B.I. Vs Friendship:
Jay-Z speaks on differences with former partner Damon Dash and the perception that he’s not a real businessman.
XXL: What’s goin’ on with Roc-A-Wear?
Jay-Z: The first thing I did when I got over to Roc-A-Wear was to free up the designers. Free ‘em up. Make ‘em do what you want, you know—you like that? You guys think that’s cool? Let’s do that, you know, ask the room one time, hey…I mean, I just started being in the ads. Going since ’99, I wasn’t in no ads for five years, know what I’m sayin’? That speaks to the clothing. The clothing is good. Anything I align myself with, I try, and I would love for it to be an extension of myself.
XXL: But in terms of Roc-A-Wear, it always appeared that Dame was more involved than you were. Like it was more his passion than yours.
Jay-Z: Yeah, Dame was a negotiator and he loved the process of dealing with it day-to-day. You know, but my uh, my fingerprint was—is still all on Roc-A-Wear, you know what I’m sayin’? I mean, from the shit that I wear to getting to them to you know, do they fashion pirate shit sometimes. “Oh this is crazy, make this—put this over here.” Dame dealt—I mean, even with Roc-A-Fella, you know, he dealt with the more day-to-day thing. I dealt with the overall pace, the tone, like everything that happened in that company, don’t believe that it happened without me knowing. And at the end when something—when it starts happening without my input, I put a stop to it. You know what I’m sayin’?
XXL: Your look is saying a lot more than you are right now…
Jay-Z: It really conveys the seriousness of what I’m saying. I speak in a lot of fragmented sentences, I try to get my point across with how serious I am.
Jay-Z: I wish the people could see… [Both laugh]
XXL: Do you feel like with Dame’s over the top personality and that dynamic y’all created, it’s almost like you didn’t get your just due as a businessman…
XXL: Until you separated yourself out of that triangle in some ways.
Jay-Z: Right, right, but I didn’t mind that. I had no problems with that. But I ain’t have no problems with it as long as it works. As long as it works. We all play our position, that’s what you do. You know, you deal with it day-to-day, and the minutia of the whole shit, I’m cool with that. I’m cool with that. But don’t think that you know, like I had—I was just not…
XXL: Chilling. Hanging in the studio.
Jay-Z: Yeah, fuckin’ smokin’ blunts somewhere. Not knowing what’s going on. Wait, “Oh shit I got a check! I got a fuckin’ check!” You know what I’m sayin’?
XXL: I think one of the most unfortunate things was the messiness of the break-up. With Roc artists feeling like they had to choose sides.
Jay-Z: Yeah that was a part of it, yeah that part, nobody wants that, you know what I’m sayin’? Nobody wants that. It’s just the way it is. That’s just like…it just had to be that way. How else could it have been? It couldn’t have been no other way.
XXL: Have you found your peace with the decision you made?
Jay-Z: At the end of the day when I look around and I know I’m on the side of right or what I believe is right in my heart… Sometimes you think you’re doing right, but you’re not. But what you believe to be right in your heart that’s your truths. Then certain things happen, that go even further then that, and you know you was right. The way people carry themselves after, it’s like “Wow.” I wouldn’t have did that. [Laughs] A true friend wouldn’t have done that.
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.