In my career, I've had the opportunity to interview many great artists — Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, James Brown and DMC to name a few — and usually I prepare by formulating a plan of approach based on my relationship with that person and the hot topics surrounding them.
If you check my track record in the MTVNews.com archives, you'll find that after every big interview, I like to share with you my thoughts and experiences. I'll be honest with you, though, it has been hard for me to put into words the details of what led up to my interview with Jay Z. This time around I wasn't capable of executing my normal rituals, and now I know why. This may very well be my last interview with Jay Z, and there were so many questions to ask and time was running out.
In order for you to understand my dilemma, I have to share with you something that has haunted me for the past seven years. When I last interviewed Tupac and Biggie, I had no way of knowing that those would ultimately become the last interviews they ever did. Since then, I constantly ask myself what I would've done differently had I known. In the case of Jay, because of his impending retirement, I knew this could turn out to be my last interview with him, so here I was again. The pressure hindered my creative process to the point that I decided to skip my normal routine and approach this one as just a fan of hip-hop and not an employee doing his job — so I freestyled the entire interview.
This was risky ... I just went from gut instinct, and it was so exhilarating! I decided that before it was over not only would I find out what was on the mind of Jay Z after finishing his last album, but I'd also learn who Sean Carter really is and what sorts of trials and tribulations he had to overcome to become the person he is today.
We talked about everything: The Black Album, his stabbing of record mogul Lance "Un" Rivera, his days as a drug dealer, early MC battles with some of the best in the business, Nas, the future of Roc-A-Fella Records, his family, the last days of his father's life and being able to love, and a lot more.
I think the interview was one of his most revealing to date. Jay appears to be at peace right now, and there's definitely a glow about him. Maybe he's content with life, maybe he's maturing, or maybe it's just the glow people get when they're in love. In any case, I sat down with the man before he retired and we discussed the portrait of his life.
(Watch Sway's interview with Jay-Z on the MTV News special "All Eyes On: Jay-Z," airing Saturday at 1:30 and 4 p.m., and check out the MTVNews.com feature on Saturday as well.)