Oprah: You didn't feel a hole in your soul?
Jay-Z: I never looked at that. I guess I didn't want to deal with it. Because, you know, once I looked, I'd have to do something about it. And I guess I still had too much resentment and anger.
Oprah: In one of your songs, you wrote that you weren't sure if your father even remembered your birthday is in December.
Jay-Z: I believed that. When I was a kid, I once waited for him on a bench. He never showed up. Even as an adult, that affected me. So when my mom set up this meeting, I told her he wouldn't come—and the first time, he didn't. At that point, I was really done, but Mom pushed for another meeting, because she's just a beautiful soul.
Oprah: The second time, your father showed up.
Jay-Z: He showed up. And I gave him the real conversation. I told him how I felt the day he left. He was saying stuff like "Man, you knew where I was." I'm like, "I was a kid! Do you realize how wrong you were? It was your responsibility to see me." He finally accepted that.
Oprah: Where had he been?
Jay-Z: At his mom's house ten minutes away from me. That was the sad part.
Oprah: Was there any explanation he could have offered that would have satisfied you?
Jay-Z: Yes—and that's why we were able to mend our relationship.
Oprah: What was his reason?
Jay-Z: When I was 9, my dad's brother got stabbed, and my dad went looking for the guy who did it. People would call in the middle of the night and tell him, "So-and-so is out here." So my dad would get up, get his gun, and go outside to look for the guy. After a while, my mom was like, "Hey, this is your family now. You can't do that." But this was my dad's baby brother. And my dad was in so much pain that he started using drugs and became a different person. So I understand that the trauma of the event, coupled with the drugs, caused him to lose his soul.
Oprah: When you saw him again, had he come back to himself?
Jay-Z: He was broken. He had a bad liver, and he knew that if he continued drinking, it would kill him. But he didn't stop.
Oprah: How soon after you saw him did he die?
Jay-Z: A couple of months. I got him an apartment, I was buying furniture. And he passed away.
Oprah: Did you instantly make peace with him during that conversation?
Jay-Z: Pretty much. I felt lighter.
Oprah: The conversation freed you in ways that you hadn't been free before?
Jay-Z: One hundred percent.
Oprah: Did it open the door for you to have a life with love in it?
Oprah: One reason I wanted to talk to you is that I see a common thread between our lives—except that I never shot at anybody and I never—
Jay-Z: Got shot at. Those little things.
Oprah: Little things like that. But the biggest common thread is that we've both become successful by being ourselves.
Jay-Z: There's nothing worse than becoming successful as someone else.
We Hear You!