The recent release from The Carters has already been dubbed the album of the summer, and as the completion of the trilogy that started with Beyoncé’s album Lemonade, Everything Is Love sees the powerhouse couple doing what they do best while debuting the new moniker. For Jay, this includes revelry in their successes and recognition of the friends they’ve brought along for the ride. Among these, Roc Nation alums and “closer than kin” chums listed in the sixth track “Friends.” We’ve heard these names spit excessively throughout Jay’s decades-long career, and Everything is Love packs them all in for a full-on celebration, declaring “My friends, real friends, better than your friends.” These aren’t celeb shout-outs to rub elbows with the co-powerful – these are the cousins, the childhood friends, the moguls behind the empire. Here are the stories behind the 9 Roc Nation fam shout outs from Hova on the new album, Everything is Love…
“Ty Ty there, E there, Breezy there, Juan there
High here, Chaka there, Law there, they all here, ah yeah
Dez there, Kwanna here, shit feel like Nirvana here”
-“Friends,” Everything is Love
“Ty Ty there,” Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith – Cofounder & Executive, Roc Nation
Any Jigga fan knows that Ty Ty has been around for decades. A childhood friend of Jay’s, Ty Ty has been behind the scenes at Roc Nation since its inception and a character in Jay-Z’s lyrics as long as he’s been making beats. Jay has been shouting Ty Ty since his debut album Reasonable Doubt: “drinkin’ Mai Tais with Ty Ty,” and bringing that line full circle in the 2009 hit anthem “Empire State of Mind” from Blueprint 3: “And I brought my boys with me, say what up to Ty Ty / Still sippin’ Mai Tais, sitting courtside / Knicks and Nets give me high fives…” The hit “Empire” also mentions another best bud and “Friends” shout out, Roc Nation Sport President OG Juan Perez who Jay says he “made hot,” and says you can find them hanging at a Yankees game.
“E there,” Emory “Vegas” Jones – Executive, Roc Apparel Group
Another lifelong friend, Jay has also told the tale of his cousin Emory Jones since his debut – painting the picture of the pair running the streets and dealing drugs as kids. In 2000, Emory was arrested and sentenced on charges for drug trafficking, and Jay often talks about how Emory’s fate could have easily been his own. 16 years later, Jay wrote the judge for Emory’s sentencing with a plea for release upon terms of employment. Emory has been out since, and runs Roc Apparel Group.
“Breezy there,” Jay “Breezy” Brown – Cofounder & CEO, Roc Nation
Part of the “BIG 3” executives that top the Roc Nation pyramid along with Jay and Desiree Perez – the trio made the 2018 Billboard Power 100 List – Jay Brown worked with JAY-Z at Def Jam before the debut of Roc Nation. Jay also shouts out Brown’s wife Kawana Brown in the verse, slipping, “Kawana here” – the only mention of a non-Roc employee, but family nonetheless.
“Juan there,” OG Juan Perez – President, Roc Nation Sports
One of the most frequent mentions throughout Jay’s rhymes over the years are those of Roc Nation Sports President OG Juan Perez and wife, Roc Nation COO Desiree Perez. Introduced to Jay in ‘96 through Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke, OG Juan ran studios with Jay in the ‘90s and ‘00s and shared many business ventures through the years, including record label Roc-La-Familia and the NYC-turned-national sports club The 40/40 club. The pairs’ love of sports evolved into athletic management and grew into the branch of Roc Nation run by OG Juan, Roc Nation Sports. After all, we all know where we can find Jay if we’re looking: “catch me at the X with OG at a Yankee game!” (“Empire State of Mind”).
OG Juan and Roc Nation crew earned front page headlines over Memorial Day weekend as the group celebrated OG Juan’s birthday in lavish style with the now-infamous $91,000 bar tab. First reported to be Hova’s big spend, Jay set the record straight in the 2018 track “Top Off” with DJ Khaled: “$91,000 for a wine bill / Keep it real with you, that was Juan’s bill / My whole team ball E / Everybody’s a star but the team ball.” This message in “Top Off” is the whole of the implication in “Friends,” through Everything is Love, and really the overarching theme of JAY-Z’s career. Jay comes from the school that teaches you make it when your friends make it, when your come-up is theirs: “we measure success by how many people successful next to you,” Jay says in The Carter’s “Boss.” If this is the measure, it’s clear that Jay sees friends like OG Juan, Ty Ty and Emory as a barometer of his own stellar success and has worked hard to make sure his friends come with.
“High here,” Briant “Beehigh” Biggs – Director of Mobile Strategies, Roc Nation
In Jay’s 2010 memoir Decoded, Jay reveals that it was his cousin Beehigh that snapped him out of his old life. Knowing JAY-Z had a very unique talent, Beehigh urged his cousin to follow his path as a rapper saying he’d be throwing his entire life away if he continued hustling. Jay foreshadowed this story in 2001’s “Blueprint” from the album of the same name: “Bee-High hated the fact I put rap to the back / Money pouring in, clientele growing now / Birth of my first nephew, time to slow it down.” It took the encouragement of Beehigh and Jay’s family having new babies to put JAY-Z on the path to stardom. Ever since, Jay has brought Biggs along for the ride, from artist management to Carter Faculty and various positions at Roc-a-Fella to his current gig as Director of Mobile Strategies at Roc Nation.
“Chaka there,” Chaka Pilgrim – President, Roc Nation Records
Chaka Pilgrim has one of the most impressive resumes in the Roc Nation family. A veteran in the music industry, Pilgrim has held positions at Roc-a-Fella Records, Island Def Jam, Atlantic Records and Virgin Records to name a few. She also serves as the Head of Film & TV for Shawn Carter Enterprises and a Board Member of the Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation. Having been involved with Jay’s career since the ‘90s, Pilgrim has become a close friend and ally of Jay and Bey.
“Law there,” Lawrence “Law” Parker – A&R, Roc Nation
New Orleans super-producer and sartorial entrepreneur, Lawrence Parker has worked with JAY-Z for many years, with production credits on most of his albums. Gossip columns exploded late last year with the news of Parker’s wedding that not only brought out Jay & Bey, but the world got a rare and adorable Blue Ivy sighting at the lavish affair. Law runs A&R for Roc Nation while holding down his businesses in NOLA – fashion boutiques, music rep, studios – and he’s also the manager to rapper Jay Electronica, a New Orleans artist signed to Roc Nation.
“Dez there,” Desiree Perez – Chief Operating Officer, Roc Nation
Wife to OG Juan and overall badass, Desiree Perez is – along with Hova and Roc Nation CEO Jay Brown – at the top of the Roc Nation empire. Dez is widely credited as the master negotiator behind the corporation’s biggest deals, investments and collaborations, like the historic ten-year, $150 million touring deal JAY-Z made with Live Nation in 2008 and Jay’s Tidal deal with Sprint last year to promote Jay’s new album 4:44. Dez’ other accolades include the negotiations for Beyoncé’s Formation tour and the Samsung deal for Rihanna’s ANTI Tour.