He’s one of the world’s biggest hip hop stars, and he’s got a mouth to match. Ahead of Glastonbury, and his O2 Wireless show, Jay-Z talks exclusively to Time Out about Winehouse, the Whitehouse and why rappers will always ‘hold their nuts’.Not content with deserting his longtime label Def Jam, where he masterminded the careers of ‘Umbrella’-bearing Rihanna and friend Kanye West, Jay-Z arrives on a wave of contention relating to his appearance at Glastonbury this week opinion divided fiercely over whether a hip hop artist was appropriate to headline the festival. Jay has said it was the biggest controversy he’s ever been involved in, which, considering he was once arrested for stabbing someone, is quite a statement.

On hip hop:

'I believe that hip hop should play anywhere. I believe any music should play anywhere.'

On the production that goes into his live shows:

'Rock bands, they play the small clubs, then someone discovers them and they get a record deal. With rap, you go in the studio, you make music, you put the music out, then all of a sudden you’re a star: you have a big record on the radio and you’re on stage, and you’ve never done it before. Let’s say your first show is Summer Jam and you’re in front of 60,000 people, and you’ve never played an arena, ever. You’re gonna suck. Nine times outta no, ten times outta ten, you’re gonna suck. You don’t know how to engage a crowd, or work with lighting, so there’s just you standing on stage holding your nuts. Ha ha. That’s why there’s so many pictures of rappers holding their nuts, because that’s what you do. You’re like ‘Okay hold my nuts’.

On his ‘special affinity’ with London:

'It’s my favourite city to go to. It’s the blending of cultures. You can be around Brixton, among the people who really know hip hop, and then you can be among the people who know just the big smash records and it’s a little snobbish.

It’s a very live city, it’s super cool. It’s actually the first place I played outside of America that really embraced hip hop, that had a knowledge of it and really understood the intricacies of the music and what I was talking about.'

On what makes London’s music scene so interesting:

'I think in London, and I don’t wanna offend anybody in America, but this is a real statement they still have the right approach to making music. In the US, people see it as a way to make money, they see it as a means to get out. It’s a hustle, which is great any way you can provide for your family that’s legal is fantastic.

But it still feels like people make music to make music over in London. You understand? When I listen to Amy Winehouse, I believe that her heart and soul is in the music, or if I listen to other British artists like Duffy or Estelle. T

he aesthetic of it is different, and it’s my point of view. It’s not anything formulaic. Not ringtone. I don’t think you have ringtone rappers.'

On being cautious about speaking out about social problems:

'Yeah, that all comes out of fear. You gotta figure where most of these guys are coming from. They’re coming from very poverty-stricken areas, and now here they are and they have a chance to provide for themselves and their generation, and they want to hold on to it.

So they’re a little afraid of especially that type of thing... They’re afraid of the repercussions of that. I don’t profess to be a political rapper, like groups such as Dead Prez or Public Enemy, but I think social commentary should make its way into your music.'

The full article will appear in Time Out magazine, out Wednesday 25th June 2008, priced £2.99.

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