There’s a profile on Jay in the NY Times’ T Magazine ahead of the Barclays Center’s opening later this month, where he sits down with writer Zadie Smith at his favorite chicken parm spot on Mulberry street to talk rap, President Obama and fish sandwiches (there actually isn’t much about the Brooklyn Nets in it). Read a few excerpts below:
The fish sandwich arrives. Conversation turns to the schoolboy who was shot to death, Trayvon Martin — “It’s really heartbreaking, that that still can happen in this day and age” — and, soon after, to Obama: “I’ve said the election of Obama has made the hustler less relevant.” When he first made this point, “People took it in a way that I was almost dismissing what I am. And I was like: no, it’s a good thing!” He didn’t have Obama growing up, only the local hustler. “No one came to our neighborhoods, with stand-up jobs, and showed us there’s a different way. Maybe had I seen different role models, maybe I’d’ve turned on to that.” Difficult to keep these two Americas in your mind. Imagine living it — within one lifetime!
Memphis Bleek also compares Jay-Z then to Jay-Z now:
The persona is cool, calm, almost frustratingly self-controlled: “Yeah, 50 Cent told me that one time. He said: ‘You got me looking like Barksdale’ ” — the hot-blooded drug kingpin from HBO’s “The Wire” — “and you get to be Stringer Bell!” — Barksdale’s levelheaded partner. The rapper Memphis Bleek, who has known Jay-Z since Bleek himself was 14, confirms this impression: “He had a sense of calm way before music. This was Jay’s plan from day one: to take over. I guess that’s why he smiles and is so calm, ’cause he did exactly what he planned in the ’90s.” And now, by virtue of being 42 and not dead, he can claim his own unique selling proposition: he’s an artist as old as his art form. The two have grown up together.
Along with his thoughts on the 1% and the Occupy Wall Street movement after the jump.
He gets a little agitated when the subject of Zuccotti Park comes up: “What’s the thing on the wall, what are you fighting for?” He says he told Russell Simmons, the rap mogul, the same: “I’m not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don’t know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?”
Jay-Z likes clarity: “I think all those things need to really declare themselves a bit more clearly. Because when you just say that ‘the 1 percent is that,’ that’s not true. Yeah, the 1 percent that’s robbing people, and deceiving people, these fixed mortgages and all these things, and then taking their home away from them, that’s criminal, that’s bad. Not being an entrepreneur. This is free enterprise. This is what America is built on.”