Music Article

Backbiting

Jay-Z denies Toni Braxton's song theft charge. He says that if he'd known they were both planning to sample the same Tupac hit, he'd have tried to arrange a duet with her

Great minds apparently think alike. That's Jay-Z's explanation for how he and Toni Braxton both decided to sample Tupac Shakur's ''Me and My Girlfriend'' for their new albums, both due in stores a week apart in November. Last week, Braxton accused Jay-Z of biting her idea to use the song, copying it for '''03 Bonnie & Clyde,'' his duet with Destiny's Child's Beyoncé Knowles, after his label president heard an early version of Braxton's cover of the Tupac song. Talking to MTV, however, the rapper denied hearing the R&B diva's tune, and he said the influence her song had on his was ''zero.''

Last week, Chris Chambers, a rep from Arista, Braxton's label, said that Braxton had played her song last month for Kevin Liles of Def Jam, Jay-Z's label. But Jigga denies that Liles or anyone else played the record for him, and if anyone had, his response would have been to try to arrange a duet with her. ''If I heard Toni Braxton's record, my thing is, I would want to be on it with her,'' he told MTV. ''I wouldn't want to take it from her. I don't even think like that. My first thought would be, 'Maybe I could call her up, maybe I could get on that record.' The most obvious [explanation] is it's neither one of our records. It's not like you made an original idea. She's not in hip-hop, but it happens in hip-hop often. We go to sample the same thing and my record came out first. I'm sorry. What can I do?'' Jay-Z's ''Bonnie & Clyde'' is already on radio, and his CD, ''Blueprint 2 -- The Gift and the Curse'' hits stores Nov. 12. Braxton's CD, ''More Than a Woman,'' is out Nov. 19.

Jigga's comments echo those made last week by others in his camp, including Kanye West, who produced the Jay-Z/Beyoncé duet and says sampling Tupac was his idea. ''I had no idea about Toni Braxton's [song],'' West told MTV. ''She can't act like ain't nobody ever heard 'Me and My Girlfriend' before. People hear the song all the time. I can [understand her complaint] if it [was] an original song.'' And Damon Dash, co-CEO of Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella company, told MTV, ''Jay is a talented dude. I don't think he would steal anything intentionally. It's an ill coincidence.'' As for Braxton's comment, made to a New York radio station last week, saying ''I have kids to feed, and this is taking money out of their college funds,'' Dash replied, ''Sorry, it wasn't intentional.... It's just music. We don't sit around and have a blueprint to f--- anybody's life up.''

Originally posted Oct 15, 2002