It’s been said that Jay-Z paints pictures with his rhymes, so after delivering one of the most visual albums of his career with The Blueprint 3, Hov sat down to talk to noted film critic Elvis Mitchell in the new issue of Interview magazine. The Roc Nation superstar graces the cover of the February issue in a story titled “Jay-Z: Made in the U.S.A.”
The Brooklyn lyricist was as witty as ever in a long-ranging interview that touched on his movie influences, the trappings of Eminem’s and Kanye West’s fame and having pals in the Oval Office.
“For me, being with [President Barack] Obama or having dinner with Bill Clinton … it’s just crazy. It’s mind-blowing, because where I come from is just another world. We were just ignored by politicians — by America in general,” Jay explained.
Interview, co-founded in the late ’60s by Andy Warhol, is known for its eclectic pairing of interviewers and interviewees. Mitchell, a former New York Times film critic, has had a successful career as a movie commentator and hosts the radio show “The Treatment,” covering pop-culture and film. Mitchell was also a producer for “The Black List,” the HBO documentary that examined race and culture among a diverse cast of African-Americans.
The rapper spoke with Mitchell about his enduring run as a top MC. Through a film analogy, he discussed the Robert De Niro film “Once Upon a Time in America” — when Jay was younger, the actor’s character was a favorite of his, but in watching it as an adult he was unsettled by the portrayal. “Rap, for me, is like making movies, telling stories and getting the emotions of the song through in just as deep a way,” he explained.
The conversation also turned to the rise of the rapper as a prominent pop figure in America. Jay related an anecdote about recording with Eminem and having Em show up to the studio in a bulletproof vest. He remarked on how intense Slim Shady’s fame had become, to the point where paranoia set in.
“I never even told him this, but I remember that Eminem came into the studio when we made ‘Moment of Clarity,’ which he produced, on The Black Album,” Jay said. “So here’s Eminem. It’s 2003, I think The Eminem Show had come out, and he was, like, the biggest rapper in the world — he sold, like, 20 million records worldwide or some ridiculous number. But when he came to the studio, I remember I hugged him and I could feel that he had on a bulletproof vest. I couldn’t imagine being that successful. I mean, he’s a guy who loves rap and wanted to be successful his whole career. Then he finally gets it, and there’s this dark cloud over him.”
The “Empire State of Mind” MC also defended his protégé Kanye West once again over the producer’s 2009 VMA stunt in which he interrupted Taylor Swift.
“I just think the timing of what he did was wrong and that, of course, overshadowed everything. He believed that [Beyoncé’s] ‘Single Ladies’ was a better video. I believed that. I think a lot of people believed that. You can’t give someone Video of the Year if they don’t win Best Female Video. I thought Best Female Video was something you won on the way to Video of the Year.”