Hip-hop is a lot like pro wrestling in the WWE.
All music aside, it's really just a soap opera where egos (and money) affect business decisions, lyrics and even tweets, like what we saw in the case of Meek Mill vs. Drake. That sh*t was brutal.
Allegiances are crucial, too, like when Ice Cube left NWA to launch his solo career, or when Kanye West met Jay Z and joined Roc-A-Fella Records.
Years later, it's safe to say that was a smart move, but before Kanye left Chicago and packed all his things into a U-Haul van, his decision to move to New York and pursue his dream almost never happened.
In an exclusive with DJBooth, Chicago rapper Mikkey Halsted, who was signed to Kanye's first record label, Kanman Productions, revealed West had the option to move down to New Orleans to sign with Birdman and Cash Money records.
In a world where Kanye would be producing for Lil Wayne instead of Jay Z, so much of what we know about hip-hop today would be completely different. Luckily, it's not.
On the track "Last Call" of Kanye's debut album, The College Dropout, Yeezy mentions an unnamed artist who left his label.
At the end of the "Last Call," Kanye says,
One of my homies that was one of my artists, he got signed. But it was supposed to really go through my production company, but he ended up going straight with the company. So, like I'm just straight holdin' the phone, gettin' the bad news that dude was tryin' to leave my company.
The artist he was talking about was Mikkey Halsted, who decided to sign with Birdman and Cash Money Records.
Mikkey was actually the first artist Kanye signed to his label.
[Kanye] gave me a beat tape and said, 'Man see if you can write like the type of sh*t you be freestyling.' I came home and wrote three songs and one of them was called 'Foolish Game' which blew up around Chicago, and it was really Kanye's first soul sampling. It was like the blueprint for The Blueprint.
Birdman wanted to sign Kanye's entire label and call it Cash Money Midwest.
I said, 'Kanye, man, they wanna fly me out and I told them they got to fly you out too.' So Kanye went to New Orleans, brought all of the music from all the artists, and calls me and says, 'Man, they offering me a deal for everybody on Kanman Productions. Everybody. Me, your sister, myself, Go Getters, the whole nine. They just wanna make it like Cash Money Midwest.'
But, Kanye wasn't ready to jump over to Cash Money just yet.
So I asked, 'What do you want to do?' He's like, 'Man, I'm not going to sign with Cash Money because it's a little too street, the vibe is a little too much and they really want you anyway Mik. It's like they just taking everybody because of you.'
That was because Kanye had an even bigger opportunity in New York.
Kanye responded he didn't want to. Mikkey said,
He like, 'Nah, I really want to get to New York and go fuck with Roc-A-Fella.' So he left the ball in my court. First they offered me a deal, and it was some good numbers, but I wanted to stay with Kanye.
Still, since Mikkey was associated with Kanye, Kanye would produce Mikkey's album and get money from the deal.
That was until Cash Money found out Kanye used samples, and Birdman wasn't trying to pay to clear them.
They were like, 'Man, we found out he samples, we don't wanna use no Kanye beats because we don't f*ck with sampling.'
But, Birdman backed down and agreed to buy some of Kanye's tracks.
So me and Kanye were still talking through the whole process, Baby finally backs down. I stood my ground, drew the line in the sand, [Birdman] was like, 'F*ck it man, we'll pay for the first five or whatever. Get him down here right now to track those up.'
Cash Money bought the tracks, Kanye took the money and followed his heart and the rest is history.
Now, he's worth roughly $130 million, has his own sneakers and is married to Kim Kardashian. Funny how life works!