"First nigga with a Benz and a backpack/Ice chain, Carti lens, and a knapsack." —Kanye West
Plain Pat: “The album definitely cost over $1 million [to make]. But when we started, I’d guess the budget was like $250,000. This was when Roc-A-Fella was wilding out. They had [their studio] Baseline going. It was just non-stop recording. They didn’t know who was recording what; it was just open. The bill would come in and just say, like, ‘Beanie Sigel Freestyle.’ It was out of control. So it was like months of these unpaid bills and beefing. Eventually, the entire Roc-A-Fella budget was on hold, except for Jay obviously.
Lyor Cohen didn’t want to budget Kanye at all. Nobody did. The only people who were fighting for Kanye were Biggs and myself and I was more or less fighting because Biggs was pushing me to fight for him.
“Meanwhile, Kanye was in L.A. I was letting him record but I wasn’t supposed to. So I had all these bills from Record Plant and I was holding them, I was hoping for the budget to reopen but it never got reopened. I was so scared that I would get fired.”
Dame Dash: “The Young Gunz had ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’ and Kanye hadn’t started to attack his record yet, but we saw what was going on. So I had to confer with Lyor Cohen, since he was the person who represented my partners, and present what we wanted to spend our budgets on.
“Because the Young Gunz had so many spins already, he was like, ‘I would like to chase the Young Gunz.’ I was like, ‘You’re fucking retarded. We need to chase both if we’re going to chase anything.’ And he was like, ‘Nah, we don’t have the budget for it.’ [Lyor didn’t want to budget Kanye] at all. Nobody did. The only people who were fighting for Kanye were Biggs and myself and I was more or less fighting because Biggs was pushing me to fight for him.”
"Breathe In, Breathe Out" samples Jackie Moore's "Precious Precious" (1971)
Plain Pat: “Kanye was back in New York hanging out in the Def Jam office with me and the Director of Marketing, Shante Bacon, and Lyor Cohen walked by. Shante probably introduced Kanye to Lyor because I didn’t know Lyor, I was just an admin guy. The next thing I know, Kanye was in Lyor’s office playing him all this music.
Lyor Cohen went crazy for ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out.’ Like, ‘This is my favorite one!’ We were like, ‘Check this ‘Jesus Walks’ one out.’ And he was like, ‘Don’t f**k it up Kanye. I only like this one.’ The next day, they opened up the budget just for Kanye.
“Lyor went crazy for ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out.’ Like, ‘This is my favorite one!’ We were like, ‘Check this ‘Jesus Walks’ one out.’ And he was like, ‘Don’t fuck it up Kanye. I only like this one.’ The next day, they opened up the budget just for Kanye. They were like, ‘Whatever Kanye bills you have, you can pay them.’ I was like so happy because I owed like 50 grand. [Laughs.] So that meeting really helped me out and that’s how he got them to notice him.”
Gee Roberson: “We actually thought that song would be bigger than what it was. I thought that would have been a single. It was a debate after [the album dropped] like, ‘Should we have put it on the album? Should we have just kept it on the mixtape?’ It goes to show you, once you finish the body of work you really don’t know until after it’s said and done.”
Consequence: “I remember Kanye always said he was kind of on the [fence] about ‘Breathe In Breathe Out’ on the finished track list. In my opinion, this record that John Legend did should have been on album called, ‘Gettin Out the Game.’ And, if this is just me, I felt ‘Magic Man’ was supposed to go on the album too—I don’t know if it was a sample issue. But I thought ‘Breathe In Breathe Out’ was dope too.”