"Can't leave rap alone, the game needs me," Jay-Z raps on "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," and the Brooklyn MC backed it up on Tuesday, insisting that he's quit thinking like a quitter.
Previous albums have been preceded by hints that they'd be his last, but that's no longer the case as Jay prepares to drop The Blueprint next month. ([article id="1446726"]Click for photos[/article] of Jay-Z at the "Izzo" video shoot.)
"My plan was just to do one album in the beginning," explained Jay, who now plans to continue recording as long as he doesn't feel his skills have diminished. "I've really started getting into a groove. The more albums I do, the more I want to do better albums, so it's a challenge."
The rapper admits his biggest challenge is to make an album just as good or better than his classic 1996 debut.
"Still chasing the elusive Reasonable Doubt," he said with a smile. "[The Blueprint] is definitely up there, but I feel that all the time. It ain't for me to say — it's for the people to say."
The Jiggaman is going through every possible step to ensure that the people won't have their say before the album's September 18 release date. Like so many of his peers, Jay-Z's albums always seem to get bootlegged on the street weeks before they hit stores.
"I try to wait until the last possible date to master [the albums]. I keep all the music in-house, mixed at the same place," he said. "When you send your music out to different places, anything can happen."
Jay's video for "Izzo (H.O.V.A)" should be hitting the airwaves in the next few days, but according to him it might not have been the first single if he hadn't tested it out first in front of millions at the BET Awards in June.
"I made it so early, in the beginning of making the album. I was like, 'I don't know about "Izzo," I got this other joint right here. That could be the first single.'"
Fans will have to wait awhile to hear another potential Jay-Z hit, his duet with Michael Jackson. "I'm 'a hold out — probably put it on the album around Christmas as an added bonus," Jay said. "It's a special song."
Jay revealed that getting Jackson to come out with him at the Hot 97 Summer Jam was easy. "I just asked him," he recalled nonchalantly. "We was talking about doing a song — I did a remix on his album for 'Rock Your World' — so we would talk on the phone. He was talking about 'Hard Knock Life' one day, [and] I'm looking at the phone like, 'That's so bugged out!' [He told me,] 'I mean the rhythm, the way you was rhyming on there was so in the pocket.' So I just asked him."
Another Jay song bound to make waves is "The Renegades," featuring Eminem.
"Me and him, in passing we always say we're gonna do something together," Jay said. "[The song] just came up. I respect the dude as a lyricist, he's dope. I have even more respect after this album."
And despite what you may have heard, Jay also has respect for fellow Def Jam affiliate DMX. It's been rumored that the two have had friction, and fuel was added to the fire when X popped up on a few records with indirect disses, claiming that he is going for hip-hop's MC throne.
"I actually spoke to DMX about the whole incident. We go back a long way — it's a huge respect level," he said. "A mutual respect level."
Look for Jay to go out on the road around the time his album drops, but it won't be on the scale of the "Hard Knock Life" tour.
"I'm 'a start going to ballrooms, like the Hammerstein Ballroom [in New York] — all the venues that hold three to four thousand people," he said. "I've been doing shows with 20,000 people — huge audiences where you can't even see everybody. Sometimes you just wanna look upstairs and see everybody. I like that."