Last week, Jay-Z sat down with the Rap Radar podcast to give his first interview since the release of his 4:44 album—and in the hour-long discussion, Hov opened up about Kanye, not dissing Future, the importance of the album and much more.
That was only the first half, though.
A week later, at 4:44pm of course, the second part of the in-depth discussion has been revealed and it’s just as dope as the first.
Opening up about “Smile” and his relationship with his mother, Gloria Carter (“My mom has been dope her whole life.”), before going into Blue’s contribution of the album. He also speaks on his upcoming live shows (which includes an appearance on Saturday Night Live later this month), squashing beefs with Fat Joe and Jim Jones, the Swizz Beatz vs Just Blaze battle, Watch the Throne, and Amy Winehouse. He further explains the “money phone” line, debates his catalog, remembers Chester Bennington, and touches on mental health and depression.
Check it out below. Like last week, the audio is available to everyone, but the video is only available to those with a TIDAL membership.
UPDATE: The video is now available to all via YouTube.
On “Smile” and his mother, Gloria Carter
“I’ll let her tell the full story, it’s a beautiful story. I’ve always looked up to her. Man, she’s so fuckin dope. My moms has been dope her whole life. Listen to her, she sounds like Maya Angelou. Her pacing, her voice — it’s so regal. She’s a speaker.
Our relationship developed to another level when I was getting into myself and just wanting to know everything. Really trying to take it to another level. We had a beautiful conversation, which led me to making the song. I didn’t have the permission to make the song. When she first heard the song, she was like absolutely not. But man, this is so important. So many people in the world are hiding. This will help them. And that’s all I’ll say about it, that’s how we spoke on it. I’m just so happy for the person she’s becoming. Just live your life and be proud of who you are. One of my proudest songs.”
On Blue Ivy’s contribution to the album
“I had just finished ‘Family Feud’ and I really liked the beat for ‘We Family.’ I was like, ‘I think I can take that song up a notch.’ So, I started playing the beat and I was playing it for so long that I started doing something. She went and she got the headphones and she climbed on a little stool and then she just started rapping. Well, she started doing that and the pockets she was catching, I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ I couldn’t believe that. I have it on my phone. Five minutes. That was all I put on there but five minutes of her doing that. Amazing pockets. But kept bringing back ‘Boom-shaka-laka.’ I was like, ‘Oh, she understands the concept of a hook!’ She’s five. She understands the concept of a hook. And then she caught that, ‘Never seen a ceiling in my whole life.’ I was like, ‘What the fuck is going on in here?!’ One of the great memories.”
Will it be different energy raising a son?
“Yeah, if I’m being honest. I try to say no, (*laughs) but yeah. [How young will he learn to slap box?] Sh*t, he gotta figure that out like.. 2? Kids on the playground these days, they learn how to use a phone early, they gonna be on YouTube — you ain’t gonna WorldStar my kid!”
On the Songwriters Hall of Fame and pushing the culture forward
“I take writing serious. The art of writing, the things that work on multiple levels, it’s hard to do. You gotta take a concentrated effort to make it work like ‘on the surface level it’s gonna sound like I’m saying THIS, but what’s really working behind it is THIS, and then sometimes it’s THIS.’ My approach to writing, I take it so serious. So, to be recognized on that level, it was just one of those moments where I was happy. I was happy for myself and I was happy for the culture. I’m like, man, how are we not in here? Why do people think that rap just took over as the most important genre — because of streaming numbers? It’s been happened, rap has been the most important genre in music for twenty years now — that’s just a fact. When pop artists need credibility, who they coming to see? They’re coming to get a rapper to rap on that thing. That tells you something right there.”
“If we don’t have any real problems. Let’s not pretend. If we’re not seeing each other and there’s a problem, like a shoot-out on site, let’s stop the fake beef.
I don’t wanna have rap beef. I don’t. I’m checked out of that part of the game. I had my fair share. I had fun. I’m still here to talk about it, so it was great.”
“Prodigy, there was obviously no control over what happened to him, but we gotta take care of ourselves. I had super respect for Prodigy. In order for me to really spar with you, I gotta respect you. I sampled him for my first album, so you know I was aware of him and had respect for him. He and I spoke before he passed; I saw him in the club maybe five years ago. He just came over and we kicked it. It wasn’t about nothing. Just sad, you know? Blessings to his family. Young, young man…”
Is 4:44 it or will Jay-Z release more albums?
“Yeah, if I have something to talk about, and if it’s great. If it’s not great, then no. I just want to make great shit. And it has to be great to me. That’s what it’s really about. I have to be happy with it.
Like Vol. 1 was a great album, but I can’t rank it high because I wasn’t happy with it. Because of the missteps that I made in that process. I mean, I had “Streets Is Watching,” “Where I’m From” is on this album, “You Must Love Me.” All these great records I love, but i cant rank it high because of the mistepps. So, I learned from that. I have to make things that I really love, and then I can be cool with it—no matter the results. I’m not looking for some perfect send off. I tried the retirement thing, it sucked, I was really bad at that.”
How many classic albums does Jay-Z have?
“Six. Reasonable Doubt, Vol. 2, Blueprint, Black Album, American Gangster, and 4:44.
