View Full Version : Jay-Z "Bout Me" article from new XXL

09-02-2009, 01:00 PM
FEATURE: Jay-Z, ĎBout Me

http://www.xxlmag.com/online/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/jayzmagfeature1.jpg (http://www.xxlmag.com/online/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/jayzmagfeature1.jpg) Photography Michael Lavine

Working with Jay-Z keeps you on your toes. Youíve gotta be prepared to roll at a momentís notice. And once things are in motion, plans change, then get rearranged. Start times for photo shoots and interviews are moved around, then locked down, then moved again. But if you want to work with arguably the greatest rapper of all time, you deal with it. Itís not like you donít know how busy he is.
Over the past 13 years in hip-hop, Jay-Z has gone from an on-the-come-up lyricist (1996ís Reasonable Doubt), to a label owner (Roc-A-Fella Records), to a multiplatinum-selling rapper (1998ís Vol. 2Ö Hard Knock Life), to a classic-album-recording artist (2001ís The Blueprint), to a major-record-label executive (Def Jam president), to the builder of a sprawling empire, with a successful clothing line (Rocawear), stakes in an NBA team (New Jersey Nets), a chain of trendy sports bars (40/40 Club), his own fragrances (9IX and X) and a creative new venture (Roc Nation). Thatís not even delving into his smaller, lesser-known, unconfirmed, secret or on-hold business dealings.
But most recently, Jayís time has been dedicated to The Blueprint 3, his 11th solo album and 14th overall including three collaboration LPs. Itís the second follow-up to the Brooklyn MCís classic, The Blueprint, released on the eight year anniversary of the reverred disc, which is also the eighth anniversary of 9/11. But unlike any of Hovís previous LPs, BP3 doesnít have a Def Jam or Roc-A-Fella logo on the back. After 12 years signed to Def Jamóthree of those as presóJay split ways with the powerhouse label, after buying back his last remaining album from the company for a reported $5 million. Heís since been focused on Roc Nation, an entertainment, publishing and management company he has in an unprecedented partnership with mega concert promoters, Live Nation. The Blueprint 3 is the first release off of Roc Nation and is distributed by Atlantic Records for this one project.
Jiggaís new effort has stirred up several meaty issues of discussion since its existence became reality about three months ago. Despite Hovís possible living-legend status (that depends on whom youíre talking to, of course), the hip-hop audience has been a bit underwhelmed by the constant trendsetterís last two efforts (2006ís Kingdom Come and 2007ís American Gangster). So some topics have been: What will Jay have to offer on an album so closely tied to a classic? And after all his wealth and success, can he still relate to rap and its audience?
On June 5 of this year, Jay addressed the issues with defiance. That evening saw New Yorkís Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex introduce the initial single off The Blueprint 3, ďD.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),Ē a semiautomatic attack against those whoíve overdosed on T-Painís famed vocal-assistance technology. Yet, as polarizing as it was provocativeóďD.O.A.Ē was celebrated in some parts for its brashness and No IDís rugged, bluesy productionósome critics found a reason to accuse Jay of being out of touch or, even worse, a bullying elder statesman. Mr. Carter considers the criticism ludicrous. In his eyes, his attack wasnít on the youth, but instead on the lack of originality. A veteran with a reputation for quality, he sees hip-hop as a genre coming awfully close to the danger zone. For Hov, itís simple addition by subtraction: To save the culture, the artists that routinely damage it by simply following trends (Auto-Tune, for instance) must perish.
If itís an indisputable success, The Blueprint 3 could cement Jay as the first 40-year-old rapper (or almost 40) to truly dominate the music globeóa major feat in a time when hip-hop seems to skew younger than ever. Still, even in that potential triumph lies another interesting question: Will Jay-Z become bigger than hip-hop? Scratch that. Considering his staggering rťsumť as it stands before the release of BP3, is Jay already above rapís clouds? And, if so, does it make a difference?
After weeks of waiting patiently, and some tennis-match-like back-and-forth scheduling, XXLís Bonsu Thompson sat down with the tireless businessman and self-proclaimed God MC to talk about the one thing that matters most to his truest fans, the foundation of his entire kingdom: hip-hop. óMatt Barone

Because you had so much time to live with this new album, do you think itís your most thoughtful body of work?

