AllHipHop.com Staff members Jayson Rodriguez and Jigsaw also contributed to this interview.
The legions of fans that follow Jay-Z are curious: Is he really retiring? Here is a theory. More than retiring, Jay-Z is likely experiencing a remarkable, expedited evolution that the public is privileged to witness on some level. As evident by a heightened stage of activity since announcing his 2003 “victory lap,” the Brooklyn native has only gotten more progressive in his thinking and actions.
Already co-owner of an NBA team, he’s close to entering the rap game on the uppermost corporate level, being wooed to several companies, most rumored Def Jam. He attempted (and failed) to make a success of the Best of Both World’s tour, but offered a suitable exchange with “Jay-Z and Friends.” (Lest not forget the Best of Both Worlds album is selling better than crack during the Ronald Reagan administration.) Then there is Fade to Black, Hova’s full feature film that’s getting rave reviews. Moreover, Jay has taken some of his classic joints and melded them with some of the rock-n-roll sentiments of one Linkin Park for “MTV Ultimate Mash-Ups,” which will also be presented as a CD/DVD package called Collision Course.
AllHipHop.com spoke with Jay-Z in an interview that lends credence to the notion that he’s merely evolving in to a being greater than his former self.
AllHipHop.com: You seem to be an efficient planner. Did you know you were going to do the film while making the Black Album?
Jay-Z: The recording of the footage was supposed to be an extra bonus for the album…I’m not as efficient as you think. (Laughs) We shot the Garden to put out the DVD, but after watching the first 15 minutes, we knew it was more than just a DVD. We were like, hold on, this is a journey about a kid from Brooklyn New York to play the biggest stadium in the world. This is much bigger than that. This is inspirational also because I couldn’t get a deal in the beginning—now I am playing the biggest stadium in the world.
AllHipHop.com: Was there anything in the movie that you had to take out?
Jay-Z: There are some extras that will be out in a DVD next year.
AllHipHop.com: Did you realize how big this was going into this?
Jay-Z: It took me to watch the movie to understand—I was more focused on the technical aspect of the production. The emotion didn’t kick in until later. When I saw the first 15 minutes, I was blown away.
AllHipHop.com: Do you still get butterflies?
Jay-Z: I get butterflies sometimes, but after the 1st note, I’m so far in it, I’m not nervous anymore.
AllHipHop.com: Why did you feel the need to narrate the film?
Jay-Z: I felt it had to be in my voice because this is the most personal thing I’ve ever put out. I’ve never allowed people in the studio during my recording process or my conversations with my friends. I’m not even that type of person.
AllHipHop.com: Were there any moments when the cameras were added pressure?
Jay-Z: When it’s there everyday, you forget about it. For a minute, you’re conscious and put on your extra cool—but after 15 minutes. You just relax and forget—no pressure.
AllHipHop.com: We know you’ve decided to retire—what’s next for you?
Jay-Z: I am going to channel some of this energy into new artists. I want to do something different. I have an opportunity to open doors for the next generation of artist on an executive level—so why not try?
AllHipHop.com: There are rumors circulating that you may be the next president of Def Jam—any truth to this?
Jay-Z: That’s not a done deal. We’re just talking. We’ll see what happens.
That’s still up in the air. There’s offers as well in other places so…
AllHipHop.com: Because there’s a story going around that you were president for the last two months? Is that true?
Jay-Z: No, it not true. No contracts signed. Nothing.
AllHipHop.com: How has the music business changed since you started?
Jay-Z: Now, it’s so much pressure to get a single when your album comes out—no one is concentrating on the album. It’s the business of music now instead of the music business. You have to make music first than everything else is a by-product of that.
AllHipHop.com: Being that your background is hip-hop, how can you advise a company like Universal when it comes to other genres, like rock?
Jay-Z: I am rock and roll. I’m an artist and I know what good music is no matter what. I believe in good music and bad music—and that’s it. Bad music is bad in blue grass, rock, no matter what.
AllHipHop.com: What kind of music you listen to, because word is you like to listen to Coldplay and stuff like that?
Jay-Z: Like I said I believe in good music and bad music. You could catch me listening to Sarah Mclaughlin… (Singing) “Baby, I don’t believe I held you.” That’s just me. (Laughing)
AllHipHop.com: What is your most prized possession?
