Yesterday, moments before the cameras started rolling on my interview with Jay-Z, the rapper shared an emotional and sincerely heartfelt moment with a woman he had never met before.
It was right after Jay-Z held his press conference announcing his momentous Madison Square Garden concert on September 11, 2009. We moved upstairs to the bar to interview the rap legend one-on-one, and as we sat down, a well-dressed lady came up to Jay, introduced herself, took his hand and began to tell him a story. Like so many others here in New York, this lady had lost a loved one — her brother, an NYPD police officer — who had died in the tragedy of September 11, 2001. As she told Jay the story, she started to cry and gave him a bracelet engraved with her brother's name and "9-11-01." As she did, she thanked Jay for making this tribute concert come to life and providing New York with a way to remember and celebrate the lives of those who were lost.
It was clear that Jay was genuinely touched by her sentiment and emotion, and I think that may have been a moment where the significance of his upcoming concert had become even more real. And the rest of us were moved to see hip-hop's O.G promising that the fundraising concert will also be a "celebration."
Seconds later, the cameras started rolling, and what had just happened gave us the perfect starting point to sum up exactly why he was doing this concert for New York. It was an idea that Jay came up with a year ago, and over the past few months he and his team have worked tirelessly to see this magnificent feat brought to life. As Jay says, "There is no point having a plan without execution."
It wasn't long before we moved onto another pressing topic worthy of its own press conference. While Hov was on stage moments before talking about the upcoming 9-11 concert, industry BlackBerries around the world started buzzing with the subject line "Jay-Z Blueprint 