Jay-Z: Gangster Musings 2.0

It’s not really a make it or break it situation for Jay-Z. Still, the Def Jam president’s tenth album, American Gangster, is critical in terms of his legacy and  remaining relevant in a burgeoning era of T.I.’s , Lil’ Wayne’s and Kanye West’s. The late 30-something boss is calm and collected much like the infamous […]

It’s not really a make it or break it situation for Jay-Z. Still, the Def Jam president’s tenth album, American Gangster, is critical in terms of his legacy and  remaining relevant in a burgeoning era of T.I.’s , Lil’ Wayne’s and Kanye West’s. The late 30-something boss is calm and collected much like the infamous heroin pusher Frank Lucas who provided the inspiration for American Gangster. The album was put together in a short period and, in an even shorter period, the clamor began. The talk will continue as Hov reveals his side on Kanye’s “Big Brother,” his status compared to B.I.G. and Pac and the issue with LL Cool J. Oh, there’s also the matter of that album. [Click here to read “Jay-Z: Manifest Destiny (The American Gangster Story)”] AllHipHop.com: Do you still feel like you’re sort of competing with

B.I.G. and Pac even though they’ve been gone for over 10 years?Jay-Z:

The funny things about that I really had to start slowing down because

after a while when you start putting out so much, as great as they was

it’s kind of not a fair argument because they didn’t get a chance to go

through this thing – you have to gothrough a lot, you gotta go

through a lot of scrutiny and maintain a certain level. Though Pac has

a lot of work, he put it all out at one time. If I made 17 records or

when I was making Reasonable Doubt them s**ts would be

retarded. They didn’t get a chance to really fulfill their potential.

When somebody’s been around five years, it’s different, and six and

seven and as long as you be around and the longer you stay relevant,

it’s like “Damn, you can’t really argue because they didn’t really get

a chance to go through it.” You don¹tknow what would have happened.

It’s like, you know, incomplete. What happens? What happens on a 7th

album? 8th album? That s### is very difficult. Very difficult. That ain’t easy. That’s

difficult. You know, ni**as when you fresh and crispy with the new

slang – you could do that. You can just hit n***as with the slang, make

the hook with the hot slang and ride it out. But to really make, 9, 10

[albums], it’s something different.Interviewer: Your nephew has started rapping and making the rounds around New York City.Jay-Z: My nephew’s already winning a thousand talent shows. He’s already, uh, they had him on Hot97 and all kinds of stuff, winning talent shows. He wants to be a rapper. I mean I don¹t suggest at him. I want him to be whatever he want to be. Well, be a dope dealer….I wouldn’t have let that happen. I told you I’m better than The Godfather, I did it. [laughing]  But that’s cool, if that’s what he loves. As long as he knows the scrutiny that he’s going to be under and  the pressure that people are going to put on him and he’s ready for that and he’s willing to really work at his craft. That’s what I tell him all the time. I don’t even mess with him. I don’t help him out. “Yo, work on your craft, work on it, work on it constantly until you get to a certain point, then I’ll pull him.” Then he’ll have a “Big Uncle” record and it’ll be all good. [Referring to Kanye West’s “Big Brother.”]AllHipHop.com: When did you start recording this album?Jay-Z: Maybe like three weeks [ago] total. Like I started, left a foundation, then I left it alone. The last two weeks, I really drew down on it. Interviewer: So there was no plan to do an album before you saw the film. Jay-Z: Nah… Interviewer: How did this album differ from all the other gangster movies you’ve seen?Jay-Z: Besides the Black guy being higher than the mob in everything…? [room laughs]Interviewer: You’ve put yourself in those positions before like as the Black Scarface.Jay-Z: I wasn’t hot when “Scarface” was hot. [room laughs] My Spanish action ain’t really all the way where it needs to be for that. AllHipHop.com: On “Blue Magic,” you say “F**k Bush.”Jay-Z: Yeah. You had to pick that line. [room laughs] AllHipHop.com: I’m just saying… [room laughs]Jay-Z: It was really a triple entendre, double. “Money over broads, you got it, f**k bush.” F**k broads or f**k bush. I just thought it was some clever s**t. [room laughs]AllHipHop.com: Aiight.Jay-Z: That s**t was f**kin’ hot! The s**t is layered, man. F**k Bush. Get outta here or f**k bush. F**k bush! Come on, man. [room laughs.]Interviewer: You brought back “Ignorant S**t.”Jay-Z: Yeah, its like one of those jams that you feel bad you let go. I recorded that for The Black Album. And it leaked, but I thought it was so great. “Ignorant S**t – conceptually in the album – when you are out of control saying, “F**k, s**t, a**, b***h, and you just going crazy. It also deals with censorship as well. It serves two purposes. Interviewer: You think Scarface the rapper is going to look at you sideways [for rapping about him]?Jay-Z: No, I’m sticking up for him. I’m saying “Scarface” did more than Scarface the rapper. I’m on his side. So no, absolutely not. Unless he wants to be in trouble. That s**t on him. Nah, Brad is my boy.AllHipHop.com: You’ve had over a 10-year run in terms of recording albums. What keeps you motivated? Jay-Z: I like the challenge of it. With rap music, you can make a hundred classic albums in a row and somebody make a hot song and compare you to him. It’s the only sport like that – well basketball a little bit. [They] did compare Harold Minor to Jordan when he first came out; for one second. But, the challenge of it. If everybody was like, “Alright, you got it [you’re the best]” then there wouldn’t be any reason to record an album. I’d go shoot jump shots at the next practice facility. The challenge of making material.AllHipHop.com: Did you ever go through a phase – and there is this whole G.O.A.T. discussion we can get into that too…Jay-Z: Yeah, that’s what we here for, n***a. [room laughs]AllHipHop.com: At one point, it seemed like you have to continuously tell us that you were the G.O.A.T. A lot of us feel like you had already established that without needing to say it. At one point, you were telling us a lot.Jay-Z: You have to say it if you want it, right? You gotta manifest your destiny. You gotta put it out there if you really want people to believe. I didn’t want anybody to guess. AllHipHop.com: Is there a possibility of you and LL Cool J lyrically going at each other?Jay-Z:

