A Young Jay-Z Describes His Early Influences

In 1998 interview, Jigga cites Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway as early inspirations.

[artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist] has always managed to incorporate many different musical styles into his work, bringing together old-school hip-hop, futurist pop, modern R&B and smoky soul. Based on the songs released from the forthcoming The Blueprint 3 (including the just-leaked “Off That,” featuring a guest spot from Drake and production by Timbaland), he will continue to bring a number of different styles together on the same album.

But what drove a young Jay-Z to get into rapping in the first place? Back in 1998, Jigga revealed that his earliest exposure to music came from his parents’ extensive collection of vinyl. “I grew up around music, listening to all types of people,” he said. “I used to listen to old music like Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and things like that. I’m into music that has soul in it, whether it be rap, R&B, pop music, whatever. As long as I can feel their soul through the wax, that’s what I really listen to.”

(Read more about Hova’s early life in Brooklyn here.)

It’s no surprise that Jay cut his teeth on the smooth soul of Donny and Marvin, as those types of samples have become more and more a part of his music (especially the Kanye West productions included on the first Blueprint). Coming of age in Brooklyn in the 1980s, he was ensconced in hip-hop. “Why’d I become a rapper? I guess it was a natural transition,” he said. “At the age I was growing up, rap was the thing, instead of being like an R&B singer.” Hova has held to that focus, choosing to leave the crooning to cohorts like West and Pharrell Williams. Jigga’s albums are a heady stew, but when you consider his upbringing — R&B coming from his house, hip-hop coming from the street — his blend of rap and soul makes perfect sense.