Jay-Z, who, along with his fabulous wife, Beyoncé, usually tends to hold things very close to the chest, recently opened up about his infidelity, his relationship with Kanye West and the thoughts that went into the making of his deeply personal album, 4:44.
Jigga sat down for a 35-minute interview with New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet. He was at times reflective as he drew parallels between himself and fallen hero and football star O.J. Simpson.
He was honest as he expressed how the making of the album made him realize how much he’s still learning in his nearly 20-year relationship with his wife.
On “The Story of O.J.,” he had this to say:
It’s a nuanced song, you know. It’s like, I’m specifically speaking to us. And about who we are and how do you maintain the sense of self while pushing it forward and holding us to have a responsibility for our actions. Because in America, it is what it is. And there’s a solution for us: If we had a power base together, it would be a much different conversation than me having a conversation by myself and trying to change America by myself. If I come with 40 million people, there’s a different conversation, right? It’s just how it works. I can effect change and get whomever in office because this many people, we’re all on the same page. Right? So the conversation is, like, “I’m not rich, I’m O.J.” For us to get in that space and then disconnect from the culture. That’s how it starts. This is what happens. And then you know what happens? You’re on your own, and you see how that turned out.
When asked how he would help his children—who will grow up very differently from and in a different world than he did—understand where he comes from, he said:
There’s a delicate balance to that, right? Because you have to educate your children on the world as it exists today and how it got to that space, but my child doesn’t need the same tools that I needed growing up. I needed certain tools to survive my area that my child doesn’t need. They’re growing up in a different environment. But also they have to know their history. Have a sense of what it took to get to this place. And have compassion for others. The most important thing I think out of all this is to teach compassion and to identify with everyone’s struggle and to know these people made these sacrifices for us to be where we are and to push that forward — for us. I believe that’s the most important thing to show them, because they don’t have to know things that I knew growing up. Like being tough.
At his best, Jigga is a great storyteller, and his words in this interview are no exception. His albums help us to see Jigga the former drug dealer. This interview, coupled with the introspective 4:44 album, helps us to see Shawn Carter, the grown man—coming to grips with a past he may not entirely escape, but looking forward to a future he can build for his family.
It’s well worth viewing and reading the transcript.