10 Things We Learned from Jay-Z’s BBC Radio 1 Interview
Jay-Z was interviewed by BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe this week in what has been the most comprehensive peek into Jay's life since he put out his own book, 'Decoded.'
The interview, split into four separate videos, is over an hour in length and sees Jay talk about a variety of topics. Jay and Zane discuss everything from his recent release, 'Magna Carta Holy Grail,' to his objective behind becoming a sports agent, to balancing life as an artist with life as a father. Sure, Jay is not one to shun interviews, unlike Kanye West, but very few are able to get these type of intimate details that Zowe got.
For those that don't have the time to watch all four of these videos, here is a summarized version of ten things to learn from Jay's interview with Zane Lowe. Below are the interviews themselves.
In part one of the interview, Jay-Z mentions that he had already started working on 'Magna Carta Holy Grail' during the making of 'Watch The Throne.' Specifically, he had gotten the reference tracks for 'Holy Grail' and 'Oceans.' However, he made the mixtake of playing the two songs for Kanye.
Kanye immediately demanded that the two songs be included on 'Watch The Throne.' Jay refused, and as a result, an argument broke out. It raged on for four days, and according to Jay, it might have even gotten a little physical amongst associates (although that might have just been a joke).
Finally, Jay soothed things over by enlisting The-Dream and Frank Ocean to come to the studio, and together, they came up with two songs for the Throne: 'No Church In The Wild' and 'Made In America.' And to think, neither of those two standouts on 'Watch The Throne' would have even existed had Jay not been working on his solo project.
Timbaland had just given a lengthy interview with Revolt TV talking about how Jay and him reconnected after a falling out. In the first part of this interview, we find out that Jay and Timb parted ways for awhile around the time of 'Blueprint 3,' in 2009.
According to Jay, Timbaland's ego was too much to deal with during that time, which caused Jay to fall back from reaching out. TImbaland did produce three songs on the album, including the collaboration with Jay and Drake, but ultimately, those songs became the source of controversy as they were among the first to leak prematurely. This only caused more friction between the two.
Around the time of 'Watch The Throne,' however, Timbaland managed to humble himself and apologized for his behavior, and the result was the two men coming together for 'Magna Carta Holy Grail.'
Jungle Studios is owned by Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys. In the last few months, it has been the home of three major albums: Jay's 'Magna Carta Holy Grail,' Justin Timberlake's 'The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2),' and Beyonce's upcoming album.
For starters, this explains why Timbaland was able to work so extensively with Jay on an album for the first time in both of their careers. When 'The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2)' and Beyonce's new album come out, it will be interesting to compare them, because the cast of characters involved in making them are largely the same.
'BBC' is one of the more interesting songs on the album because of its extensive list of guest appearances. Joining Jay on the track are Nas, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz, and Timbaland. How did all of these people come together?
In part two of the interview, Jay-Z explains that he had brought Pharrell to Jungle Studios following the 10th Anniversary Dinner of Billionaire Boys Club. Also at Jungle at the same time were Timberlake and Swizz Beatz. Meanwhile, Nas suddenly popped into the studio, brought there by Timbaland, who had been wanting to chop it up with him.
When Jay saw this all-star cast come together in the same studio, a lightbulb went off. “If we don’t make a record tonight, shame on us.” Immediately, they went to work, and the result is 'BBC,' named after the clothing company that brought the whole lineup together.
The showdown between Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas in 1990 culminated in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Brooklyn's "Iron Mike" got knocked out by Douglas in the tenth round of the fight, which took place in Tokyo. Tyson's demise is a key motif in 'Magna Carta Holy Grail,' an example of the demise that sometimes await those at the top of their game.
However, Jay was apparently nowhere near Brooklyn when that fight happened.
As Jay tells Lowe, he watched the fight in London with his then close friend Jaz-O. Considering that this fight took place in 1990, well before Jay's rap career took off, what was he doing across the pond at that time?
Jaz had been generating some noise for his two singles: 'Hawaiian Sophie' and 'The Originators,' both of which featured a young Jay. It looked like his own musical career was strong enough to the point where he could perform shows overseas. Jay, meanwhile, served as Jaz's hypeman, and that would explain why he came to London with Jaz.
While J. Cole famously 'Let Nas Down' with his debut album, 'Cole World: The Sideline Story,' due in part to the lead single, 'Work Out,' the album has received a stamp of approval from Jay-Z.
In part 3 of the interview, Jay says that Cole's album was the product of "A&R development," and that its release was ultimately successful. Jay goes on to say that Cole is now in a position where he will always be relevant as long as he's inspired to continue to make music.
This "A&R Development" that Jay refers to was the bane of Cole's existence for months, as he struggled to get his fans his long-awaited debut album. The delay and subsequent singles, were heavily criticized by many, criticism that Cole has tried to turn onto the label. Maybe the two want to speak to each other about what transpired with that album and figure out the discrepancies.
Sure, Jay is an associate of Barack Obama, who happens to be the President of the United States. And sure, he has performed for political rallies on behalf of the President's reelection campaign and was a guest at the Inauguration. But that does not mean that Jay is an avid follower of politics.
In fact, Jay insists that he wants nothing to do with politics or the political process. He accuses politicians of voting with the wrong intentions, and cites the intense resistance to pass health care reform.
However, his quote regarding the issue of health care reform is quite interesting. Jay says, “How can you vote against health? Like ‘I don’t want you to get better.'” First of all, Jay is oversimplifying health care reform legislation. Perhaps this is his way of saying that he doesn't care about the nebulous arguments that politicians have over bills like this that affect the people. But by saying this, Jay is actually using rhetoric on par with many politicians in justifying his case.
I guess it's just 'Politics As Usual' for Jay.
In the last part of the interview, Lowe gets Jay to talk about his daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. Asked to describe Blue's personality and mannerisms, Jay says that she is very reserved and thoughtful. In this manner, he says, she is similar to Jay himself. For starters, Jay has certainly grown out of that quiet nature in childhood to become the rapper and superstar that he is today. However, I wonder what Beyonce would have to say about Blue taking after her dad so prominently.
According to Jay-Z, 'Tom Ford' came during a creative burst of energy that was used to make the bulk of 'Magna Carta Holy Grail.' When Timbaland came up with the beat, he also added a hook as a reference. Timbo's hook, however, was not the simple yet blunt "Tom Ford" that Jay chants on the released version of the song.
According to Jay, the hook originally on 'Tom Ford' was interpolated from a line off 'Holy Grail:' "Riding by in the big body, curtains all in my window." Jay wasn't a fan of this, because he felt it too cliche. Mulling it over for a couple of days, he eventually decided upon the somewhat enigmatic "Tom Ford" hook, and that's what it became on the final version.
Towards the end of the interview, Lowe asks Jay about new music. While Jay doesn't mention anything too specific solo-wise, he is quick to name drop Kanye and 'Watch The Throne 2.' This follows tweets from insiders such as Mike Dean that the sequel to the Throne album will be coming next. That said, there has yet to be a timetable on the album, and with Jay going on tour and Kanye having just become a father for the first time, it's not likely that the two will start working on it anytime soon.