Nah, I don’t think that’s [possible]. I’m sick of that. I don’t even

want to be in that type of…its getting nasty for me. LL Cool J is

great. You don’t have to market LL Cool J. If people were saying [LL’s

last album Todd Smith] was fantastic, lets push it. That’s different. At some point you gotta take responsibility for your s**t too. With Kingdom Come,

maybe it was too sophisticated. Maybe I f*cked up. I’m not saying,

“F**k L.A. Reid [Def Jam chairman].” I mean, you made the album.Artists,

we’re like that s**t. When we [have success], its our fault – we did

it. “And I told them “Bang kill n***a and they said go with kill bang

n***a.” [laughter] My s### popped off and I told n#####, “[You] can’t

tell me nothing.” When it don’t work, [artists are] like, “See, look

what you did! You f**ked my s**t up!” I respect L. He’s a legend. I’m

not doing that. What happens? What do I get? That’s what I’m like. What

do I get? N***as are like, “So.” There’s no win in it for me. “So. You

won.” You know what I’m saying?Interviewer: Did it take the Jim Jones thing to make you say what you just said?Jay-Z: No one, no one, no one believed that. Nobody nowhere believed that. AllHipHop.com: Where does this album rank in your catalogue? Jay-Z: Its kinda early. Its gotta perform well for me. For me, the music, the lushness…its like Blueprint-esque. But the story lines and the way it put together lyrically (mumbles “Its almost like a sacrilege for me to say this) its like between Reasonable Doubt and Blueprint – a mix of those two albums.   AllHipHop.com: You’re an executive and busy man, having you started writing your rhymes as opposed to doing them from memory?Jay-Z: No, its still the same process. For me, it feels better just to vibe with it. There’s something about the pen and paper that puts it in a box. AllHipHop.com: Is anybody else on the album?Jay-Z: No, that’s pretty much it. I still might switch some things around, but that’s the body. Bilal is singing on “Fallen.” Beans on “Ignorant S**t” and that’s pretty much it.Interviewer: Prior to seeing the movie, were you familiar with Frank Lucas?Jay-Z: No, he was so quiet. I knew his name, but I didn’t exactly know what he was about. I heard bits and pieces…about the bodies. I really didn’t know his story. The main draw was the emotion of what this represented. The movie shot great and is fantastic, but the emotion of it is what I was drawn to. And the character, his character…the way he was laid back. This guy made $250 million in the 70’s. That’s like $2 billion – cash. That’s a whole ‘nother story of why he didn’t stop. 10, 20 [million]…those are a whole lot of benchmarks 50? 100? That’s a whole ‘nother conversation.Interviewer: You know, the thing is Frank flipped [snitched]…Jay-Z: You know what the thing about Hollywood is, you can’t let it end good. That’s not a good message. But, what kids do anyway, regardless of the story, however they are – they pull what they want from the movie. No matter how it ends. Scarface died and he became a hero to everyone. He was in everybody’s lyrics and everybody patterned themselves after them and he died. The point was for you not to pattern yourself after him, because this is what happens. What you do is you pull out the things that relate to your life. I’m not Frank Lucas. That’s how he chose to live his life. Interviewer: Is there a difference with not being concerned with not having a hot single, but having this piece of work?Jay-Z: It’s fun. Fun for me. I mean, and the inspiration is working out. It’s really like a…it’s a good thing for me. I think you asked me last time, about cursing and shooting guns and sh*t. I said, “I ain’t never shoot nobody before” or something to that affect. So, [American Gangster] allows me to get the aggressive content out. [room erupts into laughter.]AllHipHop.com: Will you do anything else to support the album like touring?Jay-Z: I really