"I can't complain what the accident did to my left eye/Cause look what an accident did to Left Eye." —Kanye West
Hip Hop: “He did that the day of Jay Z’s concert at Madison Square Garden. Remember that line on ‘Big Brother’ where he’s like he, ‘Carline told me I could buy two tickets?’ I was actually the one that told Ye to ask to perform with Jay. And Jay was like, ‘No, he ain’t ready for that yet.’ And then it was like, ‘Can we get tickets? Well they cost this much.’ And I was like, ‘Fuck it, I have two tickets, you can have mine.’ He was like, ‘Nah, nah, I’m good, I’m good. I’m going to the studio.’ So he went to Sony Studios and he made 'Never Let Me Down.'”
Coodie: “I told him he should name the album something Jay-Z said, ‘Kanye West On The Track.’ I’m so happy he didn’t name it that.”
J. Ivy: “Coodie was one of my main homies. He was like ‘Yo, I’m at Kanye crib in New Jersey, come through.’ I knew Kanye from Chicago, but my reintroduction to Kanye was when I met him out in Jersey. Me and my then-girlfriend, now wife, Tarrey Torae, get to Kanye crib, and we walk in the door, and they’re like ‘Yo, this is J-Ivy, he was on Def Poetry,’ but they didn’t know we already knew each other. And they like, ‘This Tarrey Torae, she got one of the strongest voices, she out the Chi too.’ Kanye was like, ‘Oh word, you sing? Man, get in the booth.’ So he put her to work within minutes. [Laughs.]
Tarrey Torae: “Kanye had a little studio section in his living room all set up and we just started recording. I wound up recording two or three songs that night. I remember recording 'My Way,' another song that I think it was called 'Higher' that wasn’t released, and the third was just me doing some harmonies for 'Spaceships' that didn’t get used. There’s about 38 songs that I recorded with him in total [through the years]—some released, some not—but those were the first three that I did with him.
He did that the day of Jay Z’s concert at Madison Square Garden. I was like, ‘I have two tickets, you can have mine.’ He was like, ‘Nah, nah, I’m good, I’m good. I’m going to the studio.’ So he went to Sony Studios and he made 'Never Let Me Down.' —Hip Hop
“Later on, Kanye called me and said, 'Listen, I need you to come out to L.A. to feature on a song.' I jumped on a plane and I walked in the studio and I said, 'Hey, everybody.' But my voice was hoarse. Everyone was like, 'What’s wrong with your voice?' I was like, 'Oh, you know, plane air conditioning, I’ll be straight by tomorrow.' But the next day my voice was completely gone.
“I was out there for three weeks because for half of the first week, I couldn’t even talk. Three or four singers came in there, like, 'I can do it!' Kanye was like, 'No, I’m waiting for her. I want her sound.' That was really cool of him to be generous and patient.
“Kanye brought a choir in for ‘Never Let Me Down.’ He loved choirs. So they went in the booth and began to sing but then they came out of the booth. They realized what he was saying in the verses. They were like, 'Nah, there’s cursing on there, and there’s this and that.' Kanye was like, 'But it’s a good message.' And they were like, 'So what?' And then they left. So Kanye turned around and looked at me like, ''Uh...can you go in the booth?' And I was like, 'Yeah. Let’s do it.’ I wound up being the whole choir.”
"Never Let Me Down" samples Blackjack's "Maybe It's The Power Of Love" (1980)
J. Ivy: “When he got into the accident, he was in the hospital rapping to Coodie over the phone. Coodie was looking at me like, ‘Yo, this dude ain’t supposed to be talking and he’s rapping right now. Yo, he’s the truth!’ He told Coodie, ‘I’m going through this life-changing experience. I need you out here filming.’ So he flew Coodie out the next day. Coodie called me the day after talking about filming Jamie Foxx doing ‘Slow Jamz,’ like, ‘J, you gotta get out here.’
“I was broke as hell, dog. I didn’t have money to get on the train. But I was super motivated. I was at the crib, I put some music on, and I’m writing for hours. I get a call from Coodie at like 11 o’clock that night. He’s like ‘You need to come to L.A. right now! Kanye got this song with him and Jay Z on it, and he wanna put a poet on it. I told him he need to put J-Ivy on it!’
