Countdown to Kingdom Come
This is it like Kenny Loggins. Enjoy y’all weekend. Any more cracks about my better half and I’m coming to you geeks’ houses and smash your HP computers over y’all heads. And then I’m gonna rip y’all tonsils out. Real talk: Govern yourselves accordingly.
Jay on Memorizing Rhymes:
“I had backlog and shit. [Laughs] Yeah, now fuck it. I would put ideas in my Blackberry. Like I try to put quotes and shit, I had a shit called ‘quotes’ and I’d just try to put quotes or whatever…I just had so much, you know, cause like for me, my albums is my diary. It gave me a chance to download every year. It was like my year in review. And I missed those for a couple years.”
Jay on Working with Coldplay’s Chris Martin
“Yeah, it’s the last song on the album. It’s called ‘Beach Chair.’ And it’s like one of my favorite songs. He [Chris] just sent these chords, I mean these shits is so crazy. I’m a have Dre do the drums over. But the subject matter of the song is almost I guess it’s almost talking to your unborn kid. One of the lines is like, ‘I got demons in past/So I got daughters on the way/If the prophecies correct/Then the child shall have to pay/For the sins of the father/So I barter my tomorrows/Against my yesterdays/And hopefully she’ll be ok/And when I’m no longer here/To shade her face from the gray/I give her my share of Carol’s Daughter/And a new beach chair.’ All the joints end with something like that.”
Jay on Problems with DMX at Def Jam
“DMX is a big guy, so…We came up together. We have a rich history. I think other things contributed to that also. I did what I had to do. I went in—got him paid for the work he did and gave him his work back. Everything. No one’s doing that. No one’s paying for something and then giving it away, not those numbers. So, I did the right thing and I can sleep good at night. No matter what he goes around and says, it’s whatever. I see that as something that he has to overcome.”
Jay on Live Show Prowess
“I tour between albums. That’s 18,000 people last night, there may be 50,000 tomorrow. Every word. Fuckin’ Scotland. That’s different type of shit. I enjoy it. It’s a rush. Then when you get to a level of doing shows, the other rush is trying to beat the other show. You really just start trying to make epic joint after epic joint after epic joint. Once you hit arenas, it ain’t the same. You can’t play it like you play clubs. You try to walk into an arena with a bulletproof vest on with the same show you did at club Speed, it don’t work. Now you’re dealing with 16,000 people. Even at 5,000 it’s gonna sound light. So, you gotta have big records. A following, too.
“When you play ‘PSA,’ there’s no video for that. There’s no video for ‘You Don’t Know’ or ‘Heart of the City.’ These are some of the biggest records in the concert and that comes with the following and preparation. It costs a lot to make that show look effortless. You get to a point where, if you getting a $100,000, you put $10,000 into a show. Whatever you got to do to make the show look great. Going on tour, what’s the sense? In order to put on a good show you gotta spend. You get the fuckin’ LCD screens that are so bright and look like water. You gotta get the best sound and light guys. You gotta treat it like the rock guys treat it. It’s part of your craft. You gotta treat it like the studio, making the album. I got into the mindset that every aspect of my show has got to be the best. You gotta stay on par with your peers in the game. You don’t wanna go to a show and they’re just blowing you off the stage. That ain’t good for your career either. It’s all part of being a performer.”
Jay on Career Ups and Downs
“You gotta be fluid, man. Everything will work. I’m fearless. I’ll try anything. I’ll make a fuckin’ song with Annie. I’m not afraid to fail. I’ll make a record off of a Tupac record, where everybody knows we weren’t the best of friends. You know? And if it doesn’t work, then I’ll fix it. I’m not delusional. I knew the Puffy Tour wasn’t working and I knew I gotta get off that. I knew putting out ‘Sunshine’ wasn’t working so it’s time to put out Streets Is Watching. It’s time to stick with what I do. You gotta figure, when I came off Reasonable Doubt, I believed I had made the best album I could ever make. And it didn’t sell the way things were selling at that time and I was like, Fuck! I’m just coming into the business. I’m supposed to be like, ‘Fuck it, I’ma stay down.’ But I’m like, ‘I gave these niggas what they want…’ Now I’m going back and I’ll never change. I know how to make records, I know how to make songs, but I’m gonna do what I want to do. I’m never following anyone else and I’m never not doing something that I wanna do because of what people might say. You gotta be fearless in that aspect. That’s the only way.
“Gotta be fluid. I got that from Bruce Lee. It’s like water. Water is fluid. You pour it in a cup it takes the shape of the cup, you pour it in a teapot it takes the shape of the teapot. You gotta be able to change.”
