|Hova at Barclays Center|
Jay talks openly about B, Blue and gifts and curses of his celebrity. He also talks big business, politics, Trayvon Martin and much more.
The interview took place over an Italian lunch on Mulberry Street in NYC. And reads like an intimate conversation between two old friends. Check out excerpts from the interview below.
Mr. Hip Hop:
In “Decoded,” Jay-Z writes that “rap is built to handle contradictions,” and Hova, as he is nicknamed, is as contradictory as they come. Hova’s the all-rounder. His albums are showrooms of hip-hop, displaying the various possibilities of the form. The persona is cool, calm, almost frustratingly self-controlled: “Yeah, 50 Cent told me that one time. He said: ‘You got me looking like Barksdale’ ” — the hot-blooded drug kingpin from HBO’s “The Wire” — “and you get to be Stringer Bell!” — Barksdale’s levelheaded partner. The rapper Memphis Bleek, who has known Jay-Z since Bleek himself was 14, confirms this impression: “He had a sense of calm way before music. This was Jay’s plan from day one: to take over. I guess that’s why he smiles and is so calm, ’cause he did exactly what he planned in the ’90s.” And now, by virtue of being 42 and not dead, he can claim his own unique selling proposition: he’s an artist as old as his art form. The two have grown up together.
“Oh, my family’s amazing.” And the baby? “She’s four months.” But what will TriBeCa give Blue? “I actually thought about that more before she was born. Once she got here I’ve been in shock until maybe last week?”
Her childhood won’t be like his, and this fact he takes in his stride. “We would fight each other. My brother would beat me up,” he says, but it was all in preparation for the outside. “I was going to have to fight, I was going to have to go through some things, and they were preparing me.” He smiles: “She doesn’t have to be tough. She has to love herself, she has to know who she is, she has to be respectful, and be a moral person.”
On His Musical Change:
Jay-Z, like rap itself, started out pyrotechnical. Extremely fast, stacked, dense. But time passed and his flow got slower, opened up. Why? “I didn’t have enough life experience, so what I was doing was more technical. I was trying to impress technically. To do things that other people cannot do. Like, you can’t do this” — insert beat-box and simultaneous freestyle here — “you just can’t do that.” Nope. Can’t even think of a notation to demonstrate what he just did. Jay-Z in technician mode is human voice as pure syncopation. On a track like “I Can’t Get With That,” from 1994, the manifest content of the music is never really the words themselves; it’s the rhythm they create. And if you don’t care about beats, he says, “You’ve missed the whole point.”
“As I started getting life experiences, I realized my power was in conveying emotions that people felt.” He compared himself to a comedian whose jokes trigger this reaction: “Yo, that’s so true.” He started storytelling — people were mesmerized. “Friend or Foe” (1996), which concerns a confrontation between two hustlers, is rap in its masterful, full-blown, narrative form. Not just a monologue, but a story, complete with dialogue, scene setting, characterization. Within its comic flow and light touch — free from the relentless sincerity of Tupac — you can hear the seeds of 50, Lil Wayne, Eminem, so many others. “That was the first one where it was so obvious,” Jay noted. He said the song represented an important turning point, the moment when he “realized I was doing it.”On Hip Hop:
“It provided a gateway to conversations that normally would not be had.” And now that rap’s reached this unprecedented level of cultural acceptance, maybe we’re finally free to celebrate the form without needing to continually defend it. Say that I’m foolish I only talk about jewels/Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it? He’s not so sure: “It’s funny how you can say things like that in plain English and then people still do it.” He is mildly disappointed that after publishing “Decoded,” his 2010 memoir, people still ask the same old questions. The flippancy annoys him, the ease with which some still dismiss rap as “something that’s just this bad language, or guys who degrade women, and they don’t realize the poetry and the art.” This is perhaps one downside to having the “flow of the century.”
In the song “22 Two’s,” from 1996, we get 22 delicious plays on the words “too” and “two.” Ten years later, the sequel, “44 Fours,” has the same conceit, stepped up a gear. “Like, you know, close the walls in a bit smaller.” Can he explain why? “I think the reason I still make music is because of the challenge.” He doesn’t believe in relying solely on one’s natural gifts. And when it comes to talent, “You just never know — there is no gauge. You don’t see when it’s empty.”
On Trayvon Martin & President Obama:
The fish sandwich arrives. Conversation turns to the schoolboy who was shot to death, Trayvon Martin — “It’s really heartbreaking, that that still can happen in this day and age” — and, soon after, to Obama: “I’ve said the election of Obama has made the hustler less relevant.” When he first made this point, “People took it in a way that I was almost dismissing what I am. And I was like: no, it’s a good thing!” He didn’t have Obama growing up, only the local hustler. “No one came to our neighborhoods, with stand-up jobs, and showed us there’s a different way. Maybe had I seen different role models, maybe I’d’ve turned on to that.” Difficult to keep these two Americas in your mind. Imagine living it — within one lifetime!--Princess Carter
Source: NYTimes & GlobalGrind