November 18th, 2010
03:20 PM ET
The greatest music, renowned hip-hop artist Jay-Z told Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" Wednesday, has the ability to connect with all kinds of people, regardless of background.
“After we take the labels – black, white, male, female – after we take off the labels, we basically want the same thing, we love the same things,” Jay-Z explained. “The commonality of those emotions: angst, fear, aspiration… [A]t the core of great music is some of those emotions [and] that’s what people connect to.”
Yet in spite of that, rap hasn't been viewed as a respectable art form, Jay said. “It was viewed as a fad, and then it became a scapegoat for everything in America," he told Stewart. Not that he’s talking about all rap – “because some of it is [expletive],” he said – but rather “provocative, great rap based on real life subjects and emotions...[I]t’s almost like being attacked for saying what’s happening anyway. Whether rap existed or not these things were going on in the community, daily.”
With his recently released book, “Decoded” – which tells the backstory to many of his raps throughout his career as well as shining a bit of spotlight on his biography – Jay hopes to give listeners more context to what they’re hearing.
“I care about the culture and about rap and it being a respectable form of art. The book is surrounding these songs, but it’s also about a generation of kids; we grew up around the same time as rap. It was a whole thing that was going on with Reaganomics and crack cocaine in the neighborhoods,” Jay said. “There’s basically a story behind those songs, there’s context. So if you hear N.W.A.’s ‘F- Tha Police’ without seeing the Rodney King beating, you don’t understand why they’re saying what they’re saying.”
But in order for rap to have longevity, Jay went on, “we have to stop viewing it as a young man’s sport and view it as music, as a serious art form. In order to do that we have to grow it, we have to tackle mature subjects. You can’t talk about the same things you talked about when you were 20, 30-years-old. But that’s the white hot spot for rap; everyone’s still trying to do that – make a big club record.”
But not necessarily Jay-Z. At 40, the artist realizes that he needs to reflect his current reality more so than his past.
“I found with my career,” he told Stewart, “that you have more longevity when you get closer to the truth.”
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