Fresh off eight Grammy nominations for his thirteenth studio album, 4:44, Jay-Z sat down with The New York Times‘ T Magazine to discuss the political climate of America, the role his music plays in that narrative, his touchy relationship with Kanye West, and his experience with therapy.
CASSIUS rounded up Hov’s most important quotes from the interview:
On what it’s like to be in pain when you have all the ingredients of happiness in your life and how it manifested in his previous work like “Song Cry:”
“Yeah. I did this song called “Song Cry…. And the idea of the hook—’Never seen it comin’ down my eyes, but I gotta make the song cry.’ It tells you right there what I was, I was hiding.
“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 “The Story Of O.J.” and who the song was meant for:
“I’m specifically speaking to us. And about who we are and how do you maintain the sense of self while pushing it forward and holding us to have a responsibility for our actions. Because in America, it is what it is. And there’s a solution for us: If we had a power base together, it would be a much different conversation than me having a conversation by myself and trying to change America by myself.”
On what it’s like to be Black during Trump’s presidency:
“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 what it was like often being the only Black man in the boardroom as a minority stakeholder in the Nets:
“It was, um, it’s strange, but at the same time I think that…I think that in that room, my celebrity allowed me a voice that probably would have been awkward for someone [else] in my position being the only Black person in the room to break through.”
On why the NFL is more politically active than the NFL:
“I think because, first of all, it’s smaller numbers. It’s 12 people on a team. In football you have 53 people. So it’s harder to get 53 people thinking the same thing. It’s easier to have a conversation to get 12 people on the same page. For one. Two, [the N.B.A. has] a great … they have a great commissioner who’s really open.”
On how the very personal albums 4:44 and Lemonade came about:
“…we were using our art almost like a therapy session. And we started making music together.
“And then the music she was making at that time was further along. So her album came out as opposed to the joint album that we were working on. Um, we still have a lot of that music. And this is what it became. There was never a point where it was like, ‘I’m making this album.’ I was right there the entire time.”
On how he plans to teach his children about his tough upbringing:
“…you have to educate your children on the world as it exists today and how it got to that space, but my child doesn’t need the same tools that I needed growing up. I needed certain tools to survive my area that my child doesn’t need. They’re growing up in a different environment. But also they have to know their history. Have a sense of what it took to get to this place. And have compassion for others. The most important thing I think out of all this is to teach compassion and to identify with everyone’s struggle….”
On his experience with therapy, which he rapped about on 4:44:
“I grew so much from the experience. But I think the most important thing I got is that everything is connected. Every emotion is connected and it comes from somewhere. And just being aware of it. Being aware of it in everyday life puts you at such a…you’re at such an advantage. You know, you realize that if someone’s racist toward you, it ain’t about you. It’s about their upbringing and what happened to them, and how that led them to this point. You know, most bullies bully. It just happen. Oh, you got bullied as a kid so you trying to bully me. I understand.”
On his current, complicated relationship with Kanye West after his recent conversation with him:
“Kanye came into this business on my label. So I’ve always been like his big brother. And we’re both entertainers. It’s always been like 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. You know what I’m saying? And then there’s like a lot of other factors that play in it. But it’s gonna, we gonna always be good.”