By Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
One night about eight years ago, I took a train ride from White Plains to Manhattan after work to get up with my boy Bats for a little spring happy hour action. We stopped by a couple spots to link with some mutual friends and a few of his co-workers, and finally ended up down on Ludlow and Stanton drinking margaritas at our default hideout, El Sombrero.
We were both fairly banged up when another friend of mine, Mike G, called me out of the blue and was like, “Yo, I’m going to hang out with Jay Z. Come meet up.” Normally, if someone calls you and says that, you’d either be like, “Get the fuck outta here,” or just hang up on them immediately. But Mike is a guy with mad industry connects, and he was helping me try to get a record deal at the time,
so after watching him do silly shit on multiple occasions (like walk me into a top executive’s office at Atlantic Records with no appointment) I figured that the invite to come hang with Jay Z was probably real.
Bats (of course) was like, “You gotta go.” He knew what Mike and I had been up to on our recent record deal pursuits, and agreed that meeting Hov might actually happen. So he hopped in a cab to Grand Central, and I got in one to The Spotted Pig, where Mike G told me to meet him.
I had never been inside The Spotted Pig, but I knew it was one of Jay Z’s spots, and that Bill Clinton loved to eat there and shit like that. I had no idea what to expect of the place. I walked in to the main part of the restaurant and looked around, but didn’t see Mike or Jay or anyone I recognized. Maybe it wasn’t gonna go down like I expected.
Then, as I walked back outside, Mike G hopped out of a cab looking very chipper as usual. We hugged and said what’s up like old friends do, and I started walking back toward the front door of the restaurant. But he was like, “Nah, over here,” and took us around to the side of the building and up through this private side staircase entrance. Well damn.
We got upstairs to what was basically this huge private room with a kitchen, bar, and a few large tables near the windows. And the only people who were in there were Jay Z’s manager John Minelli, some dude who worked with him, and Q-Tip. Wait, Q-Tip?!? Holy shit.
Now I’m buggin’ out, pun intended, because Q-Tip is literally the person responsible for making me become a hip-hop head. He was the first rapper I ever idolized, and A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory was the first album that I literally knew all the words to. I had met a handful of rappers and famous people in the past, but I can’t front, I was more starstruck than I had ever been—which was crazy considering that I was walking in thinking that I was about to meet Jay Z, probably the only guy on the planet who could top Tip in that department.
Mike G and John Minelli had done business together in the past and were very friendly, so I got introduced to John and his colleague that was with him. And they introduced us to Q-Tip, who I showed nothing but respect to. I told him right off the bat how big a fan of his I was dating back to my early hip-hop discovery days in middle school. Then we sat down, and one of the restaurant’s owners who walked in a minute or so later hooked us up with a round of Patron shots and some drinks. So there I was, sitting at a table across from Q-Tip—fairly drunk, mind you—as he keeps saying to Minelli, “Yo, when is Jay coming?”
Yo. I’m in a private room at The Spotted Pig, sitting with Q-Tip and Jay Z’s manager, and Jay Z is about to show up, probably with Beyoncé. This is insane.
In my head, I was like, “Yo. I’m in a private room at The Spotted Pig, sitting with Q-Tip and Jay Z’s manager, and Jay Z is about to show up, probably with Beyoncé. This is insane.” I mean, I was totally right to be thinking like that, no? And the funniest thing about it was that my boy Mike G was there being so damn hilarious with Minelli, cracking jokes and saying shit nonchalantly, like, “Oh, Jay’s on the way? Cool.” Like Jay Z wasn’t the most famous person in the universe at the time.
After about fifteen minutes, Q-Tip gave up on Jay Z and bounced. He dapped me up as he was leaving, and though it didn’t seem appropriate for me to break out into a rap, I told him again how honored I was to meet him, and how his music was such a huge part of my life. And he seemed to genuinely appreciate me telling him that and dapped me up again, which is something I remember fondly. But now, my faith in Jay Z coming through was basically out the window. Once Tip dipped, I figured Hov definitely wasn’t going to show up. But Minelli kept saying, “He might still come through.”
So now it was just this small crew of us, including John Minelli, sitting around the table talking shit and cracking jokes. I remember them getting a kick out of my rap name—Stan Ipcus—and at one point, Minelli asked me to put one of my songs on the CD player. But for some reason the sound system wasn’t working, and even the owner couldn’t figure out why. That definitely sucked, because I thought that if Minelli heard my shit and he felt it, he would have told Hov about me whether he came through or not. No such luck.
Well, Jay Z never showed up. And the rhyme I had in my head for years that I always said I would recite for him if I got the opportunity went un-spit. It was a bit of a bummer, but meeting Q-Tip was thrilling, so I still left there pretty amazed with how everything went down. We actually ended up all rolling out together to this fly nightclub up the street. They walked us right into the VIP area with Minelli on some velvet rope, gangster shit. After about fifteen minutes, Mike G asked me to take off with him to another function he had to hit downtown, so what still had potential to become one of the wilder nights of my life ended rather abruptly.
For years after that night, I would have this recurring dream where I’m with Jay Z and we’re hanging out, and he asks me to play a song for him, and the CD player won’t work.
For years after that night, I would have this recurring dream where I’m with Jay Z and we’re hanging out, and he asks me to play a song for him, and the CD player won’t work. Or sometimes in the dream he asks me to rap and I can’t move my mouth. I’ve had a variation of this dream mad times since that night at The Spotted Pig, and still have it to this day every once in awhile.
Now that I work as a music journalist, I hope that one day I get the opportunity to interview Jay Z, and tell him all about the time I almost met him and the recurring dream that still haunts me. I’m definitely going to spit that same rap I had ready for him at The Spotted Pig—I still have it memorized just in case. Now that will make for a great story.