Instead of sharing a rash of new songs or another 4:44 video, as has become routine, JAY-Z used this Friday to release the first part of a candid interview on Tidal's Rap Radar podcast. The hour-long conversation with Elliott Wilson and Brian "B.Dot" Miller covered the making of 4:44, JAY-Z's recent fall-out with Kanye West, the controversial lyrics in "The Story of OJ," and the infamous 2014 video that showed a fight between Hov and his sister-in-law, Solange Knowles.
Asked about 4:44 opener "Kill JAY-Z," in which he raps openly about his recent, prolonged dispute with Kanye West, Hov tried to focus the track's intent.
"It's not even about Kanye, it really isn't. His name is there, just because it's just the truth of what happened. But the whole point is, 'You got hurt because this person was talking about you on a stage.' But what really hurt me was—you can't bring my kids and my wife into it. Kanye's my little brother. He's talked about me 100 times. He made a song called 'Big Brother.' We've gotten past bigger issues. But you brought my family into it, now it's a problem with me. That's a real, real problem. And he knows it's a problem. He knows that he crossed the line. I know him. He knows. I know he knows, because we've never let this much space go between one of our disagreements, and we've had many, because that's who we are. That's what I like about him. He's an honest person, he's open and he'll say things and he's wrong a lot of times and he'll confront it.
In response to the controversy over certain lyrics on 4:44's "The Story of OJ," JAY-Z seemed exasperated. Around the album's release, the lyric in question—"You wanna know what's more important than throwin' away money at a strip club? Credit / You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it"—sparked responses from all angles, including the Anti-Defamation League. Speaking to Wilson and Miller, though, JAY-Z said that the track as a whole blows stereotypes up in order to demonstrate their absurdity.
It's hard for me to take that serious, because I exaggerated every black image in the world[…] If even you, as the Jewish community, if you don't have a problem with the exaggerations of the guy eating watermelon and all the things that was happening… If you don't have a problem with that, and that's the only line you pick out, then you are being a hypocrite. I can't address that in a real way. I gotta leave that where it is. It was exaggeration. Of course I know Jewish people don't own all the property in the world. I mean, I own things! It was an exaggeration, much like that racist cartoon.
He was comfortable talking about the infamous "Elevator Video" that showed a fight between the rapper and Solange. "We've always had a great relationship," JAY-Z said of his sister-in-law. "We've had one disagreement. Before and after, we've been cool[…] That's my sister. Not my sister-in-law, no. My sister. Period."
Some of the most interesting moments in the interview come in the small details about the making of 4:44, including the process that he embarked on with producer NO I.D., and the marketing of the record. The confusion around 4:44 when the marketing campaign started in the spring—nobody seemed sure if it was a movie, a new JAY-Z album, a TV series, or a music video—was intentional. Sort of. "I had it rolled out, and we kind of moved on the fly," he told Wilson and Miller:
"We just wanted to drop the title, which we did. We put out the 4:44 all around on buses and billboards and things[…] I was like, 'Right, we got two weeks before we drop this.' By the night, it was on Channel 11 News. It was everywhere. CNN was like, 'I think JAY-Z's dropping an album." "Before that [the Mahershala Ali and Danny Glover preview video], I just dropped the billboards and then it got figured out in 24 hours and I was like, okay, we've got three more weeks, we've gotta think of some things. And that's where the Danny Glover thing came about. I was like, Okay, let's be an asshole, let's just throw a little curveball, you won't know if it's an album or a video or a film[…] You want people to be surprised and happy when they get a project. You don't want people just sitting on it, waiting.
You can watch the interview in full at the top of the page if you have Tidal.
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