Jay Z

In their investigation of an alleged extortion plot, cops have unearthed a treasure trove of original recordings by rap superstar Jay Z (pictured above) at a Southern California storage facility.

TMZ pegged the value of the Jay Z tapes–known in the music biz as “master” recordings–at $15 million to $20 million. Police snatched the tapes April 18 at a storage facility in Northridge, a Los Angeles neighborhood.

Investigators have questioned record producer Chauncey Mahan, who worked with Jay Z from 1998 to 2002, in conjunction with an alleged scheme to extort money in exchange for the recordings, according to TMZ. The tapes went missing in 2002.

As TMZ tells it, Mahan reached out to concert promoter Live Nation, which has a partnership with Jay Z, and indicated he’d allegedly auction off the recordings or turn over the tapes for a $100,000 “storage fee.” Mahan allegedly settled on a $75,000 “fee.”

On April 18, Mahan headed to the storage facility to wrap up the $75,000 deal with representatives of Jay Z, according to TMZ. Los Angeles cops, who’d been tipped off about the rendezvous by Jay Z’s reps, also showed up at the storage facility, and then hauled Mahan to a nearby police station for questioning. Meanwhile, the recordings now are in the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Alleged Extorter Denies Wrongdoing
Authorities in California, where the recordings were found, and New York, where Jay Z lives, are looking into the alleged extortion plot. Mahan is not in custody but could face criminal charges.

For his part, Mahan told TMZ that the accusations of an extortion plot are bogus. Record company Def Jam “asked him to keep track of the recordings in 2002 because no one else was doing it,” TMZ said.

“According to Chauncey, Jay Z ‘was a stupid kid smoking blunts’ who was reckless with his intellectual property,” TMZ reported.

Mahan told TMZ that he “repeatedly notified” Jay Z’s reps that he had the recordings, but “they blew him off.” Mahan claimed he sought the money because he no longer could afford to keep the recordings in storage.

By the way, if you don’t happen to know who Jay Z is, you may have heard of his wife: music superstar Beyoncé. And if you don’t know who either of them is, then you need to cut back on your Xbox time–or at least check out TMZ between Xbox games.