Jay-Z explains impact of hip-hop, 'fight' over 'all-rap' tour
Jay-Z, a hip-hop icon, husband of Beyonce and one of the most successful music producers today, says promoters were reluctant to support his first "all-rap" tour more than 10 years ago.
The 41-year-old Grammy-winning rapper made his comments in a recent interview that is part of the AOL HuffPost Media Group's new video series, "Tanning Effect." Its host, Steve Stoute, is promoting his first book, The Tanning Of America: How the Culture of Hip-Hop Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy," which was released in September.
Jay-Z was born Shawn Carter in Brooklyn in New York City. He began his music career in the mid-1990s and in 1996 dropped his first album, "Reasonable Doubt," which also featured late rapper The Notorious B.I.G.
Two years later, Jay-Z released what would become his breakout single, "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)." In 1999, he and fellow hip hop artists DMX, Method Man and Redman embarked on the "Hard Knock Life Tour," which was also the subject of a 2000 documentary called "Back Stage."
"The first time we were doing an all-rap lineup ... I remember the first time we were trying to take this out - it was like, 'You need an R&B act on the bill,'" Jay-Z said. "They were really telling us that for insurance purposes and for the look of the thing. I was like, 'No.'"
"DMX had had two No. 1 albums out that year. I had an album that year that sold 5 million copies. I'm like, 'I think we can tour at least in America,'" he added. "But it was always that sort of fight. And then when we got to those concerts, it was like, 80-20, it was like white people in the audience. Just dominated it. And this is this all-rap concert."
Hip-hop music is among the most popular genres today and tops the mainstream pop charts around the world. Jay-Z said the genre "has always been a global thing" and compared it to jazz.
"In the early days of jazz, Quincy Jones and them, they were touring overseas before they (were) even allowed to play clubs in the South," he told Stoute. "So hip-hop was just young, youth music that didn't have those boundaries outside of America."
Despite its popularity, hip hop is also among the most criticized of music genres.
Some say many rap songs glorify violence and drug use and that young people may be too influenced by feuds between U.S. rappers that have lead to deaths, such as the killings of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Others say such criticism is unfounded and that rap music provides escapism, much like movies or video games. Jay-Z said hip-hop is "about expression."
"Hip-hop had a voice," he told Stoute. 'Jazz hit great notes and things like that but hip-hop spoke directly to people, spoke to their heart, into how they were feeling."
Jay-Z, who was once a gang member who sold drugs on the street, has spoken out about his own history with violence. He also wrote about shooting his older brother Eric, a crack cocaine addict, in his song "You Must Love Me."
Jay-Z and fellow hip-hop artist Kanye West are currently on a U.S. tour to promote their joint album, "Watch The Throne," which topped music charts in more than 20 countries. The record hit stores in August.
Check out Jay-Z's video interview with Steve Stoute below.