Jay-Z: We have to view rap as a serious art form
November 18th, 2010
03:20 PM ET

Jay-Z: We have to view rap as a serious art form

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.”

Filed under: Celebrities • Jay-Z • Late Night comedy • Music • television

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Brain

    The person saying rap is just black music, so was blues, so was rock, so was rhythm an blues, so it's really shallow to put it that way, infact you have to be a retard of some kind, now, rap is struggling to walk in the foot steps of those great genre's, mostly because of the message it now carrier, just parting really, as for jay-z what a way of justifying a rapping old man

    November 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nicole

    I love love love Jay Z! Whether or not you believe in what he says, the way he articulates his messages and promotes certain beliefs he holds is so refreshing and exciting. He is truly a leader!

    November 19, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  3. zvwritings

    But see John, I do expect artists, specially singers, to be role models. This is why they become famous, because they become role models, because people want to hear their music, their lyrics are inspiring. I don't need to go around asking myself what if someone would go around telling people they'd put a "boot in their..." because someone already have done that to minorities... many times! Lyrics are known to influence people to do good things and awful things! Many of these rappers are awesome writers, very inspiring... but I can't say the same thing about Jay-Z and others. What I can say is what I see in my classroom, what I've seen throughout the last 8 years of my career. As I said before, it hurts because I am a person of color and I used to buy all these stuff... but now that I've seen what it can do, how much damage it has caused, I cant defend something only because I like it.

    Go to an inner city high school in Detroit, Chicago and tell me what you hear... Said it before, I'll say it again... if they really want to be part of the solution to all the problems they talk about... be part of the solution for real, write lyrics to inspire kids in a positive way!!!!

    November 19, 2010 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
  4. John

    Clearly most of the people on this message board have not heard real, artful rap. If you watch MTV, you're not going to hear that stuff. Just like how good rock music is not on MTV either. As for rap as art, it absolutely is. It is an art form that is honest and truthful when used correctly. Many artists have done this including Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, Nas, 2pac, Del, Aesop Rock, Cage, Immortal Technique, Run DMC, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Supernatural, etc. That's more than I can say for other cultural music (music from a specific group of people, rap being predominantly African-American). At least rappers can be honest about what happens in their communities (again the good ones do this the best), while many "respected" artists ignore the unsightly truths so they're not too provocative. Jay-Z even mentioned "F- the Police" by NWA. Of course it sounds ignorant if you don't know the story. However, if you grew up in that community, it was a popular sentiment because of the atrocities that were committed against certain individuals in that community. This is not to say that all rap is right and anyone who hates it is wrong. It's just saying that if someone is ignorant enough to call a 30 year old art form "crap" because they can't see past a few cuss words, that's just pathetic. Gain some critical thinking skills people, it helps.

    November 18, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Also, just because some kids like to take what they hear in the music and act as if it applies to them while walking around insulting people should not affect the opinion on rap itself. What if some kid heard that Toby Keith song "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" and started going around to ethnic groups telling them that he'd put a "boot in their ass"? Oh of course there would be no outrage. Artists are not innately supposed to be role models. We don't ask this of any other artists, why rappers?

      November 18, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. zvwritings

    As a person of color I have much to say here: What Jay-Z needs to see is what his music and most hip pop music is doing to high school kids who, following the lyrics of these songs, go around calling women B... talking to teacher with the F word, fighting with everyone and their mother... the moment you change that vision/that culture of hate, that's when you will be able to say you have inspired a generation... in a POSITIVE WAY. In the meantime, thank you for being part of the dropout rates, criminal activity and girls' low self-esteem. They are no longer girls, they are all B...es!

    November 18, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. biodun

    I totally agree with jayz on that, if am right hiphop is about 30 odd years old, the notion that rap is a young boy music should be erased frm peoples mind cos as rap grows so its fan grow as well and if jayz at 40 still hot then I think there's hope for the younger artist. Its boils down to consistency and originality

    November 18, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JMM

    Rap is nothing but black music. I'm white...I'll pass

    November 18, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. LBW

    Music doesn't have to be filthy, but rap music couldn't happen if you took out the N word, the B word and the all important F word. That is what makes it crap.

    November 18, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Vanilla Ice

    Eminem is a btch

    November 18, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. GeoB

    Gee, I don't remember Elvis or the Beatles begging for respect for their music. Isn't rap selling enough? What a whiner!

    November 18, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. joe

    "We have to view rap as a serious art form"

    No we don't

    November 18, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anderson Cooper

      I agree!!!!
      RAP still SUCKS!!!!

      November 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • agreed


      November 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cameron

      To everyone that says rap sucks please die.

      You all probably have your naked sister on your lap, drinking PBR, watching NASCAR, with your confederate and nazi flags flying above.

      November 18, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • nairb

      @Cameron - Right because anyone who hates rap must be an incest loving, racist, nazi. I am pretty sure you are a huge racist and as close minded as possible. Sit in the front of the class and you might learn something.

      November 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • yada again

      Rap is totally non melodic crap if you take the tracks away.....it's totaly disposable music...and most rappers have NO TALENT whatsoever....just fools with big mouths and nothing important to say....they are all just phony posers 1

      November 18, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cameron

      @nairb I'm sure you were trying to make a point and just forget to please try again.

      November 19, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. sonylegend

    Jay-Z is a sellout and puppet to the illuminati and the sad part of it all is that he has the nerve to act like he is not. That he is independant from the elite's agenda.... http://WWW.SONYLEGEND.COM ...... THE GAME IS NOW SHUT DOWN

    November 18, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cheefsfury


    November 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • sonylegend

      Oh yeah MC Hammer exposed Jay-Z real good on that new track he made. Jay-Z must of forgot that the "Streets is Watching".... opps didnt Jay-Z make a movie by the same name?

      November 18, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • cheefsfury


      November 18, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • sonylegend

      No problem dont agree.... the NEW WORLD ORDER is here so it dont even matter.....

      November 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • yada yada

      Rap is totally non melodic crap if you take the tracks away.....it's totaly disposable music...and most rappers have NO TALENT whatsoever....just fools with big mouths and nothing important to say....they are all just phony posers

      November 18, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |

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