5 Life Lessons from Jay-Z’s New York Times Interview

5 Life Lesson From Jay-Z
By i am guilty - JAY-Z, original resolution, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Last month, New York Times’s executive editor Dean Baquet sat down to conduct a rare interview with rap legend Jay-Z. Just a week prior to the interview, Beyoncé’s husband raked in eight Grammy nominations for this year’s “4:44” album. To many, however, he is more than just a celebrity artist and successful business mogul – he is commander of the American Dream, with the wisdom, perspective, and humility to ensure longevity in an otherwise fickle industry. Besides solidifying the deep respect you may already have for the man, watching Jay-Z’s interview offers a few life lessons that we can all grow from internalizing. Here are five notable times in the interview Jay-Z’s words gave us life.

1. Stronger, Together

When Baquet asks Jay-Z about the significance of being black in America in reference to “The Story of O.J.” from “4:44”, Jay-Z breaks it down: “If we had a power base together, it would be a much different conversation than me having a conversation by myself and trying to change America by myself. If I come with 40 million people, there’s a different conversation, right? It’s just how it works. I can effect change and get whomever in office because this many people, we’re all on the same page. Right? So the conversation is, like, ‘I’m not rich, I’m O.J.’ For us to get in that space and then disconnect from the culture. That’s how it starts. This is what happens. And then you know what happens? You’re on your own, and you see how that turned out.”

He continues, “The goal is not to be successful and famous. That’s not the goal. The goal is, if you have a specific God-given ability, is to live your life out through that. One. And two, we have a responsibility to push the conversation forward until we’re all equal. Till we’re all equal in this place. Because until everyone’s free, no one’s free, and that’s just a fact.”

2. It’s Okay for Men to Cry

“The strongest thing a man can do is cry. To expose your feelings, to be vulnerable in front of the world. That’s real strength. You know, you feel like you gotta be this guarded person. That’s not real. It’s fake.”

3. The Importance of the Invisible: Compassion

When speaking of raising his children, Jay-Z says, “The most important thing I think out of all this is to teach compassion and to identify with everyone’s struggle and to know these people made these sacrifices for us to be where we are and to push that forward — for us. I believe that’s the most important thing to show them, because they don’t have to know things that I knew growing up. Like being tough.”

He went on, “Treat people as they are, no matter who they are, no matter where they sit in the world, not to, like, be super nice to someone at a high position or mean to someone who they’ve deemed to be below them. I can’t buy you love, I can’t show it to you. I can show you affection and I can, you know, I can express love, but I can’t put it in your hand. I can’t put compassion in your hand. I can’t show you that. So the most beautiful things are things that are invisible. That’s where the important things lie.”

4. “What you reveal, you heal”

Baquet asks Jay-Z about the change in conversation after Trump’s election. “I think when Donald Sterling got kicked out of the N.B.A., I thought it was a misstep, because when you kick someone out, of course he’s done wrong, right? But you also send everyone else back in hiding. People talk like that. They talk like that. Let’s deal with that.” He continued, “I wouldn’t just, like, leave him alone. It should have been some sort of penalties. He could have lost some draft picks. But getting rid of him just made everyone else go back into hiding, and now we can’t have the dialogue. The great thing about Donald Trump being president is now we’re forced to have the dialogue. Now we’re having the conversation on the large scale; he’s provided the platform for us to have the conversation.”

5. The Beautiful Things are Inside

When Baquet asks about chapter three in Jay-Z’s autobiography, the rapper paints a picture of the theme, “Oh my goodness, oh, the most beautiful things are not these objects. The most beautiful things are inside. The most beautiful things are the friendships I have. I have really golden friendships. The compassion and the person I’ve become — that’s what this chapter is. You know? And the conversation with my mom. Those are the real enriching experiences.”

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