Jay-Z discussed his Kanye West feud, the recording of 4:44, the “Elevator Video” and his Anti-Defamation League–angering “The Story of O.J.” lyric in a candid, hour-long Tidal video interview, the first of two installments where the rapper sat down with Rap Radar’s Elliott Wilson and Brian “B.Dot” Miller.
During the interview, Jay-Z opened up about his rumored feud with Kanye West, which was detailed in the lyrics of 4:44‘s “Kill Jay Z”: “You walkin’ around like you invincible / You dropped outta school, you lost your principles / I know people backstab you, I feel bad, too / But this ‘fuck everybody’ attitude ain’t natural / But you ain’t the same, this ain’t KumbaYe / But you got hurt because you did cool by ‘Ye.”
The lyrics came after a falling out between the two rappers, a fissure in their relationship that was first exposed during one of West’s 2016 onstage rants. West is also rumored to have left Tidal’s stable of artists since the rift.
“It’s not even about Kanye, it really isn’t,” Jay Z said of the track. “His name is there, just because it’s just the truth of what happened. But the whole point is ‘You got hurt because this person was talking about you on a stage.’ But what really hurt me was, you can’t bring my kids and my wife into it. Kanye’s my little brother. He’s talked about me 100 times. He made a song called ‘Big Brother.’ We’ve gotten past bigger issues. But you brought my family into it, now it’s a problem with me. That’s a real, real problem. And he knows it’s a problem.
Jay-Z added, “He knows that he crossed the line. I know him. He knows. I know he knows, because we’ve never let this much space go between one of our disagreements, and we’ve had many, because that’s who we are. That’s what I like about him. He’s an honest person, he’s open and he’ll say things and he’s wrong a lot of times and he’ll confront it.”
The rapper also talked at length about the 4:44 recording process, with Jay Z revealing that a mold problem in a Los Angeles house he was renting at the time caused him to get sick while recording the album tracks “Smile” and “Moonlight.”
“It gave it like a vulnerability on its own,” Jay Z said. “These things would just happen as far as the vocal production.”
“This album has a lot of topics that’s why it had to be so short, it’s so condensed,” he added. “It’s so dense with subject matters and all these other things that if it was longer, you wouldn’t be able to take it; it would wear you out. It had to get to a point really quickly.”
Jay-Z later addressed to the controversial “The Story of O.J.” lyric – “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit/ You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it” – that drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League.
“I pretty much said, if you want to be good at property and things like that, follow this path,” he said. “It’s almost like saying ‘Kobe Bryant shot a lot of shots, and if you want to be good at basketball, practice and shoot a thousand shots and do what he did.’ And then Kobe Bryant comes out and says, ‘What are you saying, all black people play basketball?’ That’s how ridiculous it is.”
Jay-Z added, “Context is everything, and the context of the song clearly outlines everything I’m trying to say and the point I’m trying to make, which is you guys did it right.”
The interview also found Jay-Z providing rare insight about reconciling with Beyonce’s sister Solange after the infamous “Elevator Video,” and how that surveillance tape ultimately resulted in a trio of acclaimed LPs: Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Jay-Z’s 4:44 and Solange’s A Seat at the Table.
“I think we went into the elevator as great artists,” Jay-Z quipped. “I’ve always loved Solange’s music; I thought she was slept on until this last album… I think B made an incredible album before, a hundred of them.”