WBEZ | Jay Z http://www.wbez.org/tags/jay-z Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en For fashion, if it's all white, it's all right http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-11/fashion-if-its-all-white-its-all-right-109069 <p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP924745381151%20%281%29.jpg" style="width: 620px;" title="(AP/Zacharie Scheurer)" /></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Fashion is one of the last major industries to publicly and profoundly act as a system of discrimination and exclusivity. And Kanye West &ndash; despite his strange and inaccurate comments comparing his fiance, Kim Kardashian, to the FLOTUS, Michelle Obama &ndash; has recently come out with comments that touch on the industry&#39;s perpetual exclusion. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>In an interview with Ryan Seacrest on KIIS-FM, he <a href="http://guardianlv.com/2013/11/kanye-west-kim-kardashians-fashion-more-influential-than-that-of-michelle-obama/" target="_blank">said</a>, &ldquo;What I want to create isn&rsquo;t about black and white, but the reason why I&rsquo;m not able to create what I want to create is about being black, and is about classism.&rdquo; </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">The music industry works differently. It is not less racist, but it is more inclusive. It is driven more by profit (allowing for a more diverse array of voices) than by inclusiveness or exclusiveness. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Although the music industry also has a long history of cultural appropriation, the vast numbers of musicians and output has allowed people of color to flourish and cross boundaries in successes that can still be found in other industries such as the film, television, and yes, fashion industries. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">Kanye has not yet differentiated the two industries and he exists with a worldview in which success in one area can translate to another. His quotes may seem silly or idealistic, but they actually reflect a progressive challenge to the fashion industry that has yet to budge on its methods of exclusion. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">We allow the fashion industry to exist in this world of exclusivity and have for too long. It remains under the radar and most discussions about its exclusivity happen sporadically and only within its close, small circles. We&rsquo;ll see an editorial or two from a feminist or women&rsquo;s-oriented website. But for the most part, the general public does not understand how little the industry values inclusion. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">For most of us, our interactions with fashion are through the trends that have been reinterpreted from the runways and mass produced. We are not on the direct lines of the design process, the model selection, or the print publications. There is less choice for the public which makes it easier to exclude our voices. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">This is more difficult in areas like film and television, where our choices to watch &ndash; or not watch &ndash; have ripples that affect projects already on the air or in theaters and those in development. Although the last step in the Hollywood cycle, our direct participation is a key component to decisions made for the future (Consider the success of the first <em>Spiderman</em> and the glut of superhero movies we&rsquo;ve endured within the past decade as a result.). </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP785523062393%20%281%29.jpg" style="height: 461px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="(AP/Thibault Camus)" />The fashion industry is not a right system, but we can&#39;t pretend that it does not exist and ignore the far-reaching and continuous damage it inflicts. Its white supremacy and thin advocacy creates a homogenous culture that denies millions of potential customers the opportunity to own what has been created and makes those that are within the system exist in a constant state of reaction, maintenance, and competition. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">Recall the <a href="http://www.complex.com/style/2013/10/barneys-nypd-racial-profiling-trayon-christian" target="_blank">recent lawsuits</a> filed against the Barneys department store in New York City by two black customers. In one case, a young man named Trayon Christian was accosted by the NYPD under suspicion that he used a fraudulent credit card to purchase a $349 Salvatore Ferragamo belt. But the debit card and identification used to purchase the belt were his.