“Mind you, Coodie was a comedian. He’s a funny dude. So I’m like, ‘Dog, that ain’t funny!’ I’m like ‘A joint with Jay Z?’ This is when Jay Z was retired. He’s like ‘Nah dog, you need to get to L.A. right now. You ain’t got much time. You get out here tomorrow if you can.’ I realized he was serious. I was like, ‘If you for real, I’ma find a way out there.’
Kanye brought a choir in for ‘Never Let Me Down.’ They went in the booth and began to sing but then they came out of the booth. They were like, 'There’s cursing on there.' Kanye was like, 'But it’s a good message.' They were like, 'So what?' And they left. —Tarrey Torae
“He was in the studio so he played the song for me on the phone. I hang up the phone and my first thought was like, ‘You need to write something right now.’ I turned to a blank page, I wrote down the title ‘Never Let Me Down,' and I wrote one line. After I wrote that first line, I got stuck—my mind went completely blank. So I start banging on the page, I was like, ‘God, I need a piece right now! Please give me one right now, man!’
“When I put my hand back to the page, my hand just started moving and moving and writing, writing, writing, line after line after line after line. I wrote a full page, turned the page over, wrote a few more lines. I stopped, I read over the piece, I was like, ‘Man, this shit kinda hot!’ I read over it like four or five times. I called Coodie back like, ‘Dog, listen to this.’
“I did the verse for Coodie over the phone and Coodie was going crazy. He’s like, ‘Oh shit! Hold on J, hold on.’ So he goes in the other room, the music goes down, the people get quiet, and he’s like, ‘J, I put you on speakerphone. Spit that piece again.’ I spit the joint like I had done it a million times. I’m just going in. When I finished, the room exploded, so everybody’s like ‘Oh shit!’ Kanye like, ‘Man J, spit it again!’ I spit it again. ‘Spit it again!’ I spit it again. I did it for like a half hour over and over. Then Coodie finally got back on the phone, he was like, ‘Kanye flying you out here tomorrow.’ I was like, ‘I found my way.’
“When I got to the studio in L.A., I was on 10,000 when I did it. I was screaming, hollering, I was swinging for the fences. Kanye was like, ‘Do it one more time but bring it down just a little bit.’ That second time, he was like ‘That’s it.’ I was like, ‘Nah, I got another one!’ He was like ‘Nah, that’s it.’
“Kanye told me that originally ‘Never Let Me Down’ ended with my verse. And I remember him telling me, ‘Yo, like you know you closing my album out?’ I was like ‘Whoa! that’s a huge honor.’
“Somebody said that he played it for Jay and Beyoncé, and Beyoncé was like, ‘Yo, that’s dope.’ So Beyoncé showed me a lot of love. I met Jay Z and he definitely showed love. Jay Z says that you’re dope—you can’t do nothing but love that.”
Dame Dash: “I think everyone that raps has inner competition. Definitely, there’s no question that [there’s competition between him and Jay]. I don’t think it’s a negative thing. It’s just a human thing. I think Kanye’s competitive enough—and they both know the same business model because I taught it to them: Put out an album in the fourth quarter, tour that motherfucker, and generate money from people.
Jay being in the game a little longer, he'll always be ahead of Kanye. But as long as they both work hard, they're both legends, they're both going to go down in history.
“Jay being in the game a little longer, he’ll always be ahead of Kanye. But as long as they both work hard, they’re both legends, they’re both going to go down in history. They both have experiences, so their wins should be different, but it’s still competitive. As a rapper, Jay’s number one. But then as an entertainer, Kanye’s number one. They’re two different people, you can’t compare them. Jay’s actual experience and what he raps about is completely different than Kanye.
“Jay had to earn, he earned. Not to say Kanye didn’t earn, but we signed him so we had that foundation. We had to go hit the street, we had to earn our credibility. Kanye was able to get credibility from us and he took full advantage of it and that’s what he was supposed to do. As hardcore as he works, he would have eventually got it in some way, shape or form, whether it would have been us or somebody else. But I know that because he ran with us, it definitely made his life easier.”