Jay on Blueprint 2, baby
“That wasn’t my fault. I ain’t taking that one. I didn’t want to make a double album. I was making so much music, the guys around me were like, ‘Yo, make a double album.’ And that’s me being diplomatic about it. It’s not a dictatorship around me and my friends. If everybody is saying it, then let’s do it. I’ll roll with that. That was the case. If you do the backstory with Guru and Hip-Hop, my whole trustee…But at the same time, Hip-Hop gave me the title for ‘Big Pimpin’.’ Of course, it sold 4 million albums so I guess…Everyone would love to fail like that. It failed to me because I want the hearts.”
Jay on Reuniting with R. Kelly
“It’s something that the people wanted. And in a way, to be perfectly honest, he went through that shit, and I backed away from it, like, ‘Yo, this is music. You got a real situation, handle it.’ I don’t know how he took it, but to me it’s serious. That’s like life altering, legacy—everything. You could get locked up. ‘You gotta take care of that. Fuck this album. Don’t shoot no videos, we ain’t going on tour,’ that’s what I said. ‘You gotta take care of that, man.’
“I think the fallout was people around him. I wouldn’t be the same person if I didn’t have a good team of people around me. If someone is always telling you that everything is okay, you wouldn’t have your feet on the ground anymore. You start losing a sense of reality. When you get a real person around you, telling you real shit, you take it a different way. My intentions was to have the best tour ever. I wanna have the best show. I’m not gonna sabotage R. Kelly with no lights. Why go out with him? I don’t need to stand on nobody’s shoulders. I’m a made man. I made myself. I don’t have to stand on R. Kelly’s shoulder to make myself look better. I was who I was before I got to you. I wasn’t a new nigga. So, obviously I respect what you do and you’re great at what you do and I’m great at what I do too.
“I just felt that if you make that accusation that I’m sabotaging your lights, that must mean that I’m trying to hurt your career to make me look good. I don’t wanna do that, I’m a competitor. People gotta realize that too. I don’t wanna beat somebody when they’re hurt or injured. I want everybody at their full strength. It wasn’t like that with us. It wasn’t like I was on before and then he went on. There was a friendly competition between us, always. If five people go out, you gonna want the best show or you’re not doing your job. If I’m co-headling the tour I’m trying to wipe you off the stage and I want you to fight back. I wanna see some ill shit. I wanna be like,’ Oh shit did you see that? It was crazy!’ That’s the best tour to me. But it wasn’t like that with us.”
Jay on Changing from His Quick-Tongued Rhyme Style
“It came from being on the streets, living. In the beginning, I was a kid. I didn’t have any real experience to base my story off but technical shit. I was under a guy who was technically good. My shit was to technically be the best. Do couplets that niggas couldn’t do and come up with concepts that were different. Then I lived life. When I started living life, it became more about the shit I was doing.
“Although I still maintained the flow and technique on every song, that was apart of me, it wasn’t the majority. Instead of being 90% of the formula, it became 20%. The style and how I said it played less of a role and what I was saying became the leader and forerunner.
“It was ahead of its time, but not really. When Das Efx did it, I knew it was hope. They had the shit—it was tracks. They used the right tracks. I remember hearing it and thinking it was great. The last one of it’s kind was ‘Can I Get Open.’ I had the Karl Kani shit on. If you looked at my clothes you could see I was out of there. ‘Oh, this nigga’s on the street now, it’s over.’ I was gone.”
Jay on Joe Budden
“I don’t have Joe Budden’s album in my hand. I try to be diplomatic about it. You’re trying to make the best product. I’m an artist, I understand. I don’t have Joe Budden’s album. It doesn’t make sense, why would I not put it out if it’s ready?”
Jay on His Reference to Memphis Bleek on Kanye’s Album
“That’s my fuckin’ kid, you know…That’s my little brother. How can you take it…He knows where I’m coming from, he’s my little brother. I said he doesn’t have to but he’s going to for him. Of course, for him, he’s going to keep going. That’s saying I love you. He’s not trying to chill.”
Jay on Being the Throwback Killer
“It started looking like a uniform. It started feeling racist. [NBA Commissioner] David Stern talks to me about that every time I see him. He tells the story, ‘You know this fuckin’ guy right here? He ruined my fuckin’ jersey business.’ Every single time.
Look for the full story in the December 2006 issue, on stands now!
Go to the next page for more behind-the-scenes at the making of Kingdom Come.