&nbsp;These are clear cut examples of racial profiling, inherent to the very fabric of the fashion world. Underlying these incidents is the idea that black people can not possibly participate in the overpriced world of Barneys. Even if their forms of identification and debit cards form no problem (as was the case with the two lawsuits), their mere presence is cause for alarm. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>West <a href="http://www.complex.com/style/2013/10/kanye-west-fashion-rant-yeezus-tour" target="_blank">confirmed</a> as much in a recent 10-minute &quot;rant&quot; during his Yeezus tour about the fashion industry, comparing the incidents to the lyrics in his single &ldquo;New Slaves&rdquo; (&ldquo;</span>You see it&#39;s broke nigga racism, that&#39;s that &#39;Don&#39;t touch anything in the store,&#39; and it&#39;s rich nigga racism, that&#39;s that &#39;Come here, please buy more.).</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">Soon after the Barneys controversy began, Jay Z, a collaborator with the store, <a href="http://lifeandtimes.com/a-statement-from-shawn-jay-z-carter" target="_blank">said</a>:&nbsp;</span></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span>&ldquo;I am against discrimination of any kind, but if I make snap judgements, no matter who it&rsquo;s towards, aren&rsquo;t I committing the same sin as someone who profiles?&rdquo; </span></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span>The prolific rapper and business man claimed that ending his collaboration with the store would ultimately hurt his foundation, The Shawn Carter Foundation, that stands to receive, &ldquo;25% of all sales from the collaboration, 10% of all sales generated in the store on November 20th and an additional donation from Barneys.&rdquo; </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">Rarely can someone outside of the industry breakthrough and Jay Z&rsquo;s comments reflect the isolation, exclusivity, and change the system places on who they accept. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Although he claims his decision to not pull out of the collaboration is solely about the lost funding opportunity for his foundation, he also makes a point of comparing the discrimination felt by the two customers to making &ldquo;snap judgments&rdquo; about the character of the store and its employees. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Any rational person can understand that these two situations are in no way one in the same. Discriminating against black customers further perpetuates a hostile environment of who is and is not included in the elite fashion world. Making judgments about Barneys documented actions against black customers creates an opportunity to create change, to eliminate that environmental hostility. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">The runways themselves are a perfect example too of the structural order. Rarely will one see a non-white face. Who belongs and who does not can be seen from the top (business executives, fashion designers) down. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/fashion/fashions-blind-spot.html?pagewanted=2" target="_blank">According</a> to the <em>New York Times</em>, </span></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span>&ldquo;After a notable increase in 2009 that followed extensive news media coverage, the representation of black models has remained fairly steady until this year, when they accounted for only 6 percent of the looks shown at the last Fashion Week in February (down from 8.1 percent the previous season); 82.7 percent were worn by white models.&rdquo; </span></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">Kanye West&rsquo;s obsession with the fashion industry is an important one and his comments must play out on a world stage. While seemingly humorous, in fact, they highlight the very real barriers between what is and is not considered fashion. It is absurd to Kanye that he (and his fiance, Kim Kardashian) have been excluded because of their successes and infamy. But those two things are not enough for an industry that largely incorporates non-white people only as the labor to hem and stitch and toil and nothing else.&nbsp;Certain bodies belong and others do not. Anything that differs from this structure must be an affront to its natural order. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>In fashion, it is inherently &ldquo;not good&rdquo; and &ldquo;not right&rdquo; because it is different. It is not white.