Jay-Z f/ Mary J. Blige "Can't Knock The Hustle" (1996)
Produced by: Knobody
"This song was an effing pain in the ass, as it was the beginning of the end of my run with Roc-A-Fella. Because Dame 'dated' Mary J. Blige briefly, right before she blew up, she did him a solid and dropped her cameo on 'Can't Knock The Hustle.' This was supposed to be the first official single, and like B.I.G., Mary J. Blige was running this 'Queen of R&B and Hip Hop' shit. And like 'Brooklyn's Finest,' the label did not want to have her associated with some unknown 'Jay-Z' rapper dude. In response to my request, MCA/Universal records flat-out ordered Dame to remove any and all types of Mary references from Reasonable Doubt. This was bad, mainly because Dame had spent mad money advertising how the song featured Mary, and there was even a full-page ad out in The Source!
"I decided to pull a favor from one of my colleagues that was a top exec at Universal. Granting me a solid, he said they'd allow for Mary to remain on the album—only no singles, no videos, and no advertising. Dame was pissed, and had me set up a conference call with said Universal connect. On the call, as my connect was explaining to Dame why Mary could not appear on a single, Dame lost it and asked dude if he owned Universal. When dude said he didn't, Dame laid into him (and me) about how I had him dealing with 'peons.' My heart dropped and I immediately dropped Dame from the call. Pissed that I just wasted a major favor, and having dude now totally done with me, I continued to apologize to my connect for Dame's behavior. I damn near had to suck him off to keep Mary J. Blige on the album. Pause. Afterwards, I had a major argument with Dame, how he could go ahead and burn his bridges, but how there was no way in hell I'd allow him to burn any more of mine. You could say that that's when we started hating each other. Switching to plan B, Dame had to replace Mary's vocals with Me'lissa Morgan's for the single. Me'lissa was also featured in the video. Dame did keep the Mary version on the album. It wasn't Mary's fault, but there was mad drama behind this song."