From his “complicated relationship” with Kanye West to his infidelity to wife Beyoncé to his assessment of President Barack Obama’s time in office, JAY-Z discussed a wide gamut of topics in an interview with the New York Times in September. Published Wednesday, the piece is accompanied by a 35-minute video of the conversation between the rapper and executive editor Dean Baquet.
Though JAY-Z doesn’t do many interviews, he didn’t hold back during the lengthy chat, which also covered his most recent album, 4:44 — it received eight Grammy nominations Tuesday — and race in America. Read on below for some highlights from the interview.
On his infidelity:
“You know, most people walk away, and like divorce rate is like 50 percent or something ’cause most people can’t see themselves. The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone’s face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself.”
On him and Beyoncé both making their own confessional albums, 4:44 and Lemonade, plus the joint album that was never released:
“We were using our art almost like a therapy session. And we started making music together. And then the music she was making at that time was further along. So, her album came out as opposed to the joint album that we were working on. We still have a lot of that music. And this is what it became. There was never a point where it was like, ‘I’m making this album.’ I was right there the entire time.”
“The best place is right in the middle of the pain. And that’s where we were sitting. And it was uncomfortable. And we had a lot of conversations. [I was] really proud of the music she made, and she was really proud of the art I released. And, you know, at the end of the day we really have a healthy respect for one another’s craft. I think she’s amazing.”
On communicating with Kanye West in the wake of their widely-reported feud:
“I [talked to] Kanye the other day, just to tell him, like, he’s my brother. I love Kanye. I do. It’s a complicated relationship with us.”
On his complicated relationship with West:
“Kanye came into this business on my label. So I’ve always been like his big brother. And we’re both entertainers. It’s always been like a little underlying competition with your big brother. And we both love and respect each other’s art, too. So it’s like, we both — everyone wants to be the greatest in the world. You know what I’m saying? And then there’s like a lot of other factors that play in it. But it’s gonna, we gonna always be good.”
On his relationship with West now:
“In the long relationship, you know, hopefully when we’re 89 we look at this six months or whatever time and we laugh at that. You know what I’m saying? There’s gonna be complications in the relationship that we have to get through. And the only way to get through that is we sit down and have a dialogue and say, ‘These are the things that I’m uncomfortable with. These are the things that are unacceptable to me. This is what I feel.’ I’m sure he feels that I’ve done things to him as well. You know what I’m saying? These are — I’m not a perfect human being by no stretch. You know.”
On whether Obama lived up to expectations as president:
“Yes, because all he could do was the best he can do. He’s not a superhero. And it’s unfair to place unfulfillable expectations on this man just because of his color. You’re actually doing the opposite. It’s like, what do you think is gonna happen? He’s there for eight years. And he has to undo what 43 presidents have done. In eight years. That’s not fair.”
On criticism for a perceived anti-semitic line in the 4:44 track “The Story of O.J.”:
“If you didn’t have a problem with the general statement I made about black people, and people eating watermelon and things like that [the animated music video for the song, which references racist cartoons, includes a caricature of a black man eating watermelon] — if that was fine, [but] that line about wealth bothered you, then that’s very hypocritical, and, you know, that’s something within yourself.”
On going to therapy:
“I grew so much from the experience. But I think the most important thing I got is that everything is connected. Every emotion is connected and it comes from somewhere. And just being aware of it. Being aware of it in everyday life puts you at such a … you’re at such an advantage. You know, you realize that if someone’s racist toward you, it ain’t about you. It’s about their upbringing and what happened to them, and how that led them to this point. You know, most bullies bully. It just happen. Oh, you got bullied as a kid so you trying to bully me. I understand.”
Read JAY-Z’s full Times interview here.