Amid the massive success of his new album, “4:44,” where he provides the truth behind some of the industry’s biggest headlines, Jay-Z sat down with Dean Baquet of the New York Times to dive deeper into the stories behind the album. In a 35-minute interview, the two touched on politics, his marriage, and being a black man in Trump’s America.
To kick off the interview, the rapper opened up about “The Story of O.J.” He discussed the reason he wrote it and the message behind the powerful song and video.
“It’s a nuanced song, you know,” Jay said. “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,” he said, revealing that in order to progress as a race, we have to stick together instead of disconnecting from the culture. “The goal is not to be successful and famous. That’s not the goal. The goal is, if you have a specific God-given ability, is to live your life out through that. One. And two, we have a responsibility to push the conversation forward until we are equal. ‘Til we’re all equal in this place. Because until everyone’s free, no one’s free and that’s just a fact.”
The two then went on to continue the discussion about race in America and how prior to Donald Trump’s presidency, the issue was hidden. Now, with Trump in office, everyone is forced to deal with it, “forced to have the dialogue,” which in Hov’s eyes, is the great thing about Trump’s presidency. “You can’t have a solution until you start dealing with the problem: What you reveal, you heal,” Jay said.
As the conversation continued, the two discussed Jay’s relationship with Kanye West, who he recently revealed to have an issue with over the rapper’s on-stage rant about Jay and his wife, Beyoncé.
“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,” he said. “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 facts that play in it. But it’s gonna, we gonna always be good.”
Although there’s still tension between the two, Jay says they will hopefully be able to look back at this time period and laugh about it. But, it’s “just that there’s certain things that happened that’s not really acceptable to me,” Jay added, saying, “we just need to speak about it. But there’s genuine love there.”
He then shifted to his wife, where he confirmed that the two were working on a joint album, as they both worked on their therapeutic releases with Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Jay’s “4:44.” He explained the he and his wife were present for both projects and although it was “very, very uncomfortable,” he said “the best place in the, you know, hurricane is like in the middle of it.”
“That’s where we were sitting. And it was uncomfortable. And we had a lot of conversations. You know. [I was] really proud of the music she made, and she was really proud of the art I released. And, you know, at the end of the day we really have a healthy respect for one another’s craft. I think she’s amazing.”
“You know, most people walk away, and like divorce rate is like 50 percent or something ‘cause most people can’t see themselves. The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone’s face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself,” he continued. “So, you know, most people don’t want to do that. You don’t want to look inside yourself. And so you walk away.”