Jay-Z Talks Race, Trump, O.J. Simpson, Therapy, Beyonce and Kanye West

In a long interview with New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet published Wednesday, Jay-Z held forth on a number of topics including O.J. Simpson and his song about him “The Story of O.J.,” race in America, President Trump, former President Obama, his experience with therapy, his relationship with Kanye West, and much more. Jay-Z received a leading eight nominations for the Grammy Awards, which were announced Tuesday, including one for Record of the Year for “The Story of O.J.” Highlight excerpts from the Times story follow:

On “The Story of O.J.”
“It’s like, I’m specifically speaking to us [as black Americans]. 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 how Trump’s election has changed the conversation about racism
“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.’] … 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. … Well, an ideal way [to have that conversation] is to have a president that says, ‘I’m open to dialogue and fixing this.’ That’s ideal. But it’s still happening in a good way, because you can’t have a solution until you start dealing with the problem: What you reveal, you heal.”

On 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 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. [There’s tension now], but that happens. In the long relationship, you know, hopefully when we’re 89 we look at this six months or whatever time and we laugh at that.”

On his and Beyonce’s confessional albums
“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. [The confessional aspect was] very, very uncomfortable, but […] the best place in the, you know, hurricane is like in the middle of it. … And 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.”

 

 

 

 

 

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