Vanity Fair put an actual living celebrity on the cover of their November issue. Can you believe it?! I can’t. Especially since the November issue coincides with the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. Surely this would have been the perfect time for even more Kennedy nostalgia? And if not a Kennedy story, why not yet another dead celebrity? In all seriousness, Jay-Z does deserve more magazine covers – he’s one of the most successful people in the music industry, he’s married to another successful artist and he’s always an interesting interview. Here’s the VF story:
Shawn Carter, better known as Jay Z, tells Vanity Fair contributing editor Lisa Robinson in the November issue that although his wife, Beyoncé, says that their 18-month-old daughter, Blue Ivy, prefers Jay’s music to hers, he’s not so sure.
“That’s not true. She does like her mother’s music—she watches [Beyoncé’s concerts] on the computer every night. But my album came out and I don’t know if Blue ever heard any of my music prior to this album—she’s only 18 months old and I don’t play my music around the house. But this album was new, so we played it. And she loves all the songs. She plays a song and she goes, ‘More, Daddy, more . . . Daddy song.’ She’s my biggest fan. If no one bought the Magna Carta [album], the fact that she loves it so much, it gives me the greatest joy. And that’s not like a cliché. I’m really serious. Just to see her—‘Daddy song, more, Daddy.’ She’s genuine, she’s honest, because she doesn’t know it makes me happy. She just wants to hear it.”
Jay tells Robinson that Barack Obama’s 2008 election “actually renewed my spirit for America. It was like, Oh, wow, man, this whole thing about land of the free, home of the . . . it’s, like, real—it’s going to happen, everyone’s getting to participate in it. But growing up, if you had ever told a black person from the hood you can be president, they’d be like, I could never . . . If you had told me that as a kid, I’d be like, Are you out of your mind? How?”
Jay tells Robinson that his mother knew he was dealing drugs as a teenager, “but we never really had those conversations. We just pretty much ignored it. But she knew. All the mothers knew. It sounds like ‘How could you let your son . . . ’ but I’m telling you, it was normal.”
Jay’s checkered past taught him a few things that he says will come in handy in his new role as a sports agent: “I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer,” he tells Robinson. “To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up. Or if you want to start some sort of barbershop or car wash—those were the businesses back then. Things you can get in easily to get out of [that] life. At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small; you’re going to get locked up or you’re going to die.”
Speaking about his childhood, Jay tells Robinson they did the best they could to make ends meet: “We were living in a tough situation, but my mother managed; she juggled. Sometimes we’d pay the light bill, sometimes we paid the phone, sometimes the gas went off. We weren’t starving—we were eating, we were O.K. But it was things like you didn’t want to be embarrassed when you went to school; you didn’t want to have dirty sneakers or wear the same clothes over again.”
While he was growing up, Jay says, “crack was everywhere—it was inescapable. There wasn’t any place you could go for isolation or a break. You go in the hallway; [there are] crackheads in the hallway. You look out in the puddles on the curbs—crack vials are littered in the side of the curbs. You could smell it in the hallways, that putrid smell; I can’t explain it, but it’s still in my mind when I think about it.”
Jay tells Robinson he sold crack but never used it, and when asked if he ever felt guilty about contributing to what was becoming an epidemic, he says, “Not until later, when I realized the effects on the community. I started looking at the community on the whole, but in the beginning, no. I was thinking about surviving. I was thinking about improving my situation. I was thinking about buying clothes.”
Jay says that when he and Beyoncé were both featured on the cover of Vanity Fair’s 2001 Music Issue “we were just beginning to try to date each other.” Try? “Well, you know, you’ve got to try first. You got to dazzle . . . wine and dine.” He tells Robinson that “of course” he pursued Beyoncé, and when asked if he hadn’t been Jay Z—say, he had been a gas-station attendant and she pulled up—would he have been able to date her, he responds, “If I’m as cool as I am, yes. But she’s a charming Southern girl, you know, she’s not impressed. . . . But I would have definitely had to be this cool.” Jay confirms that the line on his latest album, “She was a good girl ’til she knew me” is about Beyoncé, and when Robinson asks if she’s not a good girl anymore, Jay laughs, saying, “Nah. She’s gangsta now.”
As for the rumors of Beyoncé’s not really having been pregnant with their first child, Jay tells Robinson, “I don’t even know how to answer that. It’s just so stupid. You know, I felt dismissive about it, but you’ve got to feel for her. I mean, we’ve got a really charmed life, so how can we complain? But when you think about it, we’re still human beings. . . . And even in hip-hop, all the blogs—they had a field day with it. I’m like, We come from you guys, we represent you guys. Why are you perpetuating this? Why are you adding fuel to this ridiculous rumor?”
Jay tells Robinson that he and Beyoncé trademarked their daughter’s name simply so others couldn’t exploit it for profit. “People wanted to make products based on our child’s name,” he says, “and you don’t want anybody trying to benefit off your baby’s name. It wasn’t for us to do anything; as you see, we haven’t done anything.”
Jay knows to the penny how much money he has, he tells Robinson, but won’t divulge the amount; when told that Forbes estimated his net worth at around $500 million, he dismisses it as a “guesstimate” and says he’s not motivated by money. “I’m not motivated by that. . . . I don’t sit around with my friends and talk about money, ever. On a record, that’s different.”
Jay admits that, after all these years, he still loves to rap. “I know I said I wouldn’t be doing it when I was 30,” he tells Robinson, “so that’s how I know I love it. Thirty years old was my cutoff, but I’m still here, 43 years old.”
I like that Vanity Fair didn’t feel the need to withhold some “offensive” questions and Jay actually went on the record about the Pillow Baby Conspiracy (conspiracy theorists may note that he didn’t explicitly deny it either). I also like how Beyonce became “gangster” through marriage. It’s cute. As for all of the crack-dealer talk… I believe him. I believe that he lived that life and I believe that he grew up and understood how drugs had devastated his community and how he had a part in it.
Photos courtesy of Vanity Fair, WENN.