Jay-Z covers Vanity Fair: Barack Obama ‘actually renewed my spirit for America’

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.”

[From Vanity Fair]

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.

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93 Responses to “Jay-Z covers Vanity Fair: Barack Obama ‘actually renewed my spirit for America’”

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  1. Buckwild says:

    I like his responses. He always gives a good interview.

  2. Jayna says:

    I like him, and he’s an example of being smart with his financial wealth. He’s not spending everything thinking there’s always more like Nicholas Cage did. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. He lives the life if a wealthy man, but I bet just as much is invested or saved.

    • Mel says:

      I like that he ackowledges that as reprehensible as drug dealing is, it requires business acumen. Under different circumstances many of those corner boys would be running legit start ups. Some could even be at jays level.

      • Jayna says:

        He did one of Oprah’s Master classes where he literally just talked about his life from the early childhood years to present to a camera for an hour or more and he was one of the best out of the series and it was fantastic and insightful about the person behind the rapper moniker and how he evolved and a lot of thoughtful reflection about his early years and the man he became. He’s a very intelligent man and it was interesting to hear how he built his empire. He had a lot of business savvy and always looked ahead.

      • ldub says:

        jay keeps it 100

      • mercy says:

        Absolutely. I had a sociology teacher who brought in a former bank robber and a former drug dealer who went on to become successful entrepreneurs to speak to us. It was his way of teaching his classes (mostly affluent kids) about the role our environments and opportunities played in determining our paths.

      • Megan says:

        exactly! this was a great interview.

  3. Rosie says:

    I love this interview. I have never understood all the venom tossed his (and Beyonces) way. And I like how he deals with that tin hat conspiracy crap – ‘we lead a charmed life and we cant complain too much but we are human too’. Haters will hate.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      Always thought Jay-Z was an incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, and talented guy. Never got the Beyoncé hate either..not a huge fan of hers, just indifferent.

      • hailleewader says:

        This is hysterical that people think Jay Z is first of all a good rapper and second, intelligent. Where have our standards gone?

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        What’s hilarious is that you DON’T think he’s intelligent of a good rapper.

      • blue marie says:

        Why do you have a problem with Jay-Z being labeled a good rapper (which he is) or intelligent? Hasn’t he proven his intelligence by becoming the man he is? He came from nothing and made himself into something. Don’t let the fact that you dislike him cloud your judgement.

  4. Nev says:

    So fascinated by his remarkable talent and business acumen and his infamy. Illuminati ties (???) and his incredible style. So fascinated.

    • PD says:

      That Illuminati bs is so friggin offensive. Because a black kid from the wrong side of the track couldnt possibly have earned his success. Oh no, he must have sold his soul to some secret organisation in exchange for it.

      I’m glad he treats that shyte with the contempt it deserves. Everytime I see “illuminati” iconography in his videos, I laugh at his blatant trolling then I marvel at how you can turn peoples stupidity into cash……… coz you know exactly who will buy the single, you know just to research the illuminati link , lol.

      • DreamyK says:

        I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories but the Illuminati allegedly has plenty of uber rich white people in power, too. The race card should not be played here on this mythical group.

      • Janice says:

        I’ve only ever heard that stuff about black people though. You cant get through a Jay Z, Kanye, Beyonce or Rihanna youtube page without encountering illuminati slurs. Which is f*cked up because Aguilerra, Ke$ha, Gaga, and Britney have all used far more overt Illuminati images in their songs.

      • Savanna says:


        Those allegations are used to diminish his success. And the need to do so are most probably race based. Its no different for when people decide that every successful woman slept her way to the top. Its based on the reasoning that a woman or PoC cant possibly deserve their own success.

      • Jayna says:

        @Janice, I have seen illuminati remarks for years regarding especially Madonna, but also Depeche Mode, Gaga, on and on. As a music fan, I see it and you would be surprised how often that garbage pops up on pop star youtube links that use religious symbols in their music. I never saw it as a racial thing.

    • Cool Water says:

      Illuminati started out as a secret organisation of aethists who basically just spent their exploring the mysteries of the universe through science and philosophy. And ofcourse countering the Churches power and influence.

      They HAD to remain secret or they would have been executed or imprisoned. Ofcourse the Church villanised them, claiming they were satanists. And that mud slinging has apparently stuck.

      I dont know if he is but its not my business and besides he has earned every ounce of success.

      • Annie2 says:

        The first rule of illuminati is to not talk about the illuminati. People please!

      • Franklymydear1 says:

        Yes I agree with you completely! I just wanted to further explain that the idea they had anything to do with popular music is over played and lacks substantial evidence (other than the tupac song).

    • Anna says:

      LOL people are still going on about that Illuminati garbage?!

      • Macey says:


        I cringe every time I see that. I cant believe how many people believe that crap but then look how many bought into all the conspiracy theories that all proved to be BS.

    • Franklymydear1 says:

      The illuminati conspiracy is one of the most idiotic ones out there. It started out during the enlightenment advocating secularism in public life and the scientific exploration of the worl. This did not mean they were atheists (some were) or devil worshippers just people the Catholic Church was opposed to. Honestly the conspiracy that Lee Harvey Oswald had an identical twin in Russia who had faked his identity has just as much merit. However, if you want another fun conspiracy about things controlling the world check out the Bilderberg group ones.

      • Cool Water says:

        I hope you realise that I am in the Illuminati-is-not-a-sinister organisation camp. It was clearly just a bunch of intellectuals who wanted to be able to think and talk about the big questions of life. If theres a villain in the narrative its clearly the Church. An institution that used its access to power to suppress all independent thought.

        So to be clear, if llluminati still exist and if Jay Z is a member then more power to him. Further, his success has nothing to do with that and everything to do with brains, talent and a can do attitude.

        I hope thats clear.

    • hailleewader says:

      Please tell me you are being sarcastic right?

      • Cool Water says:


        Sarcastic about what? Who is your comment addressed to?

        If its me, then no, I am not being sarcastic. Jay Z did incredible things against ridiculous odds. He is without a doubt the most impressive showbiz success story hands down. The guy went from peddling crack as a teen to discovering some of the worlds biggest stars for gods sake.

      • Franklymydear1 says:

        If it is addressing my statement about lee harvey Oswald having a twin I meant that it has as much merit as the claim popular artists belong to a group that worship the devil. That is not sarcastic, unless talking about jimmy Paige who I believe was a member of the church of satan if that counts for something.

  5. CaribbeanLaura says:

    I’m not a super huge fan, but this seemed like a good interview, and no one can deny this man’s hustle.

  6. Leah says:

    Jay is someone i have huge respect for, he seems like a nice man and who has despite his lifestyle remained somewhat humble. He is very likeable in interviews and he is undoubtably one of the the most talented rappers ever.
    compare him to kanye and its weird because kanye comes across as somewhat desperate with the trashy reality gf and the massive chip on his shoulder. but kanye comes from middle class family and had an educated mother who thaought english in university whereas Jay literally grew up a hustler in the ghetto. And yet Jay comes across as smarter more educated and evolved

    • LahdidahBaby says:

      Interesting observation, Leah. Sounds right.

    • Jayna says:

      And not only that, a far better lyricist.

    • TG says:

      Too bad Kanye’s mother didn’t teach Kanye how to speak English.

      Jay-Z always gives good interviews. He comes across as intelligent and thoughtful.

      • epiphany says:

        Kanye’s mother was an English professor – he speaks perfectly well. The “street talk” is all affectation. He’s about as street as the British royal family.

      • Jennabean says:

        It’s a little sad to me because if you listen to college dropout he comes across so real an smart and then he figured out that the more “gangsta” he acts I guess the more he sells . Frustrating he has it he would just rather be mr. Kardashian

      • bns says:

        Kanye is very articulate, though. He just doesn’t always give the answers that people want to hear.

  7. Evelyn says:

    I just love how sweet on Blue he is. It’s nice to see a macho guy unabashedly fawn over his wife and child

    • Mel says:

      Ikr? He loves that kid. And we dont talk enough about how in love with his wife he seems. Its been what? 14 years together and he seems so smitten in their photos together.

    • Hakura says:

      @Evelyn – I can’t argue w/how much he appears to love Blue, & I’ve seen the many pics of him carrying & loving on her, which are very sweet.

      But the problem I have is in regards to his having a son that he never mentions. I can’t prove it by quoting him, as I’m not sure where he said it, but he was calling Blue his ‘first child’, when that was very untrue (& he’s supposedly been paying child support to the mother). I thought that was horrible. (I think some sort of ‘ex-video vixen’ is the mother…the little boy looked *just like* blue when he was little. Now he’s about 9 yrs old). They claimed there was a DNA test.

      Whenever I see him being affectionate w/Blue, I just can’t help but be sad for the little boy, as the mother was surely ‘bought off’ to keep silent.

  8. Esti says:

    Every time I read one of his interviews, I’m really impressed. Good on Vanity Fair for giving him this cover.

    And yes, he did deny the pillow baby conspiracy. I find that rumor unbelievably offensive, and I think he handled it with class and dignity. It’s ridiculous that he even had to.

  9. LahdidahBaby says:

    Dude seems for real. I like him.

  10. aims says:

    I think he’s interesting. From what I’ve seen of him. He seems like a chilled out dude. I enjoy his music, and I think he’s really smart. I do think he’s way more interesting than his wife.

  11. Zimmer says:

    He seems genuine. I like him, especially after that story I heard about him on the subway.

  12. Beep says:

    Oh mah gawd. Goop is going to have a COW.

  13. Maureen says:

    You mean the fact that he was able to become a multi-millionaire numerous times over in this country wasn’t enough for his “spirit to be renewed for America”?

    • Eh...I'm Indifferent says:

      He said himself that money doesn’t motivate him. Money can come and go…even for a multimillionaire.

      Jay-Z isn’t the only person who feels this way. It’s different growing up in tough areas under tough conditions and thinking that the only way out is to be a drug dealer. Before Barack, every single president was white. So it does provide a certain “renewed” sense of hope and opportunity to see someone who looks like you do something you never thought possible.

      • Maureen says:

        Jay-Z himself has done things that most Americans — of every race — could never think possible. I just think it’s superficial to look up to someone because of race. I feel it’s more meaningful to look up to someone on account of hard work and success. Maybe Obama should look up to Jay-Z.

      • fingerbinger says:

        Don’t bother explaining anything to Maureen. As I recall she’s the one that basically called Pres. Obama an “affirmative action” president in another post.

      • Savanna says:


        Lets see if I can explain this to you. I experience the world very differently than say Donald Trump who is male, white and raised by wealthy parents. I cant relate to his success because our obstacles are just so damn different.

      • Amanduh says:

        Well said.

        He definitely seems like a great guy – husband and father.

      • Savanna says:


        Thanks for the heads up. I thought I sensed some ……hate in her comments but decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. Those are 60 seconds of my life wasted clearly.

      • RJ says:

        Maureen-I agree with your first sentence. However, if you are ignorant enough to believe that race is not a factor in success & that hard work is all it takes, I have some fine oceanfront real estate I’d like to sell you in Oklahoma.

        I don’t know much about Jay-Z (he could be a flaming a**-hole IRL, as many celebrities are) but he gave an interesting and thoughtful interview. Also, he must be smart to be able to put up with Beyonce in a marriage, that diva seems like a handful.

  14. Post-Its says:

    Wait, isn’t Jay-Z friends with Gwyneth Paltrow? Does this mean he didn’t listen to her tantrum e-mail telling her friends NOT to do a VF cover?

  15. Bananapants says:

    And the winner is…HOV. My man. I love this guy. I love his music. That’s all I got.

  16. Mel says:

    I’ve heard many celebrities say that they don’t do it for the money or that the money doesn’t matter but that’s easier to say when you have piles and piles of it and feel secure.

    Eta: I don’t begrudge them their money, they earned it, but let’s not pretend that you don’t do what you do at least partly for the money. I just don’t think celebs need to even say things like that.

    • Flo says:

      He is living his passion. Its safe to say he would still be an entrepaneue even if he was just making rent. I can relate.

      • Dommy Dearest says:

        If he didn’t do it for the money then he’d donate pretty much everything he has to we the poor since he has everything he’ll ever need.

        Call lies. His wife’s hair has to be paid for somehow.

      • Annie2 says:

        @Dommy- LOL, best comment!

  17. Janet says:

    Jay’s the man. Fist brown is an arrogant clueless pos to compare himself.

  18. Lucy says:

    Great interview. He seems like a good man, intelligent, honest and hard-working. I also love the way he talks about his family.

  19. rep says:

    Yeah, right he doesn’t do it for the money. That’s all he talks about in his raps. No social commentary. He glorifies selling dope in his music. Please, what else would he be doing it for, if not for the opportunity to brag. Maybe not to his rich friends, but certainly to the masses. And he does have occult symbols in his music.

    • Nev says:

      thank out for pointing that out too!!!!

      Like I said…fascinating.

      • Dommy Dearest says:

        About two years ago a girl I worked with went to the Jay-Z Kanye concert here in Seattle. She was talking about all of ‘the like weird cult things. Like seriously google Illuminati. Sh*t is freaky’.

        Now, she was a valley girl but for someone who is sheltered and to come to that conclusion. Yeahhhh.

  20. mercy says:

    The election of President Obama restored my hope in many ways. Unfortunately, certain members of Congress are doing their best to destroy it. :/

    • Annie2 says:

      Politicians are all on the same side-they are only out for themselves. None of them care more for the people of this country than they do for themselves

  21. ThruRoseColouredGlasses says:

    Some people are completely clueless when it comes to the origins of rap. It is about bragging so the fact that he brags about money is what he essentially is supposed to do. Social commentary is there too… not every rapper needs to take their political stance to wax like Public Enemy, sometimes people either want to chill out or feel boastful. Whats the harm?! He does a job that he loves.

  22. Dommy Dearest says:

    Then you sir do not know what America is truly about.

  23. coe says:

    Actually, it is perfect that Jay-Z covers the VF which marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of JFK. He is like a modern day Joe Kennedy Sr. Both started multi-million dollar empires selling illegal substances to willing consumers..

  24. Dawn says:

    I saw him do an interview with Charlie Rose several years and he talked about all of this stuff. He said then it was better that people heard it from his mouth than someone else’s and that it was all his truth. I respect that about Jay Z he takes responsibility for things he does or has done and he has grown both as an artist and a man. You certainly can’t say that about everyone in the rap business.

  25. PassionPrincess says:

    Lol @ everyone thinking he really sold drugs. And his career isn’t about money. He is about as racist and classist as the typical men in power that he had no “faith” in

  26. Mhmm says:

    Great guy. 🙂 fascinating and golden hearted.

    Side note: wasn’t goop worried about a story about her in this issue of VF? Isn’t she besties with beyonce?

  27. dorothy says:

    Kanye could take lesson’s from Jay Z on what a self educated, self enlightened man sounds like. Unlike the narcissistic diarrhea that usually spew’s from Kanye. Jay Z is leaps and bounds more rounded and respected than Kanye will ever be.

  28. Aud says:

    I’m going to be the Devil’s Advocate here to say that everything that comes out of Jay-Z’s mouth is pre-rehearsed PR spiel and that, [I’m shuddering as I type], I bet Kanye is a much nicer guy than Jay-Z.
    Jay-Z and Beyonce want to portray themselves as a type of Kennedy power couple. But their music is rubbish and they are there due to the power of marketing.
    Even Lady GaGa’s songs have more substance than Beyonce. As for Jay-Z’s lyrics. Nonsensical drivel trying to pass itself off as lyrics with a social conscience.
    Most of these rappers have no idea what prosody/metre is.
    He has as much of a social conscience as the tax dodging Bono does.
    To even say or imply that you have a social and then agree to a Vanity Fair cover is a contradiction in terms. VF is the magazine for rich toffs who prefer drooling over prestige advertising and society photos over reading or if they read, it’s always about some high society scandal.

  29. LaurieH says:

    I get what Jay-Z is saying about being inspired by the election of our first black President – that’s totally legit – but let’s not exaggerate. Obama was not a “black person from the hood”. He was a rather privileged kid, born in Hawaii, to a white mother, who travelled the world, raised by his white grandparents and attended Columbia and Harvard. Not exactly the kid from the hood selling crack on the corner. Jay Z’s life is a true rags to riches story. Obama’s is not. In fact, to me, Jay’s life is more impressive. He worked for his money and fame. He paid his dues. Definitely an inspiring story.

    • Talullah says:

      He wasnt priveleged economically just not impoverished. He was the product of a single mom. His privilege was the importance of education his mother put which in some ways is more important. His white grandparents were working class so its not like he came from a rich family.
      I think they are both inspirations in over coming obstacles.

  30. Evie Rose says:

    Seems like a classy guy. . . However, that’s the first positive comment I’ve heard about the President in a LONG ASS TIME.

  31. cat says:

    It bothers me that he makes excuses for being a drug dealer, rather than apologies. Also, lets not forget he nearly killed a man by stabbing him, and got away with it. Of course, he doesn’t address that part of his past at all. How convenient.