Producer: Kanye West
Talib Kweli: “There was one of these radio promo guys that worked at Geffen—I forget his name, because if I remembered his name I would blast him out right now [Laughs.]—that I told, ‘This single is incredible. It’s gonna change my career. We need to put this out right now.’ He was like, ‘This record is an underground rap record that I might even have to convince mix show DJs to play. No one's fucking with this, get out of here with this.’
“Then I was trying to put out ‘Get By,’ but by that time Geffen, the mother label was kind of done with the project. We put out ‘Good To You,’ we put out ‘Waitin’ for the DJ,’ they didn’t really crack, so they weren’t checking for ‘Get By.’ That was really the motivation behind saying it’s an underground record.
“So me and my manager pressed up some copies and we hired independent radio promotions. Enuff was the first DJ to really get behind it. Once Enuff got behind it, the whole L.A. Power 106 crew got behind it. Certain key DJs got behind it in key markets and it took off.
Once he said that I started thinking like, well how much is it gonna be? Jay hit me and was like, ‘What I charge people to get on records, your label’s not gonna be able to pay. So I’m not gonna be charging you for this.’ But a couple months had gone by and he hadn’t done it. So I’m like, it’s great that he’s not charging me, but is he gonna do it? I don’t know.
“I always wanted Jay-Z on the remix; that was my whole plan. My whole plan was, this remix is me and Jay-Z. But every time I saw Busta he’d be like, ‘Yo, you gotta let me on that ‘Get By’ record, you gotta let me get on that ‘Get By’ record.’ I was like, ‘Wow, I can get Busta on the record.’
“People at the label that were like, ‘No, don’t put Busta on it if you have Jay-Z on it because you want it to just be you and Jay.’ I’m like, ‘Listen, I cannot turn down one of the greatest greatest living embodiments of hip-hop.’ So even though my original plan was just me and Jay, when Busta asked me to be on it, I was like, ‘We gotta get Busta on this.’
“I had met Jay-Z for the first time ever after he did a show with The Roots. I don’t remember where I met him, but we exchanged two-way numbers. I had Jay-Z’s two-way address. So I hit him one day like, ‘Yo, can you do this ‘Get By’ remix?’ He was like, ‘Send me the record.’ I kept hitting him for a month after I sent it to him, like, ‘Did you get it? Did you do it?’ He was like, ‘Don’t worry—trust me, I’m gonna do it.’
“Once he said that I started thinking like, well how much is it gonna be? Jay hit me and was like, ‘What I charge people to get on records, your label’s not gonna be able to pay. So I’m not gonna be charging you for this.’ But a couple months had gone by and he hadn’t done it. So I’m like, it’s great that he’s not charging me, but is he gonna do it? I don’t know.
“So I think it was three months that had went by and one day I got a two-way from him like, ‘I did it.’ He sent it to me and then was like, ‘Yo, I should be on the remix.’ Now keep in mind, Kanye still didn’t have a deal at this point. I’m like, ‘Listen Kanye, I’ve already got Jay-Z and Busta on it. I don’t wanna have you rapping on it.’
Lyor Cohen sent a Cease and Desist out for the record like, ‘Why is our main Def Jam artist, Jay-Z, rapping on this underground guy’s record?’ That’s why there’s no official copies of that remix and it never officially came out.
“That same night, Yasiin came over and heard Jay on it. Yasiin was like, ‘Yo, I should get on this.’ I was like, ‘Listen, I appreciate it, but I really want this to be me, Jay-Z, and Busta.’ You know, in my mind, people have already heard me and Yasiin, people don’t know Kanye like that. I was really trying to micromanage how I wanted this record presented. I wasn’t really understanding that the record was so powerful, everybody just really wanted to be on it.
“I left the studio and Kanye and Yasiin both recorded their verses that night. I heard it and I’m like, ‘OK that’s cool, this can be the third remix; the Kanye and Yasiin Bey version.’ The day after they recorded it, Kanye took it to DJ Enuff and they played it on the radio.
“A month later, Lyor Cohen sent a Cease and Desist out for the record like, ‘Why is our main Def Jam artist, Jay-Z, rapping on this underground guy’s record?’ That’s why there’s no official copies of that remix and it never officially came out. That was a whole big process. I ended up being cool with Lyor later on in my career. I see him out now and we’ll say what’s up and shake hands. But that was some bullshit he did.”