“From Indie Label to Mogul: Reminiscing Over Jay Z’s Journey with Urban X-pressions”

I reminisce for a spell, or shall I say, think back – Celebrating Urban X-pressions 

Contributing Writers:  Shelly Shelly Williams and Keith from up da block  

As the Executive Producer of Urban X-pressions, I have had the pleasure of encountering some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. However, reminiscing over the times we encountered Jay Z has a special place in my heart. From being a slightly-known New York MC with a dedicated indie label to becoming one of the most successful and influential rappers of our time, Jay’s journey has been nothing short of inspiring.

 Keith from up da block recently shared a 35mm HQ version of a pic of him and Jay Z taken many years ago. Photo credit to  Deejay StashMoney.   It’s incredible how a single picture can bring back a flood of memories.  Keith from up da block, reminiscing about our journey with Jay Z.

Jay Z was always an artist who gave time and interviews to Urban X-pressions, the TV show I hosted for 10 years, and what a lot of people from Philly know me from. Our relationship with Jay started back in 1996 when UX supported the first or second official Rocafella/Priority Single “DEAD PRESIDENTS” with the B-Side “Aint No Nigga.” This song would go on to be included on The Nutty Professor Soundtrack, connect Rocafella Records with DEF JAM, and become Jay Z’s first major breakout hit.

Jay and Dame had been producing their own units and videos like “I Can’t Get With That” and “Feeling It.” While shopping for deals, they hit up Philly and connected with Ed Brunson to promote Jay’s early work. Since ’96, UX and Rocafella had a great relationship, and I remember Shelly Shell Williams getting into a HUGE debate with HOVA over a lyric in his song “AINT NO NIGGA” and telling him he should promote safe sex practices.

I eventually opened Jay’s hangar Tour in Philly surprisingly by myself after DEF JAM placed a call to Shelly Shell Williams through Brock, who felt that I was the best man for the job. For 45 minutes, I did parodies jokes, and hosted for a sold-out crowd, and then introduced the greatest rapper alive. This pic was taken years prior to that concert at The Opening of The Black Roc Store on South Street. I had just poked my head in and was shocked that Jay had remembered me.

Weeks earlier, Urban X-pressions (Shelly, Keith, Dawn, Gadiel) actually hung out inside of Jay’s Trailer because Beans invited us to cover The “Remember Them Days” video shoot. IMO Beanie Sigel inviting us to that shoot in N.Y. gave us the co-sign we needed to do the best interviews with the hottest artists for the next few years. If Sigel, Jay, and Roc-a-fella held us in high regard, who could say no?  Pictures included are from our day in New York with Shelly Shell with Jay Z and the Urban X-pressions team with Beanie Sigel. 

This pic means a lot to me because Me, Howard Polo Gilliam Jr, Monica Gladney, Scoe Tia Moore, Shelly Shell, Shephatiah Harvey, and Ed Brunson all witnessed Jay go from being a slightly known New York MC with a dedicated indie label to who and what he is now. There are times I feel like quitting, but then I remember how hard he worked and how it definitely didn’t happen overnight. #Hardwork Pays Off. #Salute Thanks STASH MONEY!!!

Reminiscing over our encounters with Jay Z is a reminder of the importance of hard work, dedication, and perseverance in achieving success. Jay’s journey from a struggling artist to a mogul worth 2.5 million is an inspiration to all of us. As we continue to share our stories and memories of Jay, let us also strive to emulate his work ethic and determination in our own lives.