Just when you thought it was safe, just when you thought the world’s greatest MC had left the streets behind to put his feet up on a beach chair, just when you least expected it: Jay-Z’s back. Again. With a vengeance.
[NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS THE CONCLUSION OF XXL'S DECEMBER COVER STORY. CLICK HERE TO READ THE INTRO AND PART ONE]
When you look at the last project, you had an incredible marketing promotion campaign behind it. I guess—
I love when people talk about the marketing campaign of the last album. They talk about it as if I spent the money. I’ve been watching this for a year, like, what’s wrong with you? No one’s figured this out? I didn’t pay Budweiser. They paid me. They shot my video and put it on TV and paid me. They paid me to do that. I don’t pay HP. They paid me. I didn’t pay AT&T to run them clips. They paid me. Yeah, so when people go and talk about the marketing of the last album, I find it very funny. You think I put all that on TV? I paid for that? I didn’t pay for none of that. Budweiser paid me. HP paid me. AT&T paid me. All the things that ran, they paid me. I received money. I didn’t spend it. Def Jam was happy as shit. And then I didn’t shoot no more videos. I shot two videos, and I shut it down. I was the president. I shut it down, big man.
Ha! Are you staying at Def Jam, big man? Are you staying or going? What’s up? Or is this album a convenient distraction for you not to make that decision yet?
I’m giving myself some time. It’ll be hot out there for a minute, so—I don’t know. I love what I’m doing. I love the artists that I’m developing. I love the whole thing about it. Once again, I have to really look at it for the next three years and say, “Am I doing it for the right reasons?” ’Cause all I want to do is make history at this point. They got to pay me for making history, of course. But that’s my goal. I want to sit there with people really into making history. I mean everybody. I don’t mean just artists. The interns—if everybody’s not committed to making history every time I go into that meeting, and if I can’t look in their eyes and I don’t see the fire, then I gotta move on. ’Cause, you know, I don’t have time. I don’t have the luxury of time to just blow off three years. I do, but I don’t. But I’m not looking to have a job. That’s not hot! If there was a place or a new situation where it was exciting and, you know, it was about making history and doing something so epic, then I’d do that. I’m not just gonna go to Columbia and just sit down and collect a check.
Speaking of big checks, word on the street is Jim Jones just inked himself a nice situation at Sony. Would that have any effect of deterring you from going over there?
First of all, I don’t look at none of that shit as real. If it’s a real thing, then it’s a real thing. Then it’s nothing to talk about in the magazine. There’s nothing to talk about on radio. Go get your crew, go sit on some mattresses, and we gotta finish this thing until it’s over. ’Cause I’m not walking around the street, chilling, and eating at Cipriani’s outside if we got a problem. I’m not doing that. That’s stupid. I’m just going to wait for you to catch me off balance? Like, they ain’t no problem to me. And as far as business, I never been like that. Juelz Santana is on Def Jam. I try to do anything to try to make the guy comfortable. My name is on every single paper in that building. That’s how we work… It’s all good with me. I don’t give a shit. What I care? I hope he gets a ton of money. Then the next lil’ guy is going to take shots at him. I love that. I hope he makes a ton of money.
Speaking of taking shots, there’s a certain veteran Def Jam artist who continues to blame you for his recent sales problems. Are you surprised at what LL’s been saying?
Yeah, I’m definitely surprised. ’Cause, you know, like, I got a lot respect for him. He’s a legend in the game, and you can’t market LL. You’re LL. That’s it. Nobody really wants to look at themselves. He’s had a long, long career. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t work. Sometimes the stars line up and magic is in the right place. Sometimes it ain’t. Who can I blame about my last album going two million? L.A., you piece of shit! [Laughs] That’s just how it goes. You can market to death. The people ultimately decide. And the people are not saying that was a great album they missed. Are the people saying that? Let’s be honest with each other. Are the people saying, “That’s a great album we missed”? No one is saying that.
