Friday, September 04, 2009

Jay-Z Interview Highlights

He doesn't talk much and sometimes you have to wade through a few similar anecdotes, but here's some of my favourte bits form recent Hov interviews...

Let’s first clear this thing about Dame and Kanye and all of us. We all had a conversation about Kanye and whether to sign him. No one knew what would become of Kanye. Not Dame, not me not Biggs. So we all sat down and said, “Let’s at least sign so we can keep the tracks in-house. It’s only good business.” And Dame said, “We can put Beans and Cam, surround him and make this type of album.” I wasn’t saying don’t sign Kanye, I was saying, at least keep the beats in-house, if anything. I don know. Maybe, maybe not. Let’s keep him here. Dame came up with the idea of surrounding him with Roc-A-Fella artists on his album, which never came out, ’cause when the album came in, everyone was like, “Oh this is good.” He stood on his own. If anything, I should be credited for wanting to sign him for his tracks.
From XXL

"I had simple goals when making the first album. It was for a select group of people, people just like me. I wanted to impress the guys who were living that life.
"Going to school with Busta Rhymes and Biggie was cool. We used to battle each other at lunch times. I got Busta good. I was rapping really fast and everyone was, like:'Wow'."

From my boy Lawrence, for the Daily Record

"I'm a private person but I am a Twitter voyeur"....

[On what his friend, the slain rapper Biggie Smalls might be doing now] "We'd be working together, we started an album called The Commission", and what he's listening to (MIA, Arcade Fire, Drake and MGMT, who were originally pencilled in to appear on his new record).

(On Noel): So many different albums. I'd play him NWA [Straight Outta Compton, 1988] so he could really understand the angst and what was going on in LA at the time. Because hip-hop is not just, 'Fuck, bitch, shit, ass, motherfucker.' You know, understand that the riots were happening, and LA was burning, and these kids were in the hood in Compton and the cops would just drive by, beat them up and then drop them off in an opposing gang's neighbourhood. That's deliberate; like, you could die. This is real, this really happened. So when you hear a song like Fuck Tha Police, that's not because they think they're tough, that's because they've been beat and they're fighting back."As well as Tupac, Biggie Smalls and Dr Dre, Jay would also make Noel listen to the original God MC, Rakim, to teach him about intelligence of the rhymes; to show how far ahead of his time Rakim was in the late-80s. "When people was rhyming [raps] 'I don't care, the rocks ya'll wear' he was using couplets like [raps Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em] 'I'm the arsenal/I got artillery/Lyrics of ammo/Rounds of rhythm'," he pauses for breath. "It was mind-blowing that someone was doing this."

Aside from the ensuing media storm, rumours that he would be arriving at Glastonbury by mega-bling helicopter disturbed him too. "It was just not true," he stresses. "If I was in the club and I had 30 bottles of champagne and I was celebrating, then say that. But if I came on the bus then don't say I came in a gold-plated helicopter because I know what you're doing at that point. I'm all about intention."

What does he think the intention was?

"The intent was, 'These foolish black guys who spend too much money on things and they think they're all this and that.'"

My other boy Malik, for The Guardian Guide

He speaks softly without recourse to swear words or hip-hop street-talk. He receives all compliments on his new record — a terrific, head-spinning piece of work that has taken him a year to complete — with polite thanks. He often says he “hopes that answers your question”. At times, Jay-Z is maddeningly unassuming. You feel this when he talks about his new friend in the White House, whose name crops up a lot on the new record. “My producers were sayin’, ‘You can’t mention Obama no more, man!’ I had to cut it back a bit.”

Jay-Z’s introduction to the world of politics came about after his acquisition of a fashionable Manhattan eatery, The Spotted Pig — which he helpfully describes as “a gastropub” — in 2005. “Everybody goes there. I met Bill Clinton there a few times and Chelsea would come in maybe three times a week, and we’d be running into each other, having dinner and dialogue.” When Obama appeared on the scene — he’s a Spotted Pig customer too, and that’s where they’ve spoken face to face — Jay-Z felt torn. “It was like someone you know and like, against a person who is the hope of the country. Obama represents so much hope for blacks and Latinos. And that was more important to me than the friendship with the Clintons.” His role in the campaign tussle between Obama and Hillary, he insists, has not damaged that friendship. “They’re friends, they understand.”

“I grew up in a time when you could smell crack in the hallways and there were sub-machine-guns on the street.” He witnessed his first fatal shooting aged nine. He says there were so many of these drug-related homicides in Marcy “it becomes normal”.

“I used to wear Iceberg shirts on stage and fans started wearing them to my concerts. So we went to Iceberg, let ’em know about the phenomenon and said, ‘Hey, give us a deal.’ But they didn’t see it. They didn’t want the association. For years the commercial world tried to ignore rap and hoped it would go away.”

From the Sunday Times Magazine

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