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span>Britt Julious&nbsp;</span>writes about race and culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 04 Nov 2013 07:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-11/fashion-if-its-all-white-its-all-right-109069 The Paper Machete Radio Magazine 8/27/11: The Getting Screwed Episode http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-31/paper-machete-radio-magazine-82711-getting-screwed-episode-91301 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-August/2011-08-31/briarrabbit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-31/kellykleiman.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 333px;" title="Kelly Kleiman (Photo by Ali Weiss Klinger)"></p><p>We at Paper Machete have a new theme song this week -- it's "Pickin' Up the Pieces" by Fitz &amp; the Tantrums -- and lots of stories about and for people who just aren't getting what they should.</p><p>On our most recent episode, <strong>Kim Bellware</strong> talks about Syl Johnson, whose song "Different Strokes" wasn't cleared to be sampled on Kanye West and Jay Z's new album <em>Watch the Throne</em>.</p><p><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong> discusses how some MAJOR Chicago institutions aren't paying property taxes and why-on-earth they'd do such a thing.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Shannon Cason</strong> goes to the Southside and fills us in on&nbsp;the Moo and Oink grill, and food deserts.</p><p>And <strong>Briar Rabbit</strong> wraps things up with some tunes.&nbsp;</p><p>As usual, if you can hear us, this magazine is LIVE.&nbsp;Download it&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=450280345" style="color: rgb(0, 104, 150);" target="_blank">here</a>, or listen below.</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483704-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/2011-08-27-thepapermachete-radio-magazine.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><div style="word-wrap: break-word;"><p>And this coming Saturday promises to be an exciting one -- we have <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0842140/">Julia Sweene</a>y, SNL alum and very funny lady. Chad Briggs from <a href="http://www.chicagoundergroundcomedy.com/">Chicago Underground Comedy</a> will be there; Erin Shea Smith, author of<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Scale-Erin-J-Shea/dp/1593373287"><em> Tales from the Scale</em></a>; Phil Dawkins, <em>The Paper Machete</em> "Culture Schlock" reporter who combines arts &amp; crafts with skewering pop cultural analysis; Stephanie McCanles of <a href="http://thecancershow.com/"><em>The Cancer Show</em></a>; Bond Benton of the <a href="http://www.palookajournal.com/">Palooka Journal</a>, and <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3694753/">Michael Patrick Thornton</a> of ABC's <em>Private Practice</em>, and The Gift Theatre. And finally, Paper Thick Walls will serenade us with the sweet sweet songs of the end of summer.</p><p>Additionally, if you liked what you heard at the end of this week's podcast (or even if you didn't, just suck it up), head to <a href="http://lincolnhallchicago.com/">Lincoln Hall</a> tonight for more Briar Rabbit.</p><div style="word-wrap: break-word; text-align: left;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-31/briarrabbit.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 400px;" title="Briar Rabbit (Photo by Ali Weiss Klinger)"></div></div></p> Wed, 31 Aug 2011 13:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-31/paper-machete-radio-magazine-82711-getting-screwed-episode-91301 Eminem gets 10 nods 10 years after he mattered (and other dubious wonders in the 2010 Grammy nominations) http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/eminem-gets-10-nods-10-years-after-he-mattered-and-other-dubious-wonders-2010-gra <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/eminem grammy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="400" width="522" title="" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-01/eminem grammy.jpg" /></p><p>&nbsp;With their stated mission &ldquo;to honor artistic achievement... without regard to album sales or chart position&rdquo; once again more of an ideal than a reality, Grammy sponsors the Recording Academy have announced the nominees for the 53rd annual awards, the most prestigious if chronically misguided in the music industry.</p><p>Topping the list of multiple nominees with a number that puts him among such Grammy favorites as Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, and Bonnie Raitt&mdash;even though his last album &ldquo;Recovery&rdquo; <a href="../../../../../jderogatis/2010/06/album-review-eminem-recovery/28132">was one of the most mediocre of his controversial but platinum-selling career</a>&mdash;Eminem garnered 10 nods, including the most prestigious, album of the year, as well as two more of the &ldquo;big four&rdquo; prizes, record and song of the year (for &ldquo;Love the Way You Lie&rdquo; featuring Rihanna).