Jay-Z’s Illustrious Career Profiled By Zadie Smith

By Carter Maness

After the successful Made in America Festival in Philadelphia this past weekend and leading-up to the opening of the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn with an eight-show run at the end of the month, Jay-Z has received a lavish feature in the New York Times by acclaimed novelist Zadie Smith.

The piece, written by Smith with her usual aside-riddled energy, explores Jay-Z’s appeal, rap mastery and opinions on numerous subjects.

On President Obama, for example, Jay says his election has made the hustler figure less relevant to impoverished youth. “No one came to our neighborhoods, with stand-up jobs, and showed us there’s a different way. Maybe had I seen different role models, maybe I’d've turned on to that,” he said.

There’s lots of illuminating discussion on the artistry of rapping, too. Jay goes through his history as an MC, explaining that he used to flow so quickly because of a lack of life experience. “I didn’t have enough life experience, so what I was doing was more technical. I was trying to impress technically. To do things that other people cannot do.”

On the current state of hip-hop, Jay voices his support and understanding for Odd Future’s “aversion to corporate America,” joking that they make Tupac seem like an angel. “People have a real aversion to what people in power did to the country,” he said. “So they’re just lashing out, like: ‘This is the son that you made. Look at your son. Look at what you’ve done.’”

Towards the end of the piece, things get a little more personal as Jay discusses the difference in his upbringing versus how his daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, will experience the world. “My brother would beat me up,” he said. “I was going to have to fight, I was going to have to go through some things, and they were preparing me. She doesn’t have to be tough. She has to love herself, she has to know who she is, she has to be respectful, and be a moral person.”