Jay-Z: The Fresh Air Interview

Jay-Z: The Fresh Air Interview

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Jay Mohegan via Random House

Jay Mohegan via Random House

long before he sold 50 million records cosmopolitan — and before he appeared aboard Warren Buffett on the cover of Fortune magazine, accumulated 10 Grammy Awards and became the chief executive officer of his own record label — Jay-Z was living with his ma in the Marcy Houses housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, merely trying to survive day by day.

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‘Jay-Z Talks About Mortality On The Streets’

“ It was a very intense and nerve-racking situation, ” he tells Fresh Air ‘s Terry Gross. “ There was playing in the Johnny-pump ( an opened fire hydrant ) and the ice-cream homo coming around and all of these games that we ‘d play, and on the spur of the moment it would turn precisely crimson and there would be shootings at 12 in the afternoon on any given day. It was a wyrd mix of emotions. One day, your best supporter could be killed. The day before, you could be celebrating him getting a brand-new bicycle. ” now 40, Jay-Z has n’t forgotten his by — or the lyrics he ‘s written over the years about his childhood in the projects. In his new book Decoded, he unpacks the detail riffs and lyrics that make up 36 of his songs — while examining both his own life and the growth of hip-hop over the last two decades .

He besides talks honestly, both in the book and on Fresh Air, about the period in his liveliness when he was a adolescent selling wisecrack cocaine on the streets .

By Jay-Z
Hardcover, 336 pages
Spiegel & Grau
List price: $35

Read an Excerpt
“ At 14 [ or ] 15 years old, you ‘re thinking about sneakers or you ‘re thinking about some kind of stand-in from all of the pain you ‘re feeling, ” he says. “ You ‘re thinking about buying some food for the theater. You ‘re thinking about paying the extra light bill. So at that young age, you ‘re not thinking about the destruction you ‘re causing your own community. ” At the clock time he was selling, Jay-Z was besides coming up with rhymes. He normally wrote down his fabric in a park notebook he carried around with him — but he never took the notebook with him on the streets, he says. “ I would run into the corner store, the bodega, and just grab a wallpaper bulge or buy juice — anything merely to get a paper bulge, ” he says. “ And I ‘d write the words on the newspaper bag and stuff these ideas in my pocket until I got back. then I would transfer them into the notebook. As I got further and further off from dwelling and my notebook, I had to memorize these rhymes — longer and longer and longer. … By the clock I got to record my beginning album, I was 26, I did n’t need pen or paper — my memory had been trained just to listen to a song, think of the words, and lay them to tape. ” Since his beginning album, he says, he ‘s never written down any of his lyrics. “ I ‘ve lost batch of material, ” he says. “ It ‘s not the best way. I would n’t advise it to anyone. I ‘ve lost a pair album ‘ worth of bang-up material. … Think about when you ca n’t remember a son and it drives you crazy. indeed imagine forgetting an integral rhyme. ‘What ‘s that ? I said I was the greatest something ? ‘ “ Hard-Knock Life One of the songs Jay-Z writes about extensively in the book is “ Hard Knock Life ( Ghetto Anthem ), ” a single from his third album Vol. 2 … Hard Knock Life. It samples music from the melodious Annie, which Jay-Z says he watched repeatedly as a child.
“ When the television version [ of Annie ] came on, I was drawn to it, ” he says. “ It was the struggle of this poor child in this environment and how her life sentence changed. … It immediately resonated. ” Twenty years late, Jay-Z was on a Puff Daddy enlistment in the late ’90s, when he heard a DJ dally an instrumental interpretation of “ It ‘s the Hard Knock Life ” from Annie. “ It immediately brought me back to my childhood and that feel, ” he says. “ I knew right then and there that I had to make that record, and people would relate to the clamber and the aspiration in it, ampere well. ”

