Hes one of the worlds biggest hip hop stars, and hes 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 hes 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 youre a star: you have a big record on the radio and youre on stage, and youve never done it before. Lets say your first show is Summer Jam and youre in front of 60,000 people, and youve never played an arena, ever. Youre gonna suck. Nine times outta no, ten times outta ten, youre gonna suck. You dont know how to engage a crowd, or work with lighting, so theres just you standing on stage holding your nuts. Ha ha. Thats why theres so many pictures of rappers holding their nuts, because thats what you do. Youre like Okay hold my nuts.
On his special affinity with London:
'Its my favourite city to go to. Its 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 its a little snobbish.
Its a very live city, its super cool. Its 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 Londons music scene so interesting:
'I think in London, and I dont 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. Its a hustle, which is great any way you can provide for your family thats 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 its my point of view. Its not anything formulaic. Not ringtone. I dont 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. Theyre 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 theyre a little afraid of especially that type of thing... Theyre afraid of the repercussions of that. I dont 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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