In the midst of his “4:44 Tour,” JAY-Z opens up about his latest album, a confessional effort about his evolution as a man, son, father, and husband.
Speaking with The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning executive editor Dean Baquet, Shawn Corey Carter shares how he made 4:44 and how his wife Beyoncé created LEMONADE out of the joint album the two had planned.
“We were working on material together and it became LEMONADE,” he explained. “She went off and did her thing and it was like, it just felt like she should go first and she should share her truths with the world. It wasn’t based on, ‘I have to say something because of this album.’ It wasn’t even like that. It was just really honest.”
According to Hov, the power couple was using “art almost like a therapy session” while making music together, much of which they still have. “It was uncomfortable. And we had a lot of conversations,” he explained. “[I was] really proud of the music she made, and she was really proud of the art I released. We really have a healthy respect for one another’s craft. I think she’s amazing. Most people walk away, and divorce rate is like 50 percent or something ’cause most people can’t see themselves. The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone’s face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself.”
Elsewhere in the 35-minute interview, Jigga spoke about Kanye West and their ongoing issues. “I [talked to] Kanye the other day, just to tell him he’s my brother,” said JAY. “I love Kanye. I do. It’s a complicated relationship with us…Kanye came into this business on my label. So I’ve always been like his big brother. And we’re both entertainers. There’s always been a little underlying competition with your big brother. And we both love and respect each other’s art, too. So it’s like, we both — everyone wants to be the greatest in the world. And then there’s like a lot of other factors that play in it. But it’s gonna, we gonna always be good.”
For now, however, Mr. Carter admits that tension is still there. “Yeah,” he explained. “But that happens. In the long relationship, you know, hopefully when we’re 89 we look at this six months or whatever time and we laugh at that. You know what I’m saying? There’s gonna be complications in the relationship that we have to get through. And the only way to get through that is we sit down and have a dialogue and say, “These are the things that I’m uncomfortable with. These are the things that are unacceptable to me. This is what I feel.” I’m sure he feels that I’ve done things to him as well. You know what I’m saying? These are — I’m not a perfect human being by no stretch.”
Read additional quotes from the lengthy conversation below.
On Rap & Legacy: “I think that rap in particular is a young man’s sport, that I’ll move out of that white-hot space. Rap is about the gift of discovery. The white-hot space is when it’s fresh and new, and it’s like, this is the hottest song ever. I mean I pushed the window…I stretched it. Oh, I stood in that window a really long time. But still, no, I don’t think people are looking to me as like, The Thing. At the end of the day we gonna find out it’s not about the white-hot space, but it’s about finding the truth. That white-hot space — people think it’s the biggest thing, but it’s really small. It’s almost like a trend. Would you rather be a trend, or you rather be Ralph Lauren? You know what I mean; like, you rather be a trend, or you rather be forever? I’m the person that looked at the Mona Lisa and be like, Man, that’s gonna be cool in 40 years. I play forever. And so my whole thing is to identify with the truth. Not to be the youngest, hottest, new, trendy thing.”
On President Barack Obama: “All he could do was the best he can do. He’s not a superhero. And it’s unfair to place unfulfillable expectations on this man just because of his color. You’re actually doing the opposite. It’s like, what do you think is gonna happen? He’s there for eight years. And he has to undo what 43 presidents have done. In eight years. That’s not fair.”
On Dave Chappelle: “I find it funny, but … I like Dave Chappelle’s leadership. He tells it in humor so you can deal with it, but there’s always a nice chunk of truth in there.”
On Politics: “I believe in people. I want what’s best for people. I love people. You know, so I don’t have that sort of thing, like, I want to vote Republican just to save more money. That’s not the endgame. It’s not about who got more money and who got more houses. Yes, you know, you’ve earned it, buy what you want. You know? But don’t forget what’s important. Without people, being rich would be very boring.”
On Racism: “There was a great Kanye West line in one of [his] songs: ‘Racism’s still alive, they just be concealin’ it.’ Take a step back. I think when Donald Sterling got kicked out of the N.B.A., I thought it was a misstep, because when you kick someone out, of course he’s done wrong, right? But you also send everyone else back in hiding. People talk like that. They talk like that. Let’s deal with that. I wouldn’t just, like, leave him alone. It should have been some sort of penalties. He could have lost some draft picks. But getting rid of him just made everyone else go back into hiding, and now we can’t have the dialogue. The great thing about Donald Trump being president is now we’re forced to have the dialogue. Now we’re having the conversation on the large scale; he’s provided the platform for us to have the conversation.”
On Strength: “The strongest thing a man can do is cry. To expose your feelings, to be vulnerable in front of the world. That’s real strength. You know, you feel like you gotta be this guarded person. That’s not real. It’s fake.”
On His Mother’s Sexuality: “We never spoke about it. Until, like, recently, now we start having these beautiful conversations, and just really getting to know each other. We were always good friends but now we’re really great friends. You know. And we were just talking as friends. And then she was sharing that she was in love. She can be herself [now]. She doesn’t have to hide for her kids or feel like she’s embarrassing her kids. It was a much different time then. [Now] she can just live her full life, her whole life, and be her.”