De-Haven Irby is a onetime drug dealer and former friend of Jay-Z’s from Brooklyn’s Marcy Houses projects. He came out swinging against the emcee in a series of YouTube videos (see above) released in August and September, accusing him of turning his back on the people who helped make him famous and exaggerating his gangster credentials. Jay fired back on the song “No Hook” from his new album American Gangster: “Fuck De-Haven for cavin’, that's why we don't speak,” he raps. “Made men ain't supposed to make statements. End of the story, I followed the code, cracked the safe. Other niggas ain't in the game so they practice hate. Leave that boy Hov alone, why don't ya.” Irby, 38, is now promoting a forthcoming book and DVD, which he says compile testimony from other disenchanted former Jay associates. He spoke with Vulture about what Jay was like in grade school (not much of basketball player) and their time living together (they shared women and got the drip). Jay declined comment through a Universal Music publicist.
In the video for his new hit single “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is),” Jay talks about a crew of Marcy hustlers called the Roc Boys. Were you a Roc Boy?
I have no idea what a Roc Boy is, actually. I guess that’s something new that they’re coming up with now. There was no crew back in ’88; it was just me and him, so I don’t know how he got “Roc Boys.”
How did you and Jay meet?
We lived in the same building, on the same floor in the Marcy projects, and we went to [elementary] school together. He was a year ahead of me.
What was he like back then?
He was hanging with some “school”guys. Nerds! We didn’t get together actually until after the fifth grade, in intermediary school. We played baseball and basketball. He wasn’t tough on the court at all. He didn’t like physical ball. He was the same type of guy then as he is now, just a cool guy. He wasn’t no bully, he didn’t start no trouble.
Did you and Jay sell drugs together?
No, he ain’t do much selling drugs. I did all that work. He was just a good dude to be around. He was one of my best friends. I taught him some things, but I mainly kept him from being out on the street a lot. Whatever was mine was his. So, we shared clothes, we shared a whole bunch of stuff. We had sex with the same women plenty of times. We both got burnt! We had the drip. My mom took him to the clinic. My mom also got him out of jail.
Does Jay exaggerate his drug-dealing in his songs?
I’m telling you he overexaggerates. He was there to see things, but doing some big-time Frank Lucas–type thing? No. He nickled and dimed, but nothing on a major scale. He definitely didn’t sell nothin’ in Marcy. Spanish Jose, who he mentions a lot [in his songs], was a friend of mine. Jay didn’t have no affiliation to Spanish Jose.
You’re saying Jay appropriated your story?
He says it himself. He’s been talking about me since day one, on a lot of his albums. He mentioned me on The Black Album, and I hadn’t seen him in years.
After Marcy, the two of you headed to Trenton.
Yeah. I wasn’t going to school. My basketball coach in high school recommended me to go to Trenton High, which had a great basketball program. I moved to Trenton in ’88, and it was just like an open drug market out there. I couldn’t even focus on the basketball when I saw that market. So I got settled in there. I went back to New York and talked to Jay. He wasn’t doing nothing, he didn’t have no money in his pocket, he wasn’t feeling school, neither, so I asked if he wanted to come live with me. We moved in with my aunt, who accepted him as my best friend. In Trenton he started dipping into his music with Jaz-O, so he wasn’t much around, because he had to get back and forth to the studio, which I was funding. I was supporting [his career] with everything I could do. When he needed more people in the crowd, I provided more people in the crowd. When he needed security, I provided security. I supported my dude!
When did the two of you have a falling-out?
We never really had a falling-out, that’s the problem. This is why I’m so confused. There was no argument, there was none of that. I don’t want an apology [from him], I want a reason. What happened? When my case [a federal drug-conspiracy charge] came in 1998, I never seen him again too much anymore. The case had nothing to do with him, his name never came up, so I’d like to ask him, “What happened?” Where did his departure come from?
When he talks about you on “No Hook,” is he accusing you of snitching?
I think he’s talking about the way I went about this YouTube project [and not about snitching]. But he’s into subliminal messages, so [I think] he’s trying to get me hurt. That goes beyond disrespect. He’s getting my safety involved. I can’t believe my own daughter’s godfather is trying to get me hurt. But it won’t work. Being that I’ve been in prison a lot of times, a lot of people know my credibility. They know I went all the way to trial with my federal case, and I won.
One of Jay’s former collaborators Jaz-O also has beef with Jay, and former drug dealer Calvin Klein also accuses Jay of appropriating his story.
Me and Jaz sat down and had a long talk not too long ago. Jaz has a right to have a beef. Jaz was there in the beginning. Jaz took him away from the projects and put him in the studio first. Big Daddy Kane had a lot to do with his career too, and he’s not showing no kinda love to him neither. With Klein, if Jay told him he “got him,” then Klein got a right to be mad.
Do you want money from Jay?
Not now! We went beyond that. I was hoping from the first YouTube that we could sit down and discuss this like men. But he didn’t go that route.
Have you seen any financial benefits from this project so far?
No, but I’m looking to see that off of this DVD and this book. They’re about a lot of things that we’re talking about. A lot of people come forward, verifying what I’m saying. In the book I go into full detail about [my] case, about, when I did see Jay, what we talked about. It’s full of details.
Will they be self-released?
Right now, everything is still in the works. I have two major companies which are doing a little bidding war. I might just do something independently if they don’t come up with the proper numbers. —Ben Westhoff