</p> <p>The rest of the album of the year contenders are divided between worthy contenders&mdash;orchestral-popsters Arcade Fire (for &ldquo;The Suburbs&rdquo;) and pop phenom Lady Gaga (for &ldquo;The Fame Monster&rdquo;)&mdash;and sheer commercial pabulum (country-pop merchants Lady Antebellum for &ldquo;Need You Now&rdquo; and Katy Perry for &ldquo;Teenage Dream&rdquo;).</p> <p>Trailing Marshall Mathers with seven nominations is pop producer, singer, and songwriter Bruno Mars. Hip-hop CEO Jay-Z and the aforementioned Ladies, Antebellum and Gaga, each claimed six Grammy nods, while five nominations apiece went to the venerable guitar hero Jeff Beck, B.O.B (a.k.a. rapper Bobby Ray Simmons), easy-listening soul man John Legend, rising pop/R&amp;B star Philip Lawrence, and classical music producer David Frost.</p> <p>Completing the roster for record of the year (which is awarded to the artist and producer) along with Eminem are B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars (&ldquo;Nothin&rsquo; On You&rdquo;), the indomitable Cee Lo Green (&ldquo;F*** You&rdquo;), Jay-Z and Alicia Keys (&ldquo;Empire State Of Mind&rdquo;), and Lady Antebellum (&ldquo;Need You Now&rdquo;).</p> <p>And joining Slim Shady in competition for song of the year (which is awarded to the songwriter) are Ray LaMontagne (&ldquo;Beg Steal Or Borrow&rdquo;), Cee Lo with &ldquo;F*** You&rdquo; again, tunesmiths Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, who wrote &ldquo;The House That Built Me&rdquo; for Miranda Lambert, Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, and Hillary Scott, who wrote &ldquo;Need You Now&rdquo; for Lady Antebellum.</p> <p>Then, of course, there is the always laughable best new artist prize, whose contenders this year are bad-haircut pop hearthrob Justin Bieber, hip-popper Drake, Florence &amp; the Machine, Mumford &amp; Sons, and Esperanza Spalding.</p> <p>The Chicago chapter of the Recording Academy will release its tally of local artists honored with nominations later today, and we&rsquo;ll duly post it. But a quick scan of the complete list indicates a real shortage of hometown talent, save for the dubious inclusion of fading but acquitted R&amp;B superstar R. Kelly, who was nominated for best contemporary R&amp;B album (&ldquo;Untitled&rdquo;) and best traditional R&amp;B vocal performance, and one minor nomination each for the American treasure Mavis Staples and wayward hip-hop hero Common.</p> <p>The full list of nominees in all of the 7,894 categories (give or take) <a href="http://www.grammy.com/nominees">can be found online here.</a> Meanwhile, a look at some of the other key categories follows below. And the golden gramophones themselves will be given out on Feb. 13 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles during a ceremony televed on CBS and theoretically lasting 3&frac12; hours, though it will of course feel three times as long.</p> <p><strong>Best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals</strong>: &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t Stop Believin&rsquo; (Regionals Version)&rdquo; &mdash; the cast of &ldquo;Glee&rdquo;; &ldquo;Misery&rdquo; &mdash; Maroon 5; &ldquo;The Only Exception&rdquo; &mdash; Paramore; &ldquo;Babyfather&rdquo; &mdash; Sade; &ldquo;Hey, Soul Sister (Live)&rdquo; &mdash; Train.</p> <p><strong>Best pop collaboration with vocals</strong>: &ldquo;Airplanes II&rdquo; &mdash; B.o.B, Eminem &amp; Hayley Williams; &ldquo;Imagine&rdquo; &mdash; Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Seal, Konono No. 1, Jeff Beck &amp; Oumou Sangare; &ldquo;If It Wasn&rsquo;t For Bad&rdquo; &mdash; Elton John &amp; Leon Russell; &ldquo;Telephone&rdquo; &mdash; Lady Gaga &amp; Beyoncé; California Gurls&rdquo; &mdash; Katy Perry &amp; Snoop Dogg.</p> <p><strong>Best dance recording</strong>: &ldquo;Rocket&rdquo; &mdash; Goldfrapp; &ldquo;In For The Kill&rdquo; &mdash; La Roux; &ldquo;Dance In The Dark&rdquo; &mdash; Lady Gaga; &ldquo;Only Girl (In The World)&rdquo; &mdash; Rihanna; &ldquo;Dancing On My Own&rdquo; &mdash; Robyn.</p> <p><strong>Best rock performance by a duo or group with vocals</strong>: &ldquo;Ready To Start&rdquo; &mdash; Arcade Fire; &ldquo;I Put A Spell On You&rdquo; &mdash; Jeff Beck &amp; Joss Stone; &ldquo;Tighten Up&rdquo; &mdash; the Black Keys; &ldquo;Radioactive&rdquo; &mdash; Kings Of Leon; &ldquo;Resistance&rdquo; &mdash; Muse.</p> <p><strong>Best hard rock performance</strong>: &ldquo;A Looking In View&rdquo; &mdash; Alice In Chains; &ldquo;Let Me Hear You Scream&rdquo; &mdash; Ozzy Osbourne; &ldquo;Black Rain&rdquo; &mdash; Soundgarden; &ldquo;Between the Lines&rdquo; &mdash; Stone Temple Pilots; &ldquo;New Fang&rdquo; &mdash; Them Crooked Vultures.