Even Jay-Z Doesn't Know The Actual Lyrics To This Song

In March, 2022, rapper Pusha T released an unprecedented diss track, or a rap song typically used to settle a score between two rappers. In this case, though, Pusha T had the entire fast food franchise, McDonald's, in his sights. The song in question also referenced another famous hip-hop song by Jay Z, "You Don't Know," off the star rapper's 2001 album, "The Blueprint" (Via AllMusic). "Selling water to a whale," is the line that Pusha borrowed from Jay. But many fans of the HOV were surprised to hear Pusha seem to say "whale" rather than "well." Which line is correct? One intrepid journalist went straight to the source to find out.

Jay Z reference aside, in this particular diss track, the beef — so to speak — in question between Mcdonald's and Pusha T was the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich. The diss track itself was effectively an ad for McDonald's competitor, Arby's, and their spicy fish offering. Pusha T previously squabbled with Mickey D's over failure to credit or pay him for the "I'm Lovin' It" jingle, as well as Pusha's songwriting partner, his brother who performs as No Malice, per The Guardian. Who actually deserved songwriting credit for that long-lasting corporate earworm remains unconfirmed, as Spoon University explains.

Misheard pop song lyrics are nothing new

This particular instance would certainly not be the first time pop songs lyrics were widely misheard or misinterpreted, one of the most famous examples being "bathroom on the right" subbing in for "bad moon on the rise" in the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic, "Bad Moon Rising." Another popular well-known case of misunderstood song words is Jimi Hendrix singing "`scuse me while I kiss this guy," instead of "kiss the sky" from "Purple Haze," as Psychology Today explains. And there's just as much precedent for these kind of mix-up in hip-hop as there is in any other style of music, as Complex reports.

What makes the potential Pusha T and Jay Z situation so tricky, though, is the line really works either way. Selling water to a well or to a whale are both effective metaphors for selling something to someone that they don't really need. To many Jay Z fans, though, it really stuck out when Pusha T rapped "whale" rather than "well." One hip-hop journalist, Sowmya Krishnamurthy, counted herself among those who'd heard "well" rather than "whale" since 2001. With a source close to the original Jay Z song, Krishnamurthy asked for clarification and posted what she found out on Twitter.

Krishnamurthy DM'd Jay Z's producer

The person close to Jay Z that Krishnamurthy had in her contacts was "You Don't Know" producer Just Blaze (pictured), who she must have figured had a straight line to Jay himself. She asked Just Blaze if he knew how the line really goes: "Selling water to a whale," "Selling water to a well," or possibly both. Just as Krishnamurthy suspected, Blaze asked the man himself in a text how the line really went, and here's what Jay Z had to say, according to Okayplayer.

Via Twitter, the HOV responded, "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." 

Krishnamurthy later shared the answer on social media in a screenshot. As it turns out, neither Pusha T nor Krishnamurthy were wrong, exactly, as Jay Z himself leaves it open to interpretation. In response, one Jay Z fan wrote on Twitter, "I always heard "well" because to me it makes the line hit harder when it's an inanimate object. And an empty well needing water was a better mental image." And so the well/whale debate rages on.