Jay-Z: The Nets (Laughs)
AllHipHop.com: How was it to finally make a dream come true and perform in Madison Square Garden?
Jay-Z: When performing in an arena—you feel it in your heart. The lighting is perfect. There’s nothing like performing in Madison Square Garden.
AllHipHop.com: Can you talk about your MTV special Mash Ups with Linkin Park?
Jay-Z: What happened was Mike [Shinoda of Linkin Park], is a wonderful producer. He goes from the booth to the keyboard to the Pro Tools. So we came up with all these different mixes. All I’m saying is that Mike spearheaded that whole thing.
AllHipHop.com: So what was the highlight with working with Linkin Park?
Jay-Z: Really, Hanging out with them. We went to tom Wally’s house and he had his whole family around and had my crew, my family around and we just sat around and kicked it like we knew each other for minute. The whole group, as far as how professional they were in putting this together, was very impressive. I’m used to having to carry people and they showed me something else.
AllHipHop.com: When you were recording [with Linkin Park] I think it was “Big Pimpin’” you said that you gotta bring the young Hov back because you ran out of [breath]…
Jay-Z: Oh that [song] was “Jigga What” on some fast s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Can you talk about that because you call yourself “one take Hov?”
Jay-Z: That was in two takes (laughs) I was rusty man. Give me a break. (Laughs) It was two takes you could ask [Linkin Park].
AllHipHop.com: With a lot of beats you rapped on you had to kinda alter your flow.
Jay-Z: Yeah, it was challenging so it was fun.
AllHipHop.com: How do think your core audience feels about this mix of rock and rap, because a couple of months ago MOP released a rock album and…
Jay-Z: I think a lot of people like to be exposed to new stuff. I mean there’s good music and there’s bad music. I don’t like sectioning off music like that. I mean I was happy when I discovered [Linkin Park’s] music for the first time. My man Ty-Ty, after we did [MTV] Mash-ups, he went out and brought it for the first time and he plays it every day. I can’t even get my own s**t in rotation (Laughs) on some bulls**t. (Laughs)
AllHipHop.com: Are there any other artists from other genres that you would like to work with?
Jay-Z: Are they doing a Nirvana album?
AllHipHop.com: I heard there is one with Weezer.
Jay-Z: Nah, I want to do a Nirvana one.
AllHipHop.com: Did you experience any funny happenings at the concert with Linkin Park?
Jay-Z: Any funny happenings? No, I was so caught up in the concert that I had no time to be funny, I had to focus.
AllHipHop.com: How had Hip-Hop changed since you been [retired?]
Jay-Z: Nothing has changed I’m still new [at retiring so] everything’s the same.
AllHipHop.com: So how has Hip-Hop changed since you started?
Jay-Z: Well it’s huge now. It’s driving everything from movies, iPods to cars. It’s getting huge but along with the success, it loses its artistry but that’s a natural result. I just hope the next generation will focus more on the art. Because I mean this is the music business.
AllHipHop.com: What do you say to the guy who has a hard time writing his raps because he doesn’t feel he’s being true to himself?
Jay-Z: Well that’s the pressure that comes with it. It comes all the way from the top. This boss goes to this boss goes to this boss to you to try and get the hottest club single and make your impressions on the radio. So their focus is not to make albums or careers, their focus is to make the next hot song or the hook with Lil’ Mo. (Laughs)
AllHipHop.com: Will you ever make another album?
Jay-Z: If you ask me today, of course I would say no. I’m a human being so I try to give myself a little window, but in a few years, if I’m withdrawn somewhere [I might change my mind]. I don’t want to box my self in a corner.
AllHipHop.com: Nowadays when you perform at a concert, you don’t even have to say a word, the whole crowd knows your songs front to back. Does it freak you out to see that everyone knows your lyrics?
Jay-Z: It’s an amazing wonderful experience. It’s an indescribable feeling. When you’re rapping and they are rapping back to you sometimes with their eyes closed, you know that you reached the audience on a level way deeper than music. It like, “How do you know the words to the song I written seven years ago? You’re only seven.”
Dominga Martin is a freelance writer and the co-founder of creme-magazine.com.