</p> <p><strong>Best rock song</strong>: &ldquo;Angry World&rdquo; &mdash; Neil Young; &ldquo;Little Lion Man&rdquo; &mdash; Mumford &amp; Sons; &ldquo;Radioactive&rdquo; &mdash; Kings Of Leon; &ldquo;Resistance&rdquo; &mdash; Muse; &ldquo;Tighten Up&rdquo; &mdash; the Black Keys.</p> <p><strong>Best alternative music album</strong>: &ldquo;The Suburbs&rdquo; &mdash; Arcade Fire; &ldquo;Infinite Arms&rdquo; &mdash; Band Of Horses; &ldquo;Brothers&rdquo; &mdash; the Black Keys; &ldquo;Broken Bells&rdquo; &mdash; Broken Bells; &ldquo;Contra&rdquo; &mdash; Vampire Weekend.</p> <p><strong>Best R&amp;B performance by a duo or group with vocals</strong>: &ldquo;Take My Time&rdquo; &mdash; Chris Brown &amp; Tank; &ldquo;Love&rdquo; &mdash; Chuck Brown, Jill Scott &amp; Marcus Miller; &ldquo;You&rsquo;ve Got A Friend&rdquo; &mdash; Ronald Isley &amp; Aretha Franklin; &ldquo;Shine&rdquo; &mdash; John Legend &amp; the Roots; &ldquo;Soldier Of Love&rdquo; &mdash; Sade.</p> <p><strong>Best contemporary R&amp;B album</strong>: &ldquo;Graffiti&rdquo; &mdash; Chris Brown; &ldquo;Untitled&rdquo; &mdash; R. Kelly; &ldquo;Transition&rdquo; &mdash; Ryan Leslie; &ldquo;The ArchAndroid&rdquo; &mdash; Janelle Monáe; &ldquo;Raymond V Raymond&rdquo; &mdash; Usher.</p> <p><strong>Best rap/sung collaboration</strong>: &ldquo;Nothin&rsquo; On You&rdquo; &mdash; B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars; &ldquo;Deuces&rdquo; &mdash; Chris Brown, Tyga &amp; Kevin McCall; &ldquo;Love the Way You Lie&rdquo; &mdash; Eminem &amp; Rihanna; &ldquo;Empire State Of Mind&rdquo; &mdash; Jay-Z &amp; Alicia Keys; &ldquo;Wake Up! Everybody&rdquo; &mdash; John Legend, the Roots, Melanie Fiona &amp; Common.</p> <p><strong>Best rap album</strong>: &ldquo;The Adventures of Bobby Ray&rdquo; &mdash; B.o.B; &ldquo;Thank Me Later&rdquo; &mdash; Drake; &ldquo;Recovery&rdquo; &mdash; Eminem; &ldquo;The Blueprint 3&rdquo; &mdash; Jay-Z; &ldquo;How I Got Over&rdquo; &mdash; the Roots.</p> <p><strong>Best country song</strong>: &ldquo;The Breath You Take&rdquo; &mdash;George Strait; &ldquo;Free&rdquo; &mdash; Zac Brown Band; &ldquo;The House That Built Me&rdquo; Miranda Lambert; &ldquo;I&rsquo;d Love to be Your Last&rdquo; &mdash;Gretchen Wilson; &ldquo;If I Die Young&rdquo; &mdash;The Band Perry; &ldquo;Need You Now&rdquo; &mdash;Lady Antebellum.</p> <p><strong>Best country album</strong>: &ldquo;Up On the Ridge&rdquo; &mdash; Dierks Bentley; &ldquo;You Get What You Give&rdquo; &mdash; Zac Brown Band; &ldquo;The Guitar Song&rdquo; &mdash; Jamey Johnson; &ldquo;Need You Now&rdquo; &mdash; Lady Antebellum; &ldquo;Revolution&rdquo; &mdash; Miranda Lambert.</p> <p><strong>Best Americana album</strong>: &ldquo;The List&rdquo; &mdash; Rosanne Cash; &ldquo;Tin Can Trust&rdquo; &mdash; Los Lobos; &ldquo;Country Music&rdquo; &mdash; Willie Nelson; &ldquo;Band Of Joy&rdquo; &mdash; Robert Plant; &ldquo;You Are Not Alone&rdquo; &mdash; Mavis Staples.</p> <p><strong>Best traditional blues album</strong>: &ldquo;Giant&rdquo; &mdash; James Cotton; &ldquo;Memphis Blues&rdquo; &mdash; Cyndi Lauper; &ldquo;The Well&rdquo; &mdash; Charlie Musselwhite; &ldquo;Joined at the Hip&rdquo; &mdash; Pinetop Perkins &amp; Willie &ldquo;Big Eyes&rdquo; Smith; &ldquo;Plays Blues, Ballads &amp; Favorites&rdquo; &mdash; Jimmie Vaughan.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 02 Dec 2010 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/eminem-gets-10-nods-10-years-after-he-mattered-and-other-dubious-wonders-2010-gra Jay Z talks about his new book 'Decoded' http://www.wbez.org/story/arts-amp-life/fresh-air-interview-jay-z-decoded <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/JayZ_Joe Corrigan.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Long before he sold 50 million records worldwide -- and before he appeared alongside Warren Buffett on the cover of <em>Fortune </em>magazine, accumulated 10 Grammy Awards and became the CEO of his own record label -- <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/16318474/jay-z">Jay-Z</a> was living with his mom in the Marcy Houses housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, just trying to survive day by day.</p><p>"It was a very intense and stressful situation," he tells <em>Fresh Air</em>'s Terry Gross. "There was playing in the Johnny-pump (an opened fire hydrant) and the ice-cream man coming around and all of these games that we'd play, and suddenly it would turn just violent and there would be shootings at 12 in the afternoon on any given day. It was a weird mix of emotions. One day, your best friend could be killed. The day before, you could be celebrating him getting a brand-new bike."