look forward to touring, because of the music…the musicality of it all. I’m looking at a band right now. I’m looking to tour this summer. With all that instrumentation that’s in that album, forget about it. Forget about it.Interviewer: Outside of the creative nature, do you ever get to the point where you are like, “I think I should just stop?” Like, “I’ve already gotten this far. Maybe I should just stop.”Jay-Z: Ahhh…I’m like the boxer. You know the boxer…boxers don’t stop. Interviewer: Even Tyson knew when to quit.Jay-Z: No he didn’t. [Laughs]AllHipHop.com: Lennox. You mean, Lennox Lewis. Jay-Z: [laughs] I was in Memphis. [Editor’s note: Lennox Lewis defeated Mike Tyson in Memphis, Tenn on June 9, 2002.] Remember the show right before the Tyson fight when I ran over there? Yeah, that was it. No good.AllHipHop.com: Can you speak on Kanye’s “Big Brother” record? I know you have commented on it before. But, it was praising you and also criticizing you as well. There was a lot said in that record. Do you have any opinion on his views?Jay-Z:  I think it was brilliant, for one. Roc-A-Fella is tough love. His feelings are very understandable, because it’s tough love…nothing is given. There’s no free rides – none of that s**t. You gotta earn your way. You fail, you better get up so you can feel that. Those type of emotions [Kanye relayed]…for him to come out and say it, it actually brought us closer. [It was like] his true emotions. Everything on the song was true – it was true in his mind. That’s what made it great, because it was honestly how [Kanye] felt. AllHipHop.com: Is it all true from your perspective?Jay-Z:  No. Of course not. We know everybody sees things differently. If I told you something like, “Carleen said I could buy two tickets,” you would think he didn’t get any tickets. He got four [tickets]. He wanted six. Its true, but…its really true. He wanted two more tickets, but if you heard that you’d be like, “Damn, them n***as ain’t give the n***a no tickets.” [room laughs] Come on!And [with] Coldplay – I introduced him! I gave him the number. I made the song happen. I did that. Like, [mimicking a phone call] “Coldplay, here’s Kanye. Here. [passing phone to imaginary Kanye]” Its great though, because its his truth. That’s what’s brilliant about him. It wasn’t no bulls**t – it was the way he felt. AllHipHop.com: How did it feel when you did the VH1 special on Reasonable Doubt? All the people were there, even Jaz-O [Jay’s estranged mentor].Jay-Z: I wasn’t there when they was interviewing everybody – just the people that I sat with. It felt great. I knew it was gonna be a great piece. Barry Michael Cooper (writer/film maker) really put his intelligent Black man on it though. It was great. AllHipHop.com: Was [“Blue Magic”] paying homage to Rakim, it’s kind of obvious, but…Jay-Z: Yeah, yeah. It’s like, lets strip everything down, put four little sounds, and some echoes, and just start the whole s**t over. Interviewer: Where is that song in the album list?Jay-Z: Its third, but I might make it a bonus, because it f**ks with me where it’s at. I can’t really find a place for it. I’m going to create the saying “double bonus”.AllHipHop.com: The “I Get Money” remix is on there too, right?Jay-Z: That was on there to make 12 records, but I don’t know if I’m gonna do that. I haven’t figured that one out yet. Triple Bar mitzvah.Interviewer: What about on the executive side? How long do you plan to do that?Jay-Z: I don’t know, I really don’t. At this point, I want to do it to make history. I can’t look in everyone’s eyes – in the boardroom and look into everybody’s eyes and [if] everybody not committed to making history, I just don’t know. That’s a big commitment. You commit to years, the next chapter, the next three years, I gotta really think about that. Look around and see if everybody’s committed to being great, to chasing Berry Gordy, Motown and something like that.