Oprah Talks to Jay-Z
Jay-Z: Be true to yourself—and keep things simple. People complicate things.
Oprah: My creed is that intention creates reality.
Jay-Z: Now I'm having an aha moment! That's true.
Oprah: What's the basis of your spiritual belief?
Jay-Z: I believe in karma: What you do to others comes back to you.
Oprah: But don't you think we're responsible only for what we know? Otherwise, you'd be facing karma for every person you sold drugs to.
Jay-Z: As a kid, I didn't know any better. But now, if I were to act as if what I did wasn't bad, that would be irresponsible. And I'd have to bear the weight of that.
Oprah: Maya Angelou always says, "When you know better, you do better." Do you still think back on that time in your life?
Jay-Z: All the time. When you make music, you're constantly on the psychiatrist's couch, so to speak. That's an outlet for me. Because I'm not normally a talkative person. I don't have conversations like this for no reason.
Oprah: Speaking of conversations, when I met you a few years ago, we discussed our disagreement over the use of the N word and misogynist lyrics in rap music. Do you believe that using the N word is necessary?
Jay-Z: Nothing is necessary. It's just become part of the way we communicate. My generation hasn't had the same experience with that word that generations of people before us had. We weren't so close to the pain. So in our way, we disarmed the word. We took the fire pin out of the grenade.
Oprah: I was once at a Jay-Z concert, and there was a moment when everybody—including white people—was screaming the N word. I gotta tell you, it didn't make me feel good.
Jay-Z: That's understandable.
Oprah: But it didn't seem to affect you. You were having a good time up there onstage.
Jay-Z: I believe that a speaker's intention is what gives a word its power. And if we eliminate the N word, other words would just take its place.
You know, hip-hop has done so much for race relations, even with its ignorance—which, by the way, we do have to take some responsibility for. But even without directly taking on race, we've changed things just by being who we are. It's difficult to teach racism in the home when your kid loves Jay-Z. It's hard to say, "That guy is beneath you" when your kid idolizes that guy.
Oprah: I'll give you that. But when I hear the N word, I still think about every black man who was lynched—and the N word was the last thing he heard. So we'll just have to disagree about this.
Jay-Z: It's a generational thing.
Oprah: Okay. Just the other day, an elderly person reminded me that we all need to have more fun. Because in the end, it's not about how much work you've done. So what gives you pleasure?
Jay-Z: Seeing people around me happy. Here's a story. The first time I went to Capri, Italy, I had some spaghetti. It was simple, but it was prepared in such a fresh way that I immediately called my friends to come and share it with me. They took a plane, a train, and a boat just so we could enjoy the food together. That made me totally happy.