Almost nine years ago, just weeks before he released his third studio album, I had the chance to conduct a sit-down, one-on-one interview with Kanye West before his "Loop Dreams" stay-in-school benefit concert.
During our brief 15 minute conversation, which took place an hour before he performed nearly the entirety of Graduation at the Chicago House of Blues, West and I discussed the impact his foundation could have on Chicago Public Schools, how he maintained his health while recording new material and extensively traveling overseas and Barry Bonds.
Why Barry Bonds? The week prior to our interview, West's Lil Wayne-assisted record made its way onto the internet and I knew I had to tie the song's release into a question. I opted to run with, "People look at Barry Bonds and say, 'He cheated the baseball game.' Who do you feel is cheating the hip-hop game?"
Sure, the question was a bit corny, but Kanye loved it: "That’s an interesting question—I don’t really have an answer to that," West replied. "That’s a clever question."
While I certainly loved having the most popular artist from my city stroke my journalistic ego, I wasn't a fan of non-answer answers. I decided instead to pivot from an open-ended question to a close-ended question, asking West directly if "the fans who aren't buying music" are the guilty party cheating hip-hop.
Instead of answering my follow-up question, Kanye responded by making clear he didn't believe Barry Bonds was a cheat. I wish at that moment I had recalled his, "But my head's so big you can't sit behind me" lyric and asked whether or not he was alluding to Bonds' large ego or the side effects of rampant steroid use, but instead, I switched gears and we quickly began to discuss controversy selling records (can you say foreshadowing?).
At the end of our interview, I thanked Kanye for taking the time to speak with me and wished him the best of luck. In response, he returned the thanks, quickly followed by: "So, what’d you really think about that “Barry Bonds” joint?" Without hesitation, as if the two of us were best friends—or I had been his longtime A&R—I told Kanye that the record was "hot," but that I didn't think he needed the Wayne verse. (Remember, in 2007, Lil Wayne was a featured guest on approximately 1,472 singles.) "Kanye West isn’t an artist who needs a feature verse from anyone," I said.
"Well, actually, it was supposed to be me, Weezy and Jay," West revealed. "Jay didn’t have the time to get his verse in [before the album was wrapped]."
At the time Kanye revealed his original plans for "Barry Bonds" the news didn't register as shocking or jaw-dropping; in addition to producing nine records over Jay's previous four full-lengths, the pair had just collaborated on "Never Let Me Down" and the remix to "Diamonds From Sierra Leone." But now? Now it's totally a "Holy shit, what happened to that verse?" situation. Unbelievably, nearly a decade later and after an extensive Google search, this little nugget from my interview has never been covered or reported by a single outlet.
"Will his verse surface on a remix," I remember asking. "We'll see," Kanye replied.
Safe to say that, much like Bonds, it appears Jay's lost verse is officially retired.