They say a midget standing on a giant's shoulders can see much further than the giant. So I got the whole rap world on my shoulders, they trying to see further than I am.
Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama's running so we all can fly.
I've never looked at myself and said that I need to be a certain way to be around a certain sort of people. I've always wanted to stay true to myself, and I've managed to do that. People have to accept that.
I'm hungry for knowledge. The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter. That's what this world is about. You look at someone like Gandhi, and he glowed. Martin Luther King glowed. Muhammad Ali glows. I think that's from being bright all the time, and trying to be brighter.
I would run into the corner store, the bodega, and just grab a paper bag or buy juice - anything just to get a paper bag. And I'd write the words on the paper bag and stuff these ideas in my pocket until I got back. Then I would transfer them into the notebook.
Excellence is being able to perform at a high level over and over again. You can hit a half-court shot once. That's just the luck of the draw. If you consistently do it... that's excellence.
I love what I do, and when you love what you do, you want to be the best at it.
I'm a mirror. If you're cool with me, I'm cool with you, and the exchange starts. What you see is what you reflect. If you don't like what you see, then you've done something. If I'm standoffish, that's because you are.
Belief in oneself and knowing who you are, I mean, that's the foundation for everything great.
The burden of poverty isn't just that you don't always have the things you need, it's the feeling of being embarrassed every day of your life, and you'd do anything to lift that burden.
As kids we didn't complain about being poor; we talked about how rich we were going to be and made moves to get the lifestyle we aspired to by any means we could. And as soon as we had a little money, we were eager to show it.
No, I'm not interested in politics. I have zero interest. I have interest in hope and people.
I got love for Damon Dash as I did before. I don't know if we can be around each other in that way because times have changed. He may be a totally different person. I know I'm a different person. But nothing can erase that era, those times, those memories, those fights to get 'Roc-A-fella' where it was.
With rap, you go in the studio, you make music, you put the music out, then all of a sudden, you're a star: you have a big record on the radio, and you're on stage, and you've never done it before. Let's say your first show is 'Summer Jam,' and you're in front of 60,000 people, and you've never played an arena, ever. You're gonna suck.
I came into this music business at 26 years old. I was a fully developed man at that point. At that age, I didn't have anything to prove.
I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.
Racism is taught in the home. We agree on that? Well, it's very hard to teach racism to a teenager who's listening to rap music and who idolizes, say, Snoop Dogg. It's hard to say, 'That guy is less than you.' The kid is like, 'I like that guy, he's cool. How is he less than me?
Wherever I go, I bring the culture with me, so that they can understand that it's attainable. I didn't do it any other way than through hip-hop.
I treat people based on who they really are, not the name. Everyone has to be respectful and be a human being. No one's above... That's how I carry it with anybody.
If your dad died before you were born, yeah, it hurts - but it's not like you had a connection with something that was real. Not to say it's any better - but to have that connection and then have it ripped away was, like, the worst. My dad was such a good dad that when he left, he left a huge scar. He was my superhero.
It wasn't until sixth grade, at P.S. 168, when my teacher took us on a field trip to her house that I realized we were poor. I have no idea what my teacher's intentions were - whether she was trying to inspire us or if she actually thought visiting her Manhattan brownstone with her view of Central Park qualified as a school trip.
Growing up, politics never trickled down to the areas we come from. But people from Obama's camp, and Obama himself, reached out to me and asked for my help on the campaign. We've sat and had dinner, and we've spoken on the phone. He's a very sharp guy. Very charming. Very cool.
You make your first album, you make some money, and you feel like you still have to show face, like 'I still go to the projects.' I'm like, why? Your job is to inspire people from your neighborhood to get out. You grew up there. What makes you think it's so cool?
My mom always taught me - you know, little boys listen to their moms too much - that whatever you put into something is what you're going to get out of it.
Religion is like a personal computer. You let people in if you want to... We're all gods.
Successful people have a bigger fear of failure than people who've never done anything because if you haven't been successful, then you don't know how it feels to lose it all.
I don't have any fear of working with Samsung because I'm not gonna let them put a phone on my forehead; that's just never gonna happen.
