June 04, 2020

State Property "The Roc-A-Fella Takeover" (Hot 97, 1/12/01)

Hot 97 was an ally, a safe space, a platform to break records. It was where Jay Z turned to for both promotion and to share professional dirt.... Hot 97 was Jay Z’s home for the six straight summers he ran rap.... Flex’s nightly show was also where Jay turned when he wanted to introduce his new artists. In the early days, Roc-A-Fella had a scant roster: mixtape legend DJ Clue; a ferocious rapper from South Philadelphia named Beanie Sigel; Jay Z’s longtime protégé Memphis Bleek; and Amil.... With the label’s next wave of artists on deck—a handful of Philly MCs in Sigel’s mold—Jay needed a platform. On the morning of January 12, 2001, he called Funkmaster Flex. Following a conversation between Flex, Jay Z, and then-Def Jam VP Mike Kyser, it was settled: Jay would appear on Flex’s show later that evening, new acts in tow. And though he wouldn’t rap, he instructed Flex to “get the beats ready.” The Roc’s untested squad of battle rappers—Freeway, Oschino, Sparks, and Young Chris—also prepared for a potentially career altering event. Freestyles during Flex’s nightly primetime shift reached audiences beyond Hot 97’s broadcast range. DJs often packaged the rhymes onto mixtapes and compilations, while newfound peer-to-peer file-sharing services such as Napster spread the music online. The freestyles also lived on at Hot 97—a peerless self-aggrandizer, Flex often replayed highlights from his own show.... The mood was celebratory inside Hot 97’s downtown Manhattan studios on that evening. Freeway and the future members of what would become Philly rap group State Property, along with Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek, popped bottles, and rhymed over classic boom-bap productions for nearly an hour of gripping radio. “It was the spark to their careers,” Cipha Sounds remembers. “Everybody was wondering about these guys afterwards. Everybody wanted to hear more from them.” Jay Z executed the hardhat duties of a hype man throughout, chuckling at the hottest lines and punctuating verses with cries of “It’s the Roc!” He then thanked Flex and Tracy Cloherty for permitting what was dubbed “The Roc-A-Fella Takeover,” a talent showcase for the label that doubled as free advertising. “That was a little unusual for me to have a bunch of unknown rappers freestyling,” Flex says. “I probably wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for Jay Z.” - Props to Pitchfork, and DJStepOne for the audio.