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OUT FRONT WITH JAY-Z
by Brad Balfour
Copyright ©2004 PopEntertainment.com. All
December 8, 2004.
Thanks to his
current conflicts with fellow tour-ist R. Kelly, Brooklyn born hip-hop chart
topper Jay-Z (aka Shawn Carter) doesnít come down from the headlines. But
there's another reason -- the release of his live
concert/semi-autobiographical feature, Fade To Black (producer Rick
Rubin). Chronicling his Madison Square Garden performance in November 2003,
Jay-Z assembled a remarkable group of guest stars (Beyonce, Missy Elliott)
and some interesting interview subjects to create a rare feature length
document of the rapperís world.
How long did you prepare for this concert?
Not long. I like the feeling that you can mess up any second. When I did
MTV Unplugged, we rehearsed on Saturday, then recorded on Sunday.
Getting the people to the show took longer than rehearsing it. I did two
rehearsals with Mary [J. Blige], and I didnít rehearse with Beyonce and R.
When you started recording the album, did you know you were going to make
a movie out of it?
Not at all. It happened almost on its own. The recording of the CD was
come out as a DVD. Then we shot the Garden show because we wanted it on a
DVD. But when we started, we knew it was more than a DVD. It was a journey
of a Brooklyn kid who gets to play on the biggest stage in the world. It was inspirational because my way to the top wasnít easy; I
couldnít get a deal in the beginning.
What was it like being a guy on stage at MSG?
I couldnít feel it at the time. I had to see the movie to really get a sense
of it. Since we had such little rehearsal time, I was focused on what was
supposed to happen next, like "Where the hell is Foxy?" or "When is Mary
coming on? I hope she donít mess up." I was focused on the technical aspect
of it - the emotional aspect kicked in later. When I saw it, I realized how
crazy it was. The first fifteen minutes blew me away.
Do you still get nervous on stage?
I get butterflies but after the first note, Iím finished. By then Iím so far
into it that Iím not nervous any more.
How did you pick the songs that you played at MSG?
It was a two-hour show, so I was scraping the bottom of the barrel. I just
pick the songs that are hugely popular or the ones that stick with people.
Why did you decide to narrate the movie yourself?
Who else could tell that story? It had to be in my voice because itís one of
the most personal things I have ever put out. I had never allowed people in
the studio when I am recording. I figured it had to be in my voice.
Was there any pressure with the cameras in the studio?
You forget about them. You hear people on reality shows say that. But it is
what happens. You forget. You have that extra cool on at the start, but
after fifteen minutes you just relax and forget.
Are you going to do more movies?
I prefer to take it one step at a time. Itís been a long day, and I still
have a show tonight.
What was your favorite backstage moment from this concert?
My favorite moment was when Slick Rick passed the chain to Ghostface. It was
a huge chain, and a huge hip-hop moment. I didnít see that until I watched
the footage, because I was too busy. When I wasnít onstage, I was changing
Now that you are "retiring", where will you direct energy?
Hopefully into new artists. I could teach them how to be artists instead of
how to make one hot club record. They could have lengthy careers instead.
Why do you want to retire?
I want to channel my energies someplace else. I have the opportunity to open
doors for the next new artists on the executive level. Nowadays itís the
business of music instead of the music business. In other words, the cart
goes before the horse. You have to concentrate on the music. Everything else
is a by-product of that.
After playing in MSG, would you do Giants Stadium?
Giants Stadium is not a great place to play because it is outdoors and the
acoustics are echoey. You donít feel it in your heart as much as you do in
Obviously this is one of your best concert experiences, what was
It was at my first concert when I forgot the lyrics.
Whatís going to happen when you become head of Def Jam Records?
Itís not a done deal yet, so weíll see what happens. IĎm an artist across
the board. I believe in good music and bad music.
What superpower would you like to have?
I would to have the superpower to zap all rich people and move them to the
ghetto, and zap the poor people to where the rich people were. So that all
people could understand how the others live. Then we can figure out the
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