That's why this generation is the least racist generation ever. You see it all the time. Go to any club. People are intermingling, hanging out, having fun, enjoying the same music. Hip-hop is not just in the Bronx anymore. It's worldwide. Everywhere you go, people are listening to hip-hop and partying together. Hip-hop has done that.
If just the presence of Tidal causes other companies to have better pay structure or to pay more attention to it moving forward, then we've been successful in one way. So we don't really view them as competitors. As the tide rises, all the boats rise.
When I came into the music, I was forced to be a CEO. I was forced to be an entrepreneur; I was forced to... because I was looking for a deal. I didn't have this grand scheme of starting a record company and then morphing into a clothing empire.
I think in London - and I don't wanna offend anybody in America, but this is a real statement - they still have the right approach to making music. In the U.S., people see it as a way to make money; they see it as a means to get out. It's a hustle, which is great - any way you can provide for your family that's legal is fantastic.
I learned to ride a ten-speed when I was 4 or 5. My uncle gave me the bike, hand-me-down, and everyone used to stare at me riding up and down this block. I was too short to reach the pedals, so I put my legs through the V of the frame. I was famous. The little kid who could ride the ten-speed.
When you're growing up, your dad is your superhero. Once you've let yourself fall that in love with someone, once you put him on such a high pedestal and he lets you down, you never want to experience that pain again.
Hip-hop has done more for race relations than most cultural icons; and I say save Martin Luther King, because his 'I Have A Dream' speech was realized when Obama was elected into office.
Around 20. I'd been trying to transition from the streets to the music business, but I would make demos and then quit for six months. And I started to realize that I couldn't be successful until I let the street life go.
Hip-hop is more about attaining wealth. People respect success. They respect big. They don't even have to like your music. If you're big enough, people are drawn to you.
It was a weird mix of emotions. One day, your best friend could be killed. The day before, you could be celebrating him getting a brand-new bike.
I think relationships are broken up because of the media.
Obama provides hope. Whether he does anything, the hope that he provides for a nation and outside of America is enough. Just being who he is. You're the first black president. If he speaks on any issue or anything, he should be left alone.
The average rap life is two or three albums. You're lucky to get to your second album in rap!
I remember the first time I saw the 'Sugarhill Gang' on Soul Train. I was 11 or 12. I was like, 'What's going on? How did those guys get on national TV?' And then, when I was a little older, a rapper from the neighborhood got a record deal. I was shocked.
I've said the election of Obama has made the hustler less relevant. People took it in a way that I was almost dismissing what I am. And I was like, 'No, it's a good thing!'
Do you know how many athletes go broke three years after they stop playing? I want to help them hold on to their money. I mean, I know about budgets.
When Basquiat was hanging out with Madonna and Fab Five Freddy, and all those worlds were colliding, people have to realize hip-hop and the arts were like this 'cause we both were outcasts: we wasn't allowed inside the galleries or inside Yankee Stadium. We were writing in the street and making music.
Everyone who makes music is a good collaborator at their foundation because in order to make music, you have to connect to it in a way that other people can't.
I never wanted to just glamorize the playa lifestyle and not touch on the down side. I wanted everyone who's in a desperate situation to know that, if they wanna choose that kinda lifestyle, they gotta be aware of everything that comes with it! It's not just about the cars, the ladies and the money.
When you have a reputation for making not only good songs but great albums, that in itself creates added artistic pressure. But, at the end of the day, I guess that pressure is something I welcome.
Biggie was the King Of New York as a rapper. There's a lot more dangerous guys than Biggie Smalls out there, you know what I'm saying? John Gotti was way closer to King Of New York than him.
People really feel like music is free but will pay $6 for water. You can drink water free out of the tap, and it's good water. But they're OK paying for it.
It was a very intense and stressful situation. There was playing in the Johnny-pump (an opened fire hydrant) and the ice-cream man coming around and all of these games that we'd play, and suddenly it would turn just violent and there would be shootings at 12 in the afternoon on any given day.
