." Dean's been one of West's closest collaborator's since and it's no surprise he was brought on to help out on nearly every cut on Watch The Throne. Clearly Jay dug his work, too.
Contribution: Production, “Crown”
With just one song, 16-year-old Ebony "Wondagurl" Oshunrinde has become the envy of every kid with a pirated version of Fruity Loops. The Ontario, Canada high school student was inspired to make the beat for "Crown" after hearing Pusha T's "Blocka," building the cut around a sample of reggae star Sizzla's "Solid as a Rock." After sending the track to G.O.O.D. Music signee Travi$ Scott, thinking it'd be a good fit for Pusha, the track ended up reaching Jigga's ears and the rest, as they say, is history. How's that for a career kickstart?
Wondagurl, Credit: Getty Images
Contribution: Production and Writing, “Crown”
A bourgeoning producer/rapper double threat, Houston's Travis Scott has found himself a home on Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music where he produced "To the World," "The Morning" and "Sin City" for the label's compilation Cruel Summer. Scott's showcased his mic skills on tracks by Meek Mill, Pusha T and T.I., releasing his debut solo EP Owl Pharaoh in May. Along with his work on Magna Carta Holy Grail, he's remained busy behind the boards as well, producing "Rotation” for Wale and adding production to West's "New Slaves" and "Guilt Trip" off Yeezus.
Contribution: Production and Writing, “Beach Is Better”
Twenty-four-year-old Atlanta producer Mike Williams has been behind some of rap’s hottest hits over the past two years: Future’s “Turn on the Lights,” Kanye’s “Mercy,” 2 Chainz’s “No Lie” featuring Drake and Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance” featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, among others. He’s even hit the pop airwaves with Rihanna’s “Pour It Up” and Miley Cyrus’ latest single, the pot-stirring “We Can’t Stop” (which was originally intended for Rih).
Contribution: Production and Writing, “Beach Is Better”
A close associate of Mike WiLL Made It and a signee of the producer's Eardrummers Entertainment, Marz (née Marquel Middlebrooks) has helped out on some of WiLL's biggest hits including Meek Mill's "Tupac Back," Future's "Turn on the Lights" and 2 Chainz's "No Lie." After a big 2013, Marz has continued to co-produce with WiLL, working on Kelly Rowland's "Kisses Down Low" and "#1" as well as WiLL's MCHG contribution "Beach Is Better."
Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua
Contribution: Production and Writing, “Nickels and Dimes”
A certified rap mogul—so much so his nickname is straight up "Hip Hop"—Kyambo Joshua currently heads the management and production company Hip Hop Since 1978 (whose clients include Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Drake) with partner Gee Roberson. Joshua's been a longtime Jay-Z associate as well, acting as his manager from In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 through The Black Album, executive producer for The Dynasty: Roc La Famili and also contributing to a handful of Jigga cuts including "Big Pimpin'" and "Girls, Girls, Girls."
Contribution: Recording, “Tom Ford,” “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” “F.U.T.W.,” “Beach Is Better,” “BBC”
Chris Godbey has had his hands in nearly every part of the recording process since his career kicked off in the late ’90s. Though the majority of his work has been as a mixer and engineer, he's also produced and written, most closely with gospel musician Kirk Franklin. In 2009, Godbey began working with Timbaland, recording a handful of cuts on the producer's Shock Value II and later on Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3. Since then, Godbey has seen his stock rise, working with pop stars like Drake, Chris Brown, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato and more.
Contribution: Recording, “Oceans”
With a discography that includes engineering and mixing work for rappers like Redman, Method Man, Ice Cube and more, DJ Swivel first teamed up with Jay-Z on American Gangster, assisting the mixing for a handful of cuts including "I Know" and "Say Hello." While he's continued to work with Jigga since—mixing Blueprint 3 smash "Empire State of Mind"—DJ Swivel has gone on to lend his talents to artists like Rick Ross, Whitney Houston, Ghostface Killah and Beyoncé, picking up a Grammy for his work on the latter's "Love on Top."
Contribution: Recording, “Oceans,” “BBC”
Currently an in-house engineer at NYC's Jungle City Studios, Ramon Rivas showed up on Blueprint 3 cut "So Ambitious," and has since worked as an engineer and mixer on a wide array of records including Clipse's Til The Casket Drops, Jennifer Hudson's I Remember Me, Usher's Looking 4 Myself and Alicia Keys' Girl on Fire.
Demacio “Demo” Castellon
Contribution: Recording, “Part II (On the Run),” “BBC,” “La Familia”
Cuban-American sound engineer extraordinaire, Demacio "Demo" Castellon has worked closely with Timbaland since acting as an assistant engineer on Missy Elliot's ’02 effort Under Construction. Along with his work on Jay-Z's The Black Album, Demo's extensive credits include work with Nelly Furtado (who's also his wife), Ludacris, Rihanna, Game, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Redman. He's also scored writing and production credits for the likes of Madonna ("4 Minutes"), M.I.A. ("Come Around") and Tiesto ("Who Wants to Be Alone").
Jordan “DJ Swivel” Young, Credit: Official
Jungle City Studios, NYC
Location for: “Oceans,” “Beach Is Better”
This space in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood is one of the most sought-after studios in the city, and is led by Ann Mincieli, longtime studio coordinator and engineer for Alicia Keys. Beyoncé, Usher, Kanye West, LMFAO and fun. are among those who have recorded here.
Oven Studios, NYC
Location for: “Part II (On the Run),” “BBC,” “La Familia”
Oven Studios is the personal studio of Alicia Keys. The space’s roots are in Long Island, but Keys moved the studio to Manhattan’s West Side “not far from the Hell’s Kitchen apartment on 43rd and 10th where [she] grew up with her mother,” as Complex noted in their December 2012 cover story. Clearly, Jay-Z recorded here to enter that empire state of mind.