Music

Is It Whale or Well? JAY-Z Clarifies Iconic “U Don’t Know” Line

Pusha-T joined Arby’s for a diss track aganist McDonald’s, referencing 2001 JAY-Z track “U Don’t Know”. Hov clarified his lyrics in a text.

On Monday, Pusha-T teamed up with Arby’s to drop a McDonald’s diss track targeting its Filet-O-Fish sandwich. The rapper referenced the 2001 JAY-Z track “U Don’t Know” by interpolating his “selling water to a whale” line, to which journalist Sowmya Krishnamurthy had questions about. Wondering if Hov said “whale” or “well” in his lyrics, she texted “U Don’t Know” producer Just Blaze for answers.

“So @Pusha_T new Arby’s track seems to have a JAY-Z reference,” Krishnamurthy wrote on Twitter. “I’m bugging. Did I have ‘U Don’t Know’ wrong for 21 years?! So I had to ask JAY-Z.. Was his line: A: ‘I’ll sell water to a WHALE.’ B: ‘I’ll sell water to a WELL.’ C: Both. Here’s his response! Haaa!! @sc x @JustBlaze.”

Krishnamurthy then shared a screenshot of her text conversation with Just Blaze, where he copied a message directly from Hov, who revealed that he used a double entendre.

“From Hov,” the message read. “Haaaa!!!! Well/whale. It’s never a coincidence when these things happen. I try to make things work on multiple levels every time I sit down to create. It keeps me engaged.”

The lyric appears in the fourth verse of “U Don’t Know” where Hov says, “I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in Hell,” he raps. “I am a hustler, baby, I’ll sell water to a whale/I was born to get cake, move on and switch states/Cop the coupe with the roof gone and switch plates.”

In 2009, Just Blaze and JAY-Z spoke with XXL about the formation of “U Don’t Know” which appeared on 2001 JAY-Z album The Blueprint.

“During that time, I had two rooms in Baseline,” Hov explained. “It was a big room that I was in, that I’d record in. Then it was a small room that Just would be in doing beats. What happened was, Just would peep his head in and hear what me and Kanye was doing and would just go back mad. Like, go back and just go [pounds fist on table], and just come in and be like, ‘Yo.’ And it was like this every day. It was like a heavyweight slugfest. For three days they was just knocking each other out. And I remember him playing that joint, and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’”

“I might’ve attacked that [beat] two or three times before I felt that I really nailed it,” Just Blaze added. “I was gonna flip that sample for Busta [Rhymes], then I ended up not doing it… That’s actually the record that got me comfortable in my relationship with Jay. That and ‘Song Cry,’ because the demo versions of those songs didn’t sound like the final product.”

Jaelani Turner-Williams

Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with bylines at Billboard, MTV News, NYLON, Recording Academy and more. Read her mind on Twitter at @hernameisjae.

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