From the streets of Brooklyn to the cover of Vanity Fair. Jay Z graces the November issue of the iconic magazine. The “New Chairman of the Board” dons a black-and-white tuxedo on the cover, photographed by Mario Testino.
In the interview, described as his “most revealing ever,” the 43-year-old rapper, husband, and father opens up about his private family life including his superstar wife Beyoncé (“She’s gangsta now”) and 18-month-old daughter Blue Ivy (“She’s my biggest fan”). He also touches on his drug-dealing past, estimated $500 million net worth, and President Obama’s election.
Read highlights from the candid interview below.
On Blue Ivy: “She plays a song and she goes, ‘More, Daddy, more . . . Daddy song.’ She’s my biggest fan. If no one bought the Magna Carta [album], the fact that she loves it so much, it gives me the greatest joy. And that’s not like a cliché. I’m really serious. Just to see her—’Daddy song, more, Daddy.’ She’s genuine, she’s honest, because she doesn’t know it makes me happy. She just wants to hear it.”
On Barack Obama’s 2008 election: “[It] actually renewed my spirit for America. It was like, Oh, wow, man, this whole thing about land of the free, home of the . . . it’s, like, real—it’s going to happen, everyone’s getting to participate in it. But growing up, if you had ever told a black person from the hood you can be president, they’d be like, I could never . . . If you had told me that as a kid, I’d be like, Are you out of your mind? How?”
On dealing drugs: “I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer. To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up. Or if you want to start some sort of barbershop or car wash—those were the businesses back then. Things you can get in easily to get out of [that] life. At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small; you’re going to get locked up or you’re going to die.”
On his childhood: “We were living in a tough situation, but my mother managed; she juggled. Sometimes we’d pay the light bill, sometimes we paid the phone, sometimes the gas went off. We weren’t starving—we were eating, we were O.K. But it was things like you didn’t want to be embarrassed when you went to school; you didn’t want to have dirty sneakers or wear the same clothes over again.”
On growing up in Marcy Projects: “Crack was everywhere—it was inescapable. There wasn’t any place you could go for isolation or a break. You go in the hallway; [there are] crackheads in the hallway. You look out in the puddles on the curbs—crack vials are littered in the side of the curbs. You could smell it in the hallways, that putrid smell; I can’t explain it, but it’s still in my mind when I think about it.”
On whether he would have been able to woo Beyoncé if he wasn’t Jay Z: “If I’m as cool as I am, yes. But she’s a charming Southern girl, you know, she’s not impressed. … But I would have definitely had to be this cool.”
On whether Bey is still a “good girl”: “Nah. She’s gangsta now.”
On the rumors that Beyoncé wasn’t really pregnant: “I don’t even know how to answer that. It’s just so stupid. You know, I felt dismissive about it, but you’ve got to feel for her. I mean, we’ve got a really charmed life, so how can we complain? But when you think about it, we’re still human beings. . . . And even in hip-hop, all the blogs—they had a field day with it. I’m like, We come from you guys, we represent you guys. Why are you perpetuating this? Why are you adding fuel to this ridiculous rumor?”
On money (Forbes estimates his net worth at around $500 million): “I’m not motivated by that. . . . I don’t sit around with my friends and talk about money, ever. On a record, that’s different.”
On his love for hip-hop: “I know I said I wouldn’t be doing it when I was 30, so that’s how I know I love it. Thirty years old was my cutoff, but I’m still here, 43 years old.”
For the full interview, pick up the November 2013 issue, which hits newsstands nationwide on Oct. 8.