</p><p>Now 40, Jay-Z hasn't forgotten his past -- or the lyrics he's written over the years about his childhood in the projects. In his new book <em>Decoded</em>, he unpacks the detailed riffs and lyrics that make up 36 of his songs -- while examining both his own life and the growth of hip-hop over the last two decades.</p><p>He also talks candidly, both in the book and on <em>Fresh Air</em>, about the period in his life when he was a teenager selling crack cocaine on the streets.</p><p>"At 14 [or] 15 years old, you're thinking about sneakers or you're thinking about some sort of relief from all of the pain you're feeling," he says. "You're thinking about buying some food for the house. You're thinking about paying the extra light bill. So at that young age, you're not thinking about the destruction you're causing your own community."</p><p>At the time he was selling, Jay-Z was also coming up with rhymes. He normally wrote down his material in a green notebook he carried around with him -- but he never took the notebook with him on the streets, he says.</p><p>"I would run into the corner store, the bodega, and just grab a paper bag or buy juice -- anything just to get a paper bag," he says. "And I'd write the words on the paper bag and stuff these ideas in my pocket until I got back. Then I would transfer them into the notebook. As I got further and further away from home and my notebook, I had to memorize these rhymes -- longer and longer and longer. ... By the time I got to record my first album, I was 26, I didn't need pen or paper -- my memory had been trained just to listen to a song, think of the words, and lay them to tape."</p><p>Since his first album, he says, he's never written down any of his lyrics.</p><p>"I've lost plenty of material," he says. "It's not the best way. I wouldn't advise it to anyone. I've lost a couple albums' worth of great material. ... Think about when you can't remember a word and it drives you crazy. So imagine forgetting an entire rhyme. 'What's that? I said I was the greatest something?' "</p><p><strong>Hard-Knock Life</strong></p><p>One of the songs Jay-Z writes about extensively in the book is "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," a single from his third album <em>Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life</em>. It samples music from the musical <em>Annie</em>, which Jay-Z says he watched repeatedly as a child.</p><p>"When the TV version [of <em>Annie</em>] came on, I was drawn to it," he says. "It was the struggle of this poor kid in this environment and how her life changed. ... It immediately resonated."</p><p>Twenty years later, Jay-Z was on a Puff Daddy tour in the late '90s, when he heard a DJ play an instrumental version of "It's the Hard Knock Life" from <em>Annie</em>.</p><p>"It immediately brought me back to my childhood and that feeling," he says. "I knew right then and there that I had to make that record, and people would relate to the struggle and the aspiration in it, as well."</p><p>To get the rights for "Hard Knock Life," Jay-Z says he "exaggerated a touch" in his letter to the original songwriters, <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113653650">Charles Strouse</a> and Martin Charnin. He told them how much <em>Annie </em>meant to him growing up, because he won an essay contest as a child and got to see the musical on Broadway, cementing his love for the show. But, he says with a laugh, that actually never happened.</p><p>"I wrote a letter about how much <em>Annie</em> meant to me growing up and how I went to a Broadway play -- which was an exaggeration," he says. "I saw it on TV. It was a bad lie ... for a good reason."</p><p>Jay-Z has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide. He is the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings and the founder of Roc Nation. He was ranked the 5th top male solo artist of the 2000s by <em>Billboard </em>magazine. He has also received a great deal of recognition from the American Music Awards, the BET Awards, and the MTV Video Music Awards.</p><p><hr /></p><p><strong>Interview Highlights</strong></p><p><strong>On Sampling The Jackson Five's 'I Want You Back' In "IZZO"</strong></p><p>"I grew up in Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, and my mom and pop had an extensive record collection, so Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and all of those sounds and souls of Motown filled the house," he says. "So I was very familiar with the song when <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/14889532/kanye-west">Kanye [West]</a> brought me the sample. It had been used in hip-hop previously, but it was just such an interesting and fresh take on it that I was immediately drawn to it."