To get the rights for “ Hard Knock Life, ” Jay-Z says he “ exaggerated a touch ” in his letter to the master songwriters, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin. He told them how much Annie mean to him growing up, because he won an essay contest as a child and got to see the musical on Broadway, cementing his love for the show. But, he says with a laugh, that actually never happened. “ I wrote a letter about how much Annie mean to me growing up and how I went to a Broadway play — which was an exaggeration, ” he says. “ I saw it on television. It was a bad lie … for a thoroughly argue. ” Jay-Z has sold more than 50 million albums global. He is the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings and the fall through of Roc Nation. He was ranked the 5th top male solo artist of the 2000s by Billboard magazine. He has besides received a great deal of recognition from the american Music Awards, the BET Awards, and the MTV Video Music Awards. Interview Highlights On Sampling The Jackson Five’s ‘I Want You Back’ In “IZZO”
“ I grew up in Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, and my ma and toss off had an extensive record solicitation, so Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and all of those sounds and souls of Motown filled the house, ” he says. “ indeed I was identical familiar with the song when Kanye [ West ] brought me the sample. It had been used in hip-hop previously, but it was just such an interesting and fresh return on it that I was immediately drawn to it. ” On How Crack Changed The Marcy Projects In The Mid-’80s “ They have a suppose, ‘It takes a village to raise a child. ‘ It changed the authority figure. Crack cocaine was done indeed openly, and the people who were addicted to it, the fiends, had very small dignity. It was sol highly addictive that they did n’t care how they obtained it and they carried that out in front of children, who were dealing at the time. So the kinship of that respect, ‘I have to respect my elders ‘ … that active shifted and it broke forever. It equitable changed everything from that point on. “ I was very aware of the dangers involved because there were people dying [ and ] there were people going to jail and it was n’t a one-off. It was n’t an happening where everyone was shocked. It would n’t be a shock like, ‘How could that happen in this region ? ‘ It was truly a hebdomadally or monthly happening. ” On Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, Which Samples Both Jay-Z And The Beatles Without Copyright Permission “ I think it was a truly potent album. I champion any form of creativity. And that was a genius mind to do, and it sparked then many others like it. It ‘s in truth well. … I was honored person took the time to mash those records up with Beatles records. I was honored to be on quote-unquote the same song with The Beatles. ” On The Song ‘December 4th’ One of the songs Jay-Z writes about extensively in the script is “ December 4th ” from The Black Album ; the song is heavily autobiographical and features riffs by Jay-Z ‘s own mother, Gloria Carter. “ I tricked her [ into appearing on that ], ” he says. “ I told her to meet me down at the studio apartment and we were going to go to lunch. She came down to the studio, and I merely brought the track up and I said, ‘I barely want you to talk on it. ‘ Because I knew if I told her [ she was going to be on the song ], she ‘d get in truth skittish. [ She said ], ‘What do you want me to say ? ‘ And the rest is history. ” On Crotch-Grabbing In Rap Music
“ In hip-hop, the music leads first gear. So normally, you have a hit read and then [ the record executives ] throw this person on stage who has never been on stage earlier. So they do n’t have any know on how to perform in front of people, hold the mic — all these different things you need to know as a performer. So you get up there, you feel naked. sol when you feel naked, what ‘s the first thing you do ? You cover yourself. So that bravado is an act of, ‘I am therefore anxious right field now. I am scared to death. I ‘m going to act sol tough that I am going to hide it, and I have to grab my fork. ‘ That ‘s precisely what happens. ” On Misogynistic Rap Lyrics

“ A fortune of these albums are made when artists are young, 17 or 18 years old, so they ‘ve never had any real relationships. And if you come from the neighborhoods we ‘re in, we have moo esteem ourselves. And the women, well, the girls — they have moo self-esteem as well. These are all dysfunctional relationships at a young age. The poet is reasonably much [ giving ] his lead on his dealings with girls at that time. He ‘s not in a stable relationship ; he ‘s on the road. He ‘s seeing girls who like him because he makes music. They spend one night together ; he gets a earphone issue. He leaves for the following town and does the like thing over again. ” On Using The Word ‘Bitch’ In ’99 Problems’ “ That was the writer in me being provocative, because that ‘s what rap music should be at times. That was actually directed to all of the people who hear buzz words in blame music — they hear ‘bitch ‘ or ‘ho ‘ or something and immediately dismiss everything else that takes place. And everything has to be put in context. And when you put it in context, you realize that I was n’t calling any female, besides a female pawl, a ‘bitch ‘ on this song. ”

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