How is your relationship with L.A.? People are fascinated about that, too. Like, when he hired Jermaine Dupri, did that mean he was trying to protect himself in case Jay leaves?
We absolutely tried to get Jermaine when I first got there. I was like: “Jermaine, we can do co-president—I don’t have no ego with that. Whatever you want to do.” I don’t know what led to his decision to go to Virgin, but me and L.A. absolutely sat in the office with Jermaine trying to convince him to come over from day one, when I first got there. I think the more talented people you have there, the better. And for protection, it’s a great thing. It’s a smart move as well. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Some of your old hustler buddies have been poppin’ up lately, saying you did them wrong. Especially a guy named DeHaven. You address him on American Gangster, on the song “No Hook.”
Right, I pulled up some things.
Did you feel like you needed to address that, or was it naturally something that just came out of you?
Yeah, it’s just me. Like, when I’m recording, the things that come out, I don’t deny them. I just let it happen, and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t ever feel the need to do anything I don’t want to do for the sake of, Hov better say something or Hov better-—I’m not under that pressure, because I know who I am so much. That’s it. It was quick, too. End of the story. “I followed the code, I cracked the safe/Other niggas ain’t in the game, so they practice hate.” You ain’t in the game, so you practice hate.
Is that also directed toward Calvin Klein, who also spoke ill of you?
Nah. I know Calvin through a friend of a friend. Like, it wasn’t like we was—that was it. So we really have nothing to talk about. It was shocking, I guess, but that was about it.
You usually try to keep your personal life private. But you put a whole verse about Beyoncé on “Party Life.” Do you feel like that’s going to satisfy the gossip hounds?
I didn’t say that verse was about her. But it sounds hot. [Laughs] The only reason I don’t deal with that aspect of my life is because I think people are only interested in it three times: when you get together, when you break up, and when you have a baby. Other than that, people don’t give a shit. They don’t have good intentions. People just want to manipulate the situation to benefit them. I think relationships are broken up because of the media. That’s a difficult thing when you live it out through the media. They’ll take something—you know, like, you sign Rihanna—and then everybody is like, “’Cause she’s a girl artist, put them together. He slept with her! It’s a great story! Let’s run with it.” But you don’t realize there’s people involved there. Like, you know, how about if it ain’t true?! Right? So you got to be private with your shit. And you got to be strong in your relationship to know each other.
But it seems like you guys have overcome all that by now, right?
The scrutiny and being together and like—
Oh yeah, that’s ’cause we don’t deal with it. If we woulda dealt with it, like, on magazine covers together and shit like that…
[Laughs] I wouldn’t try to get that one.
[Laughs] I’m not saying you, man. But you may be the only one! But everybody else…
Unless B starts rapping, I can’t really justify—
She gotta put a 16 together.
[Laughs] That’s going too far, man! She got to do at least one verse! But the more you get into it, then the more it comes back on you.
Alright, we’ll switch gears. What’d you make of the whole Dipset drama this year between Jim and Cam?
I said it in one of those records on the R. Kelly album: “You know your friends when they don’t need you no more.” Y’all see if y’all really like each other. When people don’t need you, you never know. ’Cause if they need you, they’re going to be quiet about the situation. [Whispers] “I hate this nigga! This nigga wear pink one more time…” It’s like, okay, now let’s see if you can deal with success. That’s just how life is.
I think because you obviously repaired your relationship with Nas, people wonder if you’d do the same in this case.
The marketing plan they came up with was: This guy did this to Dame. They didn’t have no problem with me. I ain’t do nothing but great things for them. Everything that they do is based on us. Their work ethic is based on watching us being in there. Cam’s biggest album was based on us. We put those records on there. Those are Just Blaze records. I ain’t never do nothing to them. Nothing bad. Great things. Made them money. Everybody made money with me. That’s the thing. Look back at my history. Everybody made money with me. I’m Hyman Roth in The Godfather. “I made all my partners rich!” It’s true. Every single person.