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© Timothy White, 1988
"I actually was hired to shoot another artist named Jazz-O for EMI records. This was 1988 and hip hop was happening and I was shooting for every major record company. I had Jazz-O on the roof of my building in NY and had rented a black panther (don't know why I would have chosen that prop!) for Jazz to hold while we did pictures with the NY skyline behind him. It was a bit precarious because this was a wild and dangerous animal despite having its trainer with him. I had Jazz hold the panther with a thick chain wrapped around his wrist and the animal's neck. All of sudden the door to the roof opened and this young kid dressed in red and wearing a truck load of gold chains around his neck walked onto the roof. Apparently he and Jazz-O knew each other, were working together on what would become Jay-Z's first single, and he had decided to come by the shoot and check it out. I had heard that Jazz-O had actually given Jay-Z his name. They were friends and collaborators but no one had heard of Jay-Z before...at least I hadn't. I continued the shoot with Jay-Z looking on, and at some point I asked if he wanted to get into some of the shots. They actually looked, and worked well together and it seemed to make sense as Jay-Z was Jazz-O's protege. I then decided to shoot a lot more of just Jay-Z alone, as he had such a look about him that made me feel he would one day be important and I should have the photos. Little did I know.
Truthfully though, the shoot was about Jazz-O, and consequently my database did not show Jay-Z's name on it. So...I forgot that I ever shot a young kid named Jay-Z until I found a print I made back then and decided to track it down. When I finally connected it to the Jazz-O shoot, I realized that I had this whole session on file with a young man that would become one of the biggest moguls in business and music history.
On a side note...after finding the pictures...just this past year, I printed up this one and put it on the wall of the gallery on a Friday. On Sunday, I received a call saying Jay-Z had bought the picture and within an hour I had a call from his company asking all about it. Apparently everyone involved including me had forgotten about the shoot and all of us wanted to know the who, what, when, and where it all took place. Jay-Z was 18 at the time...and the rest is history." - Timothy White
MATTHEW STAVRO'S STAFF PICK:
"The first time I saw this photograph I was enthralled. White captures Jay-Z in a classical portraiture manner similar to those in the Renaissance. Seeing such a youthful photo of this rap icon and mogul makes me think about how Jay-Z was destined to be a star."