</p><p><strong>On How Crack Changed The Marcy Projects In The Mid-'80s</strong></p><p>"They have a saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' It changed the authority figure. Crack cocaine was done so openly, and the people who were addicted to it, the fiends, had very little self-respect. It was so highly addictive that they didn't care how they obtained it and they carried that out in front of children, who were dealing at the time. So the relationship of that respect, 'I have to respect my elders' ... that dynamic shifted and it broke forever. It just changed everything from that point on.</p><p>"I was very aware of the dangers involved because there were people dying [and] there were people going to jail and it wasn't a one-off. It wasn't an occurrence where everyone was shocked. It wouldn't be a shock like, 'How could that happen in this neighborhood?' It was really a weekly or monthly occurrence."</p><p><strong>On <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15359912/danger-mouse">Danger Mouse</a>'s <em>Grey Album</em>, Which Samples Both Jay-Z And The Beatles Without Copyright Permission</strong></p><p>"I think it was a really strong album. I champion any form of creativity. And that was a genius idea to do, and it sparked so many others like it. It's really good. ... I was honored someone took the time to mash those records up with Beatles records. I was honored to be on quote-unquote the same song with The Beatles."</p><p><strong>On The Song 'December 4th'</strong></p><p><em>One of the songs Jay-Z writes about extensively in the book is "December 4th" from </em>The Black Album<em>; the song is heavily autobiographical and features riffs by Jay-Z's own mother, Gloria Carter.</em></p><p>"I tricked her [into appearing on that]," he says. "I told her to meet me down at the studio and we were going to go to lunch. She came down to the studio, and I just brought the track up and I said, 'I just want you to talk on it.' Because I knew if I told her [she was going to be on the song], she'd get really nervous. [She said], 'What do you want me to say?' And the rest is history."</p><p><strong>On Crotch-Grabbing In Rap Music</strong></p><p>"In hip-hop, the music leads first. So usually, you have a hit record and then [the record executives] throw this person on stage who has never been on stage before. So they don't have any experience on how to perform in front of people, hold the mic -- all these different things you need to know as a performer. So you get up there, you feel naked. So when you feel naked, what's the first thing you do? You cover yourself. So that bravado is an act of, 'I am so nervous right now. I am scared to death. I'm going to act so tough that I am going to hide it, and I have to grab my crotch.' That's just what happens."</p><p><strong>On Misogynistic Rap Lyrics</strong></p><p>"A lot of these albums are made when artists are young, 17 or 18 years old, so they've never had any real relationships. And if you come from the neighborhoods we're in, we have low esteem ourselves.  And the women, well, the girls -- they have low self-esteem as well. These are all dysfunctional relationships at a young age. The poet is pretty much [giving] his take on his dealings with girls at that time. He's not in a stable relationship; he's on the road. He's seeing girls who like him because he makes music. They spend one night together; he gets a phone number. He leaves for the next town and does the same thing over again."</p><p><strong>On Using The Word 'Bitch' In '99 Problems'</strong></p><p>"That was the writer in me being provocative, because that's what rap music should be at times. That was really directed to all of the people who hear buzz words in rap music -- they hear 'bitch' or 'ho' or something and immediately dismiss everything else that takes place. And everything has to be put in context. And when you put it in context, you realize that I wasn't calling any female, besides a female dog, a 'bitch' on this song." </p><div class="daylife_smartgalleries_container" style="border: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; overflow: hidden;height: 435px; width: 600px;"> <iframe class="daylife_smartgalleries_frame" src="http://galleries.wbez.org/gallery_slideshow/1289941080792?width=600&disable_link_to_hosted_page=0&height=435&show_related=0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="border: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; overflow: hidden;height: 100%; width: 100%;"></iframe> </div></p> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 11:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/arts-amp-life/fresh-air-interview-jay-z-decoded