Ten years ago to the day (Nov 28th), the Clipse’ Hell Hath No Fury album left a lasting impression on my brain stem from the moment I first heard the LP’s gritty intro as a sophomore in high school. Years after Pharrell’s infectious beats made deep impressions on my eardrums, I can’t help but let songs like “Mr. Me Too” and “Keys Open Doors” ride from beginning to end every time they pop up in my extensive music library.
Lee Sanchez, who’s infamously known as Mr. Lee, is the first, slick-talking voice to appear on the world-famous intro “Got It For Cheap.” When the Skateboard P demanded that Clipse put him on the intro, Lee had no idea that he would help make the most memorable intro in hip-hop history.
Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in uptown Manhattan, Lee first got his foot in the door as a club promoter who threw a plethora of parties all around New York City in the early 90s. Lee’s hustle as a promoter flourished when he started to promote exclusive boat parties aboard the ‘Queens of Heart’ on the East Side. He brought legendary MCs to his events — from the late Notorious B.I.G. to the Ruff Ryders and even a young Jay Z.
Eventually, he moved up to the big leagues once he began bringing rappers out to legendary clubs like B.B Kings in Times Square. In 1997, Lee went down to Miami for a vacation and was instantly intrigued by the idea of throwing more grand scale parties while living in South Florida. After migrating to Miami in the late 90s, Lee immediately made himself at home in Dade County and began to put in work to become one of the most prominent promoters in Miami Beach.
Today, Lee enjoys the view of the Port of Miami and Star Island from his lavish apartment in a high-rise condo just blocks away from the American Airlines Arena in Downtown Miami. On the last day of August, I sat next to him as he rolled up a joint and rehashed memories of all the up-scale parties he’s thrown at clubs like Story and LIV. At the time, Lee worked alongside Headliner Market Group’s own Phil The Mayor, who he met through DJ Camilo’s manager Lex of Hitlist Ent.
Before he began running the show at LIV on Sundays and launched his APPT ONLY clothing store in Wynwood, Phil worked closely with Lee to throw epic parties with the biggest names in hip-hop all around Miami Beach. After making Ruff Ryders weekend a smash hit in 1998, both Phil and Lee kept constructing an empire for themselves with more events.
In the early 2000’s, they began working on their Spring Break plans when Phil suggested bringing Clipse down south for one of their events. After Lee made a couple calls, he was able to get Pusha T and No Malice for their first club gig in Miami.
“My first booking in Miami was with Lee,” Pusha said about his first time working with the Dominican-American Washington Heights native. “It was Lee with his thick, fast Dominican accent. My attitude was totally weary of all promoters. By the time I got to Lee, I had hated all promoters forever. But man, needless to say, Lee has been my friend, like one of my good, good friends. Anything important I need, I’d definitely give him a call.”
“He was real nice, humble and real cool. Both of them,” Lee said about their first time meeting. He recalled going to the venue to meet up with Pusha and his then manager Anthony “Geezy” Gonzalez at sound check. Lee was a fan of Clipse’ hit record “Grindin’” off Lord Willin’, so he had a feeling the party would be a complete success. The event went down smoothly as he expected, and that’s when Lee’s bond with the Virginia-based brothers became unbreakable.
During a recent conversation over the phone, No Malice recalled his strong bond with Lee over a decade later. Although he wasn’t in the studio when the intro was made, the other half of the Clipse still remembers how well all three of them connected not just musically but on a personal level. Lee works closely with Pusha, however there are a few bars from No Malice that Lee will remember for the rest of his life.
“No Malice is nasty,” Lee said. “I don’t care what no one says. Even his new shit. One of my favorite verses is when he spit ‘Big chain around my neck like I’m fresh off the Amistad.’ Then on “Got It For Cheap” he goes, ‘My leg was pulled, the jokes on me, so heartbroken like loving a whore. He might hurt you once but never no more. It’s like trying to fly but they clipped your wings, and that’s exactly why the caged bird sings.’ He killed that!”
Whenever Clipse were in Miami to record, Lee hitched a ride with Pusha to South Beach Studios, which is where they finalized the album. There was one track left to record before they could send it off to the label: the intro — they remember. One night, Pusha put the pressure on Pharrell to deliver the final piece of the LP while Lee was in the room. The next day Pharrell hit him with the beat for “Got It For Cheap” with a special idea in mind.
