He’s had more Number One albums than Elvis Presley. He hangs with Barack Obama at the White House. And he’s riding high after leaving his longtime label Def Jam to work a $150 million deal with Live Nation, delivering some of his best live performances ever. At the age of 40, Jay-Z qualifies as an elder statesman of hip-hop, a fact that’s more remarkable considering other rap peers have hung up the mike to pursue careers in Hollywood. So how does he run the game?
In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, contributing editor Mark Binelli goes one-on-one with the New York legend, watching Jay-Z try on a new suit in his sprawling Manhattan office and tagging along to the Four Seasons, where the rapper goofs by mispronouncing actor Kelsey Grammer’s name at a watch auction (after calling the Frasier star “Chelsea,” he asks Binelli how to spell “faux pas”). It seems the man who made his name rhyming about hustling and hos in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects is actually more comfortable around an unlikely new crowd: indie rockers. “I love the energy coming out indie rock right now,” he says, name-checking Grizzly Bear. “It has this rebellion thing that hip-hop is missing now, the thing that made hip-hop hip-hop.”
While Jay is notoriously private about his life with wife Beyoncé, Binelli gets the rapper to let down his guard, and Jay reveals his superstar better half vetoed a piece of artwork he’d bought for their 8,000-square-foot Tribeca penthouse. The black-and-white Laurie Simmons photograph in question depicted “a noirishly lit pistol with a pair of women’s legs emerging from the handle… Beyoncé sent it back and had it replaced with a similar Simmons piece, only depicting a perfume bottle instead of a gun.” Binelli also encourages Jay to open up about his biggest challenges as president of Def Jam (the most frustrating meeting? “Honestly? All of them”) and his one and only experience in therapy, when as Binelli writes, “The psychiatrist gave him tea that made him sleepy and asked him questions like, ‘Who are your best friends?’ ”
Popular on Rolling Stone
Find out why Jay isn’t trying to lure pal LeBron James to the Nets and why he thinks many rappers have failed to age gracefully in our new issue, on sale at newsstands now.
Also in this issue: Tim Dickinson gets the inside story of how Obama failed to crack down on the corruption of the Bush years — and how BP, the world’s most dangerous oil company, got away with murder; Louisiana native and Clinton strategist James Carville blasts Obama’s handling of the oil spill; Chris Norris stays up all night with LCD Soundsystem; RS looks inside the music industry’ worst summer touring season in a decade; hop on the road with Jack Johnson in Santa Monica and more.