No, itís just the approach. I donít think it changed the music any. You can look at it both ways. The Blueprint was all natural. You could tell the rawness of the spontaneous thoughts. Or you can have someone who plans and plots and makes sure everything is the same. Lyor [Cohen, CEO of Warner Music Group] asked me, after he listened to the [new] album, ďDid you mess up by putting an album out every year? Should you have taken your time and done it like this one?Ē And I was like, ďNo, itís just process.Ē I donít think The Blueprint was bad. But this album has to come out. Itís just really cohesive. It feels really good.

What would you say is The Blueprint 3ís grand statement?
I keep using this phrase ďnew classic,Ē because it has classic sounds and instrumentation, like how music was recorded before. Thatís why the whole album cover [features] white instruments just left in the corner, no color. Itís all about the instruments. It feels classic in that approach, but itís new subject matter, new flows. Itís not like an Amy Winehouse thing: a take on what was already done. I mean, if you listen to ďD.O.A.Ē just the sax alone, those type of sounds. The subject matter is right now. Itís a hot-button issue right now.

Itís funny that you stress the subject matter being current. One criticism of ďD.O.A.Ē has been that the topic is a year old.

A year past or a year early?

A year too old. Music was being saturated by Auto-Tune the most last year. So were you thinking business first, like, Kanyeís coming out with this 808s & Heartbreak album, so Iím going to hold off on the criticism ítil heís in the clear?

No, thatís not how it happened. It really just happened in the studio. We were just having a discussion about the game and music and where everything is going. So No ID plays this track, and Kanye jumps up. Actually, Kanye gave me the idea. He jumps up and is like, ďMan, this is hard. This is against everything.Ē I donít know if he knew where I was going to take it, but he sparked the idea. I came back the next day and did the record.

Whatís puzzling is that your own buddies, like Kanye and Pharrell, wear the brightest shirts and tightest jeans, but youíre clearly not going at them. Youíre going after the cats that are trying to be like them, and not themselves. Correct?

Yeah, once it becomesÖ A trend is a trend. I follow trends. I set trends. Now, when a trend becomes a gimmick, itís time to get rid of it. As far as hip-hop. Like, when they were saying ďbling blingĒ on CNN, itís time to never say that word again. It was just about the aggression of everything. I saw everyone, ícause it was successful, following one path. You turn on the radio, and thatís all you hear. Iím not saying I hate T-Pain. What Iím talking about is a trend thatís becoming a gimmick. And if we continue down this path, weíre going to open the door for another genre of music. Same way when rock was doing hair metal it opened the door even wider for hip-hop to come through and put rock music in trouble for 10 years and more. Right now, there are a lot of indie bands coming out, which is making rock more exciting: the MGMTs and the Kings of Leons. You keep messing around, making generic music, people are going to start turning off one at a time. And if these guys [keep] making great music, guess what? [Fans are] gonna go to them. If you look back in the history of music, thatís what happens all the time. Iím just saying, Stay up. Be aware. Be innovative. Letís keep making this shit interesting. I love Drake. Iím not hating on young people. Like, when people say that, Iím like, What are you talking about? Itís just stupid. Iím not hating on young people. I love Drake. I worked with him on the album. Every time they ask me what Iím listening to, itís So Far Gone and Kings of Leon. Them two [acts] owe me money. Iím not Bill Russell, [saying] Michael Jordan ainít shit. Iím saying Lil Wayne and Kanye are like LeBron and Kobe. My job as someone at the forefront of the game is to leave it in a better position than when I came in. Same way that Russell [Simmons] left it to me. íCause this thing saved my life. Literally. So I have a responsibility to it karmically. And after that itís on you. I did my part. I made ďD.O.A.Ē I said it. I made the statement. I made the push. Here, yíall take it from here.

Youíve been getting a lot of heat about your second single ďRun This Town,Ē featuring Kanye and Rihanna. Critics and the blog world have said íYe out rapped you.

I think that thing has gone a little too far. I think itís more about that than the song now. What Iím saying is thatís just life. If [whose verse was better] was the thing, and we based [song quality] on that, after Iíve done 400 songs, Iím sure once the average of who was better on the song weighs out, Iím pretty high. Some nights [L.A. Lakers player] Pau Gasol can score more points than Kobe Bryantónot saying that Kanye is Pau Gasol, ícause you have to be really clear with tható[but] as long as Iíve been in the game, thatís going to happen, once or twice or even three times.

For more of the ĎBout Me interview, make sure to pick up XXLís October issue on newsstands September 15.

from http://www.xxlmag.com/online/?p=56297