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Jay-Z talks race in America, Beyoncé joint album, and Kanye West in NYT interview

Ralph Bristout

 // Nov 29, 2017

As the Year of Hov culminated in a 2018 Grammy nomination sweep this week, leading the race with a total of eight, Jay-Z sat with New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet for an extensive interview that could easily be considered his most revealing yet. The sit-down begins with Orenthal James Simpson, who, otherwise known as O.J. Simpson, is the thematic anatomy of 4:44's Grammy-nominated single "The Story of O.J." From there, the conversation veers into the state of black America in 2017, President Trump, that joint album with Beyoncé, and recently reconnecting with Kanye West. Check out some of the highlight excerpts from the Times story, which can also be viewed, below.

On the idea of "The Story of O.J."

"It's a nuanced song, you know. It's like, 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. If I come with 40 million people, there's a different conversation, right? It's just how it works. I can effect change and get whomever in office because this many people, we're all on the same page. Right? So the conversation is, like, "I'm not rich, I'm O.J." For us to get in that space and then disconnect from the culture. That's how it starts. This is what happens. And then you know what happens? You're on your own, and you see how that turned out."

On President Donald Trump and his impact on race in America

"There was a great Kanye West line in one of [his] songs: "Racism's still alive, they just be concealin' it." ["Never Let Me Down," from West's 2004 album, "The College Dropout."] 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 his experience with therapy

"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.

And once I understand that, instead of reacting to that with anger, I can provide a softer landing and maybe, "Aw, man, is you O.K.?" I was just saying there was a lot of fights in our neighborhood that started with "What you looking at? Why you looking at me? You looking at me?" And then you realize: "Oh, you think I see you. You're in this space where you're hurting, and you think I see you, so you don't want me to look at you. And you don't want me to see you."

On the joint album with Beyoncé

"[4:44 and Lemonade] happened — 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 Kanye West

"I [talked to] Kanye the other day, just to tell him, like, he's my brother. I love Kanye. I do. It's a complicated relationship with us.

'Cause, you know — 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."

Read more from Jay-Z's Times interview here.

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