What Thriller is to Michael is what Vol. 2 is to me. What Off the Wall is to him, Blueprint is to me — the beloved album that everyone loves versus the one that was so big. And no, I’m not saying Vol. 2 is Thriller. You know the analogy I’m making.”
What about Watch The Throne?
“If it’s not there today, in a couple years it will be. Only because people had to get from behind the names. It’s hard to match the anticipation on something like that. ‘Jay-Z and Kanye are gonna make an album?! This shit better be the most’ — that was one of the reasons I told [Kanye] lets not put out ‘HAM,’ lets not put out no single, put the album out. Let’s put the album out and give them the full body of work. Because if you give them one thing to judge and nitpick apart, it’s me and you. Like, we could come with ‘N***as in Paris’ with the ‘[It’s All About The] Benjamins’ beat and they’ll be like ‘Meh, it’s ok. I like it, but they can do better.” There’s no fulfilling that expectation, and I think it suffered from that.”
On the loss of Chester Bennington and mental health…
“Another side of the coin. Not only do we have to watch our physical health and what we do to our bodies, but also our mental health. A lot of people are going through trauma and they’re too embarrassed to get help. Especially in these neighborhoods where we grew up. They talk about post traumatic stress, shit, there’s people with two of their brothers dead, their father got killed or their father is locked up. That’s trauma, a lot of things that aren’t being dealt with.
You look at people like Shakir [Stewart] and Chris Lighty. Like, man what could be going through their minds. A lot of the times we tend to view it like they were selfish. No they weren’t, they’re sick, they were in pain. You can’t imagine that type of pain, especially unchecked. We’re not dealing with it, because it aint the cool thing to do.
Unfortunately, these things have to happen on a large stage for everyone to see. Like, ‘oh man, this guy seemed to have everything and that happened to him. Maybe I got to take care of my situation.’ It’s unfortunate. Hopefully, as a society, we use it to go forward. People start getting help for things they are going through.”
… depression and Amy Winehouse.
“People are human. Then you have this elevated level way of life. It’s not normal to have 10-20,000 people screaming at you. It’s not a normal thing to deal with. So then you add that on top, so now you gotta start masking that pain, because you can’t let all these people see. It’s hard enough to talk to your family. It’s hard enough for people to talk about real shit with their family, six people at a table and its like ‘I cant speak about this.’ Imagine having to speak in front of the world. It’s like, now I gotta medicate, now I gotta take these things to numb the pain.
Amy Winehouse was telling us. She was writing these songs to our face. ‘They’re trying to make me go to rehab, I’m not going.’ Like, what, you have to go.
First time I met Amy, we were at The Spotted Pig. She had performed at Joe’s Pub and she was cool. Normal, she was drinking on stage, she was cool. Then she got to The Spotted Pig and she was stuttering. And I’m like ‘You don’t even stutter, why are you doing that? You weren’t stuttering earlier, you’re stuttering now.’ And I looked at her and told her ‘yo, stay with us.’ The first time I met her, the first time, I told her ‘stay with us.’ Crazy.
Everyone needs to take care of themselves, and take care of each other. With this album, we can talk about real shit and real issues and get through real pain. It took a level of soul searching and self examination, maturing and evolution. It’s tough. I know how tough it is first hand, and I know you can go to a dark place. ‘What you don’t reveal, you can’t heal.’
When language has reached its limit, disease sets in. Powerful statement. You’re telling yourself you’re stressed out, you don’t do nothing about it, your hair starts falling out. You’re like, ‘oh shit,’ but don’t do nothing about it, so now your liver gets bad. ‘Oh shit.’ Now you have cancer — disease sets in. Because it tried to tell you… here’s the signals, stop, do something about this. Your liver is gone, do something about this. And people keep going and going and keep going until you off the edge. You have to really check in with yourself and know what’s really going on.
These losses could be a great lesson for us. Someone somewhere could be looking at Chester right now and is like ‘man, I wasn’t feeling too good and I need to get some help or I need to talk to somebody about it”. Hopefully, that’s how it works.”
Big ups to Vic Mensa.
“I knew he was special, from the beginning. He’s so talented, he can do everything. He can really sing, in real life, and he can rap really good. I get happy when I see that and it comes to fruition. Like, J. Cole doing two nights at Barclays. I remember sitting in the office with him in the very beginning and going through that long process of getting his album out and getting out of his way. Same with Vic, Vic was in the studio with me the whole time. I wasn’t in his way at all. Just allowing him to figure it out, saying things along the way. Not dictating how things have to go, no ‘I need this single, I need the girl song, this is what’s happening, you need to collaborate with Katy Perry.’ Just getting out of his way and letting him become who he is. And now, I think people are starting to see who he is. They see that freestyle on Sway (which we gave Verse Of The Month) and they’re starting to understand like ‘oh my god.'”
“People emulate the end result, not the process.”
“The end result is what they see, so they emulate that. No — there’s all these free throws. Before Kobe Bryant scored that 61, that day he was practicing. He practiced his whole life. Are you willing to put in that sort of commitment? Are you willing to pracitce your whole life? Mayweather, Mayweather is probably running right now. Sure, you wanna be on that jet and all that. But do you want to put in that work? Tha’ts what it takes for somethiing great. That level of time, that level of commitment.”