A dapper Jay Z covers Vanity Fair’s November issue in a white and black tux (styled by June Ambrose) and charming grin. His distinguished swag radiates from the glossy page. We’ve come to expect that from Hov, whose empire grows with each tick of his Roley. In the last few years, Jay became a parent with wife Beyonce, collaborated with Kanye West to deliver one of the decades most groundbreaking albums and launched Roc Nation Sports among other ventures. And slowing down is not in the blueprint.
Jay opened up to Vanity Fair contributing editor Lisa Robinson about his days selling product in Marcy projects’ hallways. Crack was inescapable, but instead off becoming a zombie to the drug, he used it to help his mother pay bills and buy clothes for himself. His rags-to-riches story is the crux of the interview, followed by heartfelt stories about Blue Ivy and how he wooed Beyonce.
Check out the standout quotes, below:
1. The Ultimate Choice
“She [Blue] does like her mother’s music—she watches [Beyoncé’s concerts] on the computer every night. But my album came out and I don’t know if Blue ever heard any of my music prior to this album—she’s only 18 months old and I don’t play my music around the house. But this album was new, so we played it. And she loves all the songs. She plays a song and she goes, ‘More, Daddy, more . . . Daddy song.’ She’s my biggest fan. If no one bought the “Magna Carta”, the fact that she loves it so much, it gives me the greatest joy. And that’s not like a cliché. I’m really serious. Just to see her—‘Daddy song, more, Daddy.’ She’s genuine, she’s honest, because she doesn’t know it makes me happy. She just wants to hear it.”
2. President Obama Inspired Him
“Actually renewed my spirit for America. It was like, Oh, wow, man, this whole thing about land of the free, home of the . . . it’s, like, real—it’s going to happen, everyone’s getting to participate in it. But growing up, if you had ever told a black person from the hood you can be president, they’d be like, I could never . . . If you had told me that as a kid, I’d be like, Are you out of your mind? How?”
3. Drug Dealing Prepared Him For Roc Nation Sports
“I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer,” he tells Robinson. “To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up. Or if you want to start some sort of barbershop or car wash—those were the businesses back then. Things you can get in easily to get out of [that] life. At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small; you’re going to get locked up or you’re going to die.”
4. He Actually Started From the Bottom
“We were living in a tough situation, but my mother managed; she juggled. Sometimes we’d pay the light bill, sometimes we paid the phone, sometimes the gas went off. We weren’t starving—we were eating, we were O.K. But it was things like you didn’t want to be embarrassed when you went to school; you didn’t want to have dirty sneakers or wear the same clothes over again.”
5. Falling Subject To Selling Crack
“Crack was everywhere—it was inescapable. There wasn’t any place you could go for isolation or a break. You go in the hallway; [there are] crackheads in the hallway. You look out in the puddles on the curbs—crack vials are littered in the side of the curbs. You could smell it in the hallways, that putrid smell; I can’t explain it, but it’s still in my mind when I think about it.”
“Not until later, when I realized the effects on the community. I started looking at the community on the whole, but in the beginning, no. I was thinking about surviving. I was thinking about improving my situation. I was thinking about buying clothes.”
6. Who Charmed Who?
If I’m as cool as I am, yes. But she’s a charming Southern girl, you know, she’s not impressed. . . . But I would have definitely had to be this cool.” Jay confirms that the line on his latest album, “She was a good girl ’til she knew me” is about Beyoncé, and when Robinson asks if she’s not a good girl anymore, Jay laughs, saying, “Nah. She’s gangsta now.”
7. Not Bothered By The Surragacy Rumors
“I don’t even know how to answer that. It’s just so stupid. You know, I felt dismissive about it, but you’ve got to feel for her. I mean, we’ve got a really charmed life, so how can we complain? But when you think about it, we’re still human beings. . . . And even in hip-hop, all the blogs—they had a field day with it. I’m like, We come from you guys, we represent you guys. Why are you perpetuating this? Why are you adding fuel to this ridiculous rumor?”
8. You Will Not Name Your Child Blue Ivy
“People wanted to make products based on our child’s name,” he says, “and you don’t want anybody trying to benefit off your baby’s name. It wasn’t for us to do anything; as you see, we haven’t done anything.”
9. Rapper For Life
“I know I said I wouldn’t be doing it when I was 30,” he tells Robinson, “so that’s how I know I love it. Thirty years old was my cutoff, but I’m still here, 43 years old.”
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1. WARDROBE WARS: Jay-Z vs Pharrell (Hip Hop Edition)
Jay-Z was dapper in a window pane print suit at the premiere for The Great Gatsby.
Pharrell went fitted with a touch of casual cool on the BET red carpet.
Jay-Z paired a crisp white button down shirt with his Roc-A-Fella chain.
Pharrell rocked his navy shirt with a jacket and hat with fiance, Helen Lasichanh.
Jay-Z danced the night away with his wife, Beyonce, in jeans and white kicks.
Pharrell opted for a casual jacket and cutoff denim shorts.
It was a denim on denim night for Jay-Z.
...Meanwhile Pharrell added a plaid shirt into the mix for some texture.
Jay-Z was on trend in black and white on the red carpet.
Pharrell went nautical with a striped tee and shades.
Jigga man rocked all black everything to match his wife.
Pharrell chose a leather bomber jacket and black pants for the stage.
Jay-Z kept it sophisticated in a white shirt and sweater combo.
Pharrell topped off his look with his favorite camo fitted.
Jay-Z donned a tailored grey suit to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his 40/40 sports club.
Pharrell looked fly in his tux and bow tie.
Hov wore a tee and camo pants while chatting with Roc Nation Sports signee, Skylar Diggins.
Pharrell rocked an all over camo look that gave Jay-Z a run for his money.
Jay took to the stage for his Legends of Summer tour in a white shirt and jumbo gold chain.
Pharrell wore a cool plaid shirt along with blue-laced Timbs for a night out.