Jay-Z Buys What Resonates

November 15, 2010
Photo: The Howard Stern Show

Jay-Z stopped by to promote his new book, ‘Decoded,’ and Howard immediately began asking about his lavish lifestyle.

Jay said he lived in a small apartment in Tribeca and wasn’t an ‘investment’ art buyer: “I try to buy things that resonate with me. I have everything from Warhol to Tim Noble and Sue Webster.”

Later, Jay-Z bristled when Howard suggested that he had 12 bodyguards–he and Beyonce only employ two: “I don’t want people to think we travel with an entourage.”

What Oprah Doesn’t Get

Howard asked about his Oprah interview, so Jay explained that Oprah had difficulty understanding hip-hop: “I knew we came up in different eras. So for her, the n-word has different meaning…our generation, we took that word and turned it into a term of endearment.” Jay said he didn’t support Oprah’s ‘no n-word’ policy: “People give words power…if we take [certain] words off the table, the words just change. Not the attitude.”

He’s Got a Million Therapists

Jay said a lot of his anger came from the time his father left, though he should’ve seen the split coming: “Our house was the party house. We had a huge record collection. There were little hints, like my Mom and my Dad had their names on their records.”

After he was successful, Jay tried to set up a meeting to reconcile their issues, but his father didn’t show up the first time. Jay consoled his mom, telling her: “We’ve seen this movie before.”

Jay added that he did eventually meet his father, only to have his father die from an illness a few months later. Howard thought Jay’s father would’ve at least shown up to beg for money, but Jay appreciated that part: “[It] made me respect him in an odd way.”

Jay said he’s rarely approached by people from his past who want money, as he has a loyal buffer zone: “My immediate family is so protective.” Any issue or family conflict he has goes right into his art: “I got a million therapists.”

Can’t Knock the Hustle

Jay told Howard that he’d turned to rap because he had trouble identifying with popular black musicians like Prince and Michael Jackson: “They were so far removed from who we were everyday…we were telling stories of things that happened yesterday.”

He became the voice of hustlers, those who were “figuring out a way to make good for yourself in the society…anybody who has the drive to make something happen.”

Jay said his success as a crack dealer (“Incredible. Not the best, but I was pretty good.”) taught him that there was an untapped audience for his music: “I knew there was a generation of kids that went through what I went through that the record companies didn’t understand.”

A hustler’s sense is a sense for business: “I could be Bill Gates. I could be Warren Buffett. What separates us two is opportunity.”

Is He Still Hood?

Howard wondered if Jay still felt ‘hood’ or suffered from a kind of survivor’s guilt, so Jay explained: “I try to stay attached with the culture with everything I do. It’s very difficult, but I know where that comes from…you don’t have to be sitting on a bench in Marcy Projects to represent the culture.”

Jay said his past will always link him with his listeners: “I’m still in touch in with those emotions and feelings.”