Jay-Z Says a Great Song Is Created ‘in Five Minutes’
Rolling Stone is revisiting Jay-Z‘s essay on the making of a classic record. Last year, the rock magazine updated their 500 Greatest Song of All Time list by adding Hova and in their updated issue posted an introduction from the rapper. The intro made its way online this week, a year after the issue ran.
As for the recipe for a classic song or music, Jay-Z described it in both technical and general terms. “A great song has all the key elements — melody; emotion; a strong statement that becomes part of the lexicon; and great production,” wrote Jay-Z while name checking Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’
In his essay, the ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle’ rapper delved into a bit of his own creative process. “When I’m writing a song that I know is going to work, it’s a feeling of euphoria,” wrote Jay-Z. “It’s how a basketball player must feel when he starts hitting every shot, when you’re in that zone. As soon as you start, you get that magic feeling, an extra feeling. Songs like that come out in five minutes; if I work on them more than, say, 20 minutes, they’re probably not going to work.”
Jay also cited artists and songwriters like Babyface, Lionel Richie, Rakim, Dr. Dre and Quincy Jones as having influenced various elements to how he creates his own music. Another producer Hov praised was Rick Rubin, who produced ’99 Problems,’ which is #172 on Rolling Stone’s list. Ultimately for Hov, a song becomes great when it leaves a lasting impression, literally and figuratively.
“When a phrase gets stuck in your head like a great melody and becomes part of everyday culture, that’s when it can become something great,” wrote Jay-Z. “When your music signifies a time in the culture or continues on in everyday life, like ‘Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud’ or ‘A Change Is Gonna Come.’ Or when something like ‘Bling Bling’ even makes it into the dictionary. Then you know you’ve done your job.”