I think the problem with people, as they start to mature, they say, 'Rap is a young man's game,' and they keep trying to make young songs. But you don't know the slang - it changes every day, and you're just visiting. So you're trying to be something you're not, and the audience doesn't buy into that.
The experiences that I've had growing up with music, you know, I couldn't trade them for any money in the world. Dancing in the living room to enjoy myself. 'Enjoy Yourself,' Michael Jackson.
When I listen to Amy Winehouse, I believe that her heart and soul is in the music, or if I listen to other British artists like Duffy or Estelle. The aesthetic of it is different, and it's my point of view. It's not anything formulaic.
I was an artist, I was executive producer on my first album, so I've always had to manage both. I couldn't get a record deal. It wasn't by choice - I couldn't get a record deal, so I had to figure it out.
By the time I got to record my first album, I was 26, I didn't need pen or paper - my memory had been trained just to listen to a song, think of the words, and lay them to tape.
Hip-hop from the beginning has always been aspirational. It always broke that notion that an artist can't think about money as well. Just so long as you separate the two and you're not making music with business in mind. At some point, it has to be real when they touch it, when they listen to it. Something has to resonate with them that's real.
'Blueprint 3' is made up of songs, but it's also a commentary on the idea that in order for rap to survive, we have to stretch out the drama. We have to stretch out the audience. It can't be this narrow - we have to stretch out the point of view.
Hip-hop has done so much for racial relations, and I don't think it's given the proper credit. It has changed America immensely. I'm going to make a very bold statement: Hip-hop has done more than any leader, politician, or anyone to improve race relations.
For me, being with Obama or having dinner with Bill Clinton... it's crazy. It's mind-blowing, because where I come from is just another world. We were just ignored by politicians - by America in general.
My mom had early rap records, like Jimmy Spicer. In the middle of the records was a turntable and a receiver - I used to scratch records on it - and on top was a reel-to-reel. In front of that wall were more stacks of records. It was either Mom's record or Pop's record, and they had their names on each and every one.
If you look at my career and you look at the span of my work and the things I have done, as far as to garner fame, you'll see that I have turned down more interviews than I do. Or I turn down more things than I do.
New York - I'm connected. This is my core. I feel like if I'm not connected to New York, then I don't even know what to do with myself.
Growing up where I grew up, we looked to athletes. They were our first heroes. They came from the same places we came from. I mean, you can't watch TV and see someone who is successful that you can really relate to. That person isn't real; he doesn't exist. But athletes traveled the world, had these big houses and gave their families a better life.
We were living in a tough situation, but my mother managed; she juggled. Sometimes we'd pay the light bill, sometimes we paid the phone, sometimes the gas went off.
No one came to our neighborhoods with stand-up jobs and showed us there's a different way. Maybe, had I seen different role models, maybe I'd've turned on to that.
My passion is music, you know, and music influences culture, influences lifestyle, which leads me to 'Roc-A-Wear'. I was forced to be an entrepreneur, so that led me to be CEO of 'Roc-A-Fella' records, which lead to Def Jam.
When you're accustomed to wealth, you don't show it, right? That's why the white kids in school could wear bummy sneakers; it's almost like, 'Don't show wealth - that's crass.'
Your job is to inspire people from your neighborhood to get out.
Providing - that's not love. Being there - that's more important. I mean, we see that. We see that with all these rich socialites. They're crying out for attention; they're hurting for love. I'm not being judgmental - I'm just making an observation. They're crying out for the love that maybe they didn't get at home, and they got everything.
When the TV version of Annie came on, I was drawn to it. It was the struggle of this poor kid in this environment and how her life changed. It immediately resonated.
Some people are attracted to vulnerability. From my very first album, I've been vulnerable. I've always given parts of me, parts of my life - good, bad, ugly. I've never put up this image as a super-thug. Also, some people just like the music.
I've talked to Bill Clinton - he's the ultimate rock star; no one's more charming than him. People clap in a restaurant when he finishes dinner! I don't get that treatment. I get it when I walk onstage, but not when I have dinner.
My thing is related to who I am as a person. The clothes are an extension of me. The music is an extension of me. All my businesses are part of the culture, so I have to stay true to whatever I'm feeling at the time, whatever direction I'm heading in. And hopefully, everyone follows.