“They introduced me to Pharrell,” Lee said in between hits of his joint. “Right away we had the chemistry with him. Just by me being in the studio I guess my accent, you know what I mean, the way I speak, just the way I am. Then Pharrell called and said, ‘We need Lee in the studio to get on and do it. Let him talk his talk. Let him do his thing.’”
When Pusha shouted Lee’s name, his first thought was ‘damn what did I do?’ But once Pusha asked for the date and time, Lee was informed that Pharrell wanted him to get on the intro. When he went into the booth to record, Lee was still trying to get over his initial shock. He was nervous, but not because it was his first time in the booth. A few years prior, Lee talked his shit on Lord Tariq’s song called “Corazon.” Still, Pusha guided him through and instructed him on what to say. Eventually, Lee uttered the first phrase he could think of: “Ayyyeee.”
“’Ayeeee’ is something my father always says like “Ayy Papa,” Lee explained. “I got that from my father in honor of him, then DR. Pharrell came in and all I could think about was ‘he likes it.’ I was so excited like ‘Goddamn Pharrell likes it?!’ This is crazy! This is like a dream come true. I was just happy to be on his album. Just for the fact that he liked it.”
Pharrell and his engineer at the time touched up Lee’s words to make them the memorable intro it is today. However, once Jive Records heard it and realized that the intro itself could be a hit, they encouraged Pharrell’s decision to make it longer and wanted Lee to contribute more. Lee flew out to New York City to complete the record with Pusha and guaranteed that it was a hit.
“I was like get the f**k outta here. Did I just make a hit with Pharrell?!” Lee said in response to his thoughts immediately after he heard the record. Lee’s favorite tracks off the album are “Chinese New Year” and “Momma I’m So Sorry,” but nothing compares to his contribution to “Got It For Cheap.”
Last year, Lee reprised his role as the Latin city slicker on the intro to Pusha T’s project Darkest Before Dawn, in which he tries to convince Pusha to leave the rap BS behind and return to the dope game. Lee was a lot more comfortable recording the new intro while he was with Pusha recording at Timbaland’s studio in Virginia. However there’s still something about their first collaboration that sticks with him to this day.
“Both tracks are different but they’re both hot,” said Lee. “But I think I liked recording “Got It For Cheap” better. I don’t like the song more than the new one, but just the way the whole track [“Got It For Cheap”] is laid out. That beat is knocking!”
According to Pusha, the LP still feels as valuable as when they first dropped in 2006. “It’s definitely the realest hip-hop album of all time,” Pusha said.
Exactly 10 years after Clipse’s second studio made its debut, Mr. Lee has taken a backseat to promoting clubs unless there’s a special occasion. His budding Star Rock clothing line is the focus of his hustle now. Lee also assists N.O.R.E and DJ EFN to book talent for their “Drink Champs” podcast and handles booking for The LOX, DMX, and Pusha T. If there’s one thing that he gained from working with Clipse, it was the honor of working with the Virginia based duo and the Grammy award-winning producer before they all parted ways.
“These guys are all geniuses when it comes to music. I’m proud of them. To me, they didn’t break up. They’re brothers. The way they are, they’re more than brothers. Those two guys get along. Pusha respects Malice as his older brother. Malice respects him as the younger brother. They both respect each other’s music. I love the fact that Malice became ‘No Malice’ and wanted to dedicate his life to God. They both respect that decision. The only thing I didn’t like was no more Clipse music.”
Hell Hath No Fury still ignites memories from my past that I still cherish to this day. As I sit back and listen as both Virginia brothers trade rhymes back and forth, I instantly go back in time to the peak of my teenage years when I drove around in my black, ’96 Honda civic coupe while “Ride Around Shining” booms from my two 10″ speakers. Once “Keys Open Doors” dropped, there was no need to touch the dial as I let the album play until Bilal’s final hook on “Nightmares.” That’s when Mr. Lee’s loud and raspy, Dominican accent roared through the speakers to the album started over again.
The Clipse released their darkest, yet most revered studio album Hell Hath No Fury exactly one decade ago. Although he wasn’t much of an artist then, Mr. Lee’s guest spot alongside Pusha T and No Malice allowed him to expand his career way beyond the art of promoting. While he may be busy working behind the scenes of the most rending hip-hop podcast on the Internet, he hasn’t given up his passion for music. He continues to offer his clientele the lavish lifestyle of top notch parties and luxurious car rentals, and plans to top his memorable adlibs by cutting more records with several veterans MC’s and make history once again.
BONUS: Get a quick behind-the-scenes look at our interview captured by “Drink Champs” videographer Rich Blanco.