Before his 2010 masterpiece mea culpa, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West had a permanent set of diamonds fastened to his bottom teeth. You may have thought this was simply continuing the streak of antagonistic decadence that can be traced through the Nellys and the Puffs and the Pacs all the way back to rap’s beginnings. The academics might have rushed to paint is as an inversion of that very construct. But did you ever consider that one row of Kanye West’s teeth might be the portal into an alternate reality, one where The Trackmasters laced all of The Blueprint and where Birdman learned how to properly file sample clearance papers? Well, lunge for your floss, because Mikkey Halsted says that that may just be the case. Speaking to DJ Booth, the Chicago rapper (who had a hit with the Kanye-produced “Foolish Game” sheds some light on West’s monologue at the end of The College Dropout and, in the process, puts forth one of modern rap’s most tantalizing hypotheticals.
The short version is this: When Cash Money came through Chicago on tour near the turn of the century, some local heads put Baby on to Halsted, who at the time had one of the city’s most buzzed-about mixtapes. The New Orleans mogul extends an offer to sign West and his roster of artists, including Halsted and his younger sister, to Cash Money, to form the parent company’s Midwest arm. Kanye balked, feeling that Cash Money was “too street” and that he would fit better at Roc-A-Fella, but encouraged Mikkey to take the solo deal, under the assumption that the mixtape (and with it, a grip of Kanye’s beats) would form the basis of his debut album. Halsted signed, but when he arrived in Louisiana, Birdman pulled a bait-and-switch, claiming he didn’t want to clear Kanye’s samples and that the whole album would have to be re-made.
According to Halsted’s account, he threatened to quit on the spot, out of loyalty to West–who stood to make money on the beats he had produced for Mikkey on spec. Baby eventually relented (sort of), flying in West to track out a half-dozen beats. In any event, the ordeal was summed up in less-than-specific terms on “Last Call“: “One of my homies that was one of my artists, he got signed. But it was supposed to really go through my production company, but he ended up going straight with the company. So like, I’m just straight holding the phone, getting the bad news that dude was trying to leave my company.”