On an episode of PBS' "Charlie Rose" that premiered Wednesday, the Brooklyn icon chatted it up with the veteran journalist, and once again Jay-Z drew laughter with his wry jokes and entertained with his engaging conversation.
The program was taped at the Brooklyn Museum last month, when Jay-Z was in full promotional mode for his "Decoded" book.
When Rose brought up the rapper's age, the host prefaced his inquiry by pointing out that most men raised in Jay-Z's Marcy Projects houses in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood didn't make it to 41.
"My first album didn't come out 'til I was 26, so for so long I ignored that talent," Jay explained. "It took a bit of luck. The people I was with daily — a personal friend of mine went to jail for 12 years. And me and him would be together every single day. So I know that same fate was awaiting me. We would have got picked up the same day. If I wasn't pursuing music I would have been in jail for 12 years."
As it turned out, The Blueprint 3 superstar was influenced by music from an early age, despite it taking some time before he would turn his passion into his profession.
"We'd play music in the house, we'd clean up the house," he said of his childhood. "The house would smell like Pinesol. Windows open, drapes blowing, music playing. I was just enjoying the sounds — Prince, Michael Jackson, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder. I think my mom may have had the first rap record ever, [by] King James III."
When Rose pressed the rapper about his relationship with his father, who abandoned Hov while he was still young, the host offered that at least the patriarch of the family left Jay the gift of music.
"He didn't leave it to me, no," Jay corrected him. "There was never that conversation. I think it went like, 'Get out and leave the records.' "
His comments drew laughs from the audience and Jay chuckled himself, then added, "I can't say for sure. I wasn't there."