That was the greatest trick in music that people ever pulled off, to convince artists that you can't be an artist and make money. I think the people that were making the millions said that. It was almost shameful, especially in rock n' roll.
Shakespeare was a man who wrote poetry. I'm a man who writes poetry. Why not compare yourself to the best?
I listen to everything - from Sarah McLachlan and Alanis Morissette all the way down to rap like Scarface, UGK and Lauryn Hill.
The burden of poverty isn't just that you don't always have the things you need: it's the feeling of being embarrassed every day of your life, and you'd do anything to lift that burden. As kids, we didn't complain about being poor; we talked about how rich we were going to be and made moves to get the lifestyle we aspired to by any means we could.
I don't know where streaming will go in the future. The analytics that we're seeing tell us that streaming is the next thing, and downloads are going down. I feel like with the history of this platform, from vinyl to where we are now, it just seems like the next logical step.
I don't sit around with my friends and talk about money, ever. On a record, that's different.
I can think of no one more relevant and credible in the hip-hop community to build upon Def Jam's fantastic legacy and move the company into its next groundbreaking era.
Just strengthening that theme that America is a place of opportunity and hoping to inspire people to fulfill those opportunities, and to want more, and to want better, and to see the places we can go. So many people identify with me because of the place that I come from.
People wanted to make products based on our child's name, and you don't want anybody trying to benefit off your baby's name.
I try to make music with emotion and integrity. And authenticity. You can feel when something's authentic, and you can feel when it's not: you know when someone's trying to make the club record, or trying to make the girl record, or trying to make the thug record. It's none of that. It's just my emotions.
Everyone knows I'm married; I just don't discuss it. Because it's a part of my life that I'd rather keep private... When your whole life is played out in front of everybody, for your sanity, you need parts that are just yours.
Rap for me is like making movies, telling stories, and getting the emotions of the songs through in just as deep a way.
I was never a worker. And that's not even being arrogant. I was just never a worker.
Nothing me and Kanye can do musically was gonna match the event of what we were trying to do. So we were trying to deliver an album and experience at one time; that was the idea for 'Watch The Throne'.
I was a really good student. In the sixth grade, I was reading at a twelfth grade reading level. But I got bored.
Music is the soundtrack to your life. It's not going to go anywhere. But the way people are purchasing music has changed. It's not the same anymore. It will never be the same.
One of the reasons inequality gets so deep in this country is that everyone wants to be rich. That's the American ideal. Poor people don't like talking about poverty because even though they might live in the projects surrounded by other poor people and have, like, ten dollars in the bank they don't like to think of themselves as poor.
I collect art, and I drink wine... things that I like that I had never been exposed to. But I never said, 'I'm going to buy art to impress this crowd.' That's just ridiculous to me. I don't live my life like that, because how could you be happy with yourself?
Everyone's supposed to stay in their lines and be neat. 'You're a rapper. You're supposed to rap, carry a boom box, wear chains, and go to the club - that's all you do. What are you doing collecting art? What are you talking about? Wait a minute, you're getting out of the zone.' People hate when people cross lines.
I think it's very important for hip-hop, when an artist reaches a certain level, to ascend to executive work.
It's hilarious a lot of times. You have a conversation with someone, and he's like, 'You speak so well!' I'm like, 'What do you mean? Do you understand that's an insult?
As an artist, you make music. And if you see people who don't know how to market your music, you get involved in it. Otherwise, what you want to accomplish 'gets lost in translation' - no pun intended.
I've always believed in good music over bad music. I believe in two sorts of musics. And the lines that separate us, I don't believe in that. That's for people who need to easily define what they're hearing. Me, I'm cool with everything and anything I'm hearing that's music. It comes under one definition for me.
I think reviews have lost a lot of their importance now because of the Internet; everyone is experiencing things at the same time.
The challenge is to get everyone to respect music again, to recognize its value.
Music is everywhere - you consume it every day, everywhere you go. The content creator should be compensated. It's only fair.
What people have to understand is 'Billboard' is a magazine. They're like elected officials - they work for us.