Jay-Z – Interview

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Jay-Z

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS TOUR, featuring multi-platinum superstars Jay-Z and R. Kelly, is now underway and is announcing dates throughout November in major markets on the east and west coasts, including Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Las Vegas.

To coincide with the BEST OF BOTH WORLDS TOUR, the duo will release their new album UNFINSHED BUSINESS on October 26. The album features 11 previously unreleased songs and will feature special packaging including a cover featuring the artists’ faces. The album is being released on Jive/Roc-a-fella/Def Jam in the United States and Canada. It will be available on Jive/BMG everywhere else in the world.

Jay-Z and R. Kelly talk about the “Best of Both Worlds.”

What can be expected on this tour?

Jay-Z: A lot of energy, a lot of hit records, and, you know, just an overall good time. Forget what you’ve seen before. This is our arena right now. For the next two hours, two and a half hours: Let’s go. That’s our goal. We don’t care about nothin’ else but that. We’re here to give ‘em something they never seen before.

R. Kelly: It’s going to be like a classic rock concert —like the Rollin’ Stones would come through. Michael Jackson in his prime would come through.
Question: It’s great to see a tour like this hitting every city coast to coast. Why do you think that urban culture has such an effect on middle America?

Jay-Z: I believe that hip-hop is the new rock ‘n roll. Like back in the days we had James Dean with the t-shirt rolled up with the cigarettes and then, more recently, icons like Kurt Cobain? You know, I think hip-hop has replaced that. I think hip-hop is rock and roll right now. And in a couple of years we gonna look back and we’re gonna see that hip-hop really brought cultures together. Because you can’t teach racism in your house when your kid has a Snoop Doggy Dog poster on the wall. You know? As everyone knows, racism is taught in the home. You grow up into it. You have parents and they teach you, they teach you that. But if your favorite artist is Snoop it’s hard to teach racism in the home.

R. Kelly: Whether it’s hip-hop music, hip-hop R&B, all that stuff, it don’t have no color. It don’t have color. It’s for everybody, you know? And you’ll see that when you come to the concert. You’re gonna see just a rainbow of, of audience, you know? They’re out there just havin’ a good time and that’s what it’s all about.

Who are you hoping to reach with this tour?

R. Kelly: I’m tryin’ to reach the same people tryin’ to reach me. That’s what it’s about.

Jay-Z: The most anxious people in the building, the people that really want those tickets, the people that ran out the quickest and got those tickets to be in that audience, that’s who we’re trying to reach. Because they’re the die-hard fans. They can’t miss it, they have to be there. You know? So we want to reach the people that feel our music and that feel us and that love us. Because when we get on stage we return that love. And that’s what we love to do. We’re performers, we love to perform our music in front of a live audience.

With the election being so close, are you going express any political message in the concert?

Jay-Z: We pretty much stay away from politics but we do urge all young people to go out there and vote. Because their voice does make a difference. Because we grew up in urban areas, you know? And we always grew up thinking that our voice didn’t make a difference, no matter who was in office, it never affected the ‘hood. But now we’re learning, as we grow older, that it does affect the ‘hood when they start cutting back on school and things like that. And when you have forty people in one classroom, that’s affecting us and that’s affecting our ability to learn. So if you look in our school system as opposed to other people’s school system where the teacher has one-on-one attention, sixteen kids, maybe eight? When you can get that personal with a kid and you spend more time to talk to one kid, you know, you reach him better than when there’s thirty kids in one classroom. So it does affect us. And we have to change it.

How do you take your each performance to the next level? How do you get whatever it is out of you?

Jay-Z: Every crowd is different. Some will bring more out of you than others. But, you know, there’s a certain level that you go every night: gou give a hundred and ten percent. And some crowds pull out even more than that. Sometimes the crowd is just unbelievably excited and hyped and they pull out more than that. So it’s more of a vibe thing. You know it as an entertainer. Every entertainer knows when it’s a special night.

What is it about your individual talents that complement each other?

R. Kelly: Well, this man sittin’ next to me…He’s—like I always said—he’s like a director. He raps and then you see it in your mind, you know? He puts the picture in your mind. And that’s what I try to do with my music. I try to write to where people can not only hear and feel what my lyrics are saying but then can also see it in their head as they’re listening to it. And we’re both so dedicated to what we do. We’re born to do it. And that right there automatically gives us this perfect chemistry when we come together. Two great things together. It just says the best of both worlds. And that’s why we’re here doin’ this right now.

Jay-Z: To go further. We both come from hardship. We both come from tough neighborhoods. And that is inherent in our music. So he doesn’t sing love songs. It’s different things. It’s a different feel. You can feel the music. When a person put their self in the music no matter what they been through if it’s genuinely them and it’s from their heart you can feel it. And when someone else does that type of music, it’s like you’re automatically drawn to that person. And that’s just what it is.

Being among the best in your industry, what do you think of the other talent out there today?

Jay-Z: I believe in hip-hop as a culture and I believe in our artists. But what I think has given us longevity in this game is that we give ourselves, you know? We’re not always the perfect person, sometimes we’re vulnerable, sometimes we make mistakes. And we sing about those mistakes. A lot of artists are scared to go there. You have to go all the way there. I look at the people that purchase my music as not fans but family, you know? And I give them myself and he does the same thing with his music. I just think more artists need to do that instead of trying to make a type of song. Hip-hop is so big now that people think about commercial success before they think about making music. I tell the young guys around my studio this all the time: “You’re just makin’ a song, you’re not makin’ music.” Make music. Go in there and lose yourself. Close your eyes. Turn the lights off in the booth if you have to.

R. Kelly: Me and Jay—we don’t write songs, you know? We write life. A lot of guys go out there and they just write songs, you know? We write what everybody goes through, From partyin’ to clubs to makin’ the song cry, which is a spiritual type of hip-hop song. But that’s what we do, we write life. And I tell guys too around the studio, ‘Man, you’re not gonna get anywhere writing what you think people want to hear. You’ve got to write from your heart, whatever you goin’ through. And if they accept it, they do. If they don’t, they don’t. As long as you know you came from the heart.

Jay-Z: And that’s what longevity is about. And that’s what happens with longevity. We grew up relating to music, you know? Trouble Man, Marvin Gaye, and things like that. We grew up relating to music, Big and ‘Pac. We grew up relating to their struggle. So that’s what ensures longevity. When you give yourself people grow with you.

Is there any sort of twist in the show?

R. Kelly: We don’t got. We got hits. We got hits and we’ve had hits ever since we’ve been in the business. We’ve done our homework. We’re honest with our fans and we’ve been there with our fans. They’ve been there with us. And I think that’s our twist right there. That’s our magic right there that’s gonna bring people to the venues and have us entertain them in a way they’ve never been entertained before.

Jay-Z: We really don’t want to give away too much of the show because we want people to be really be genuinely in shock and awe. We doin’ the shock and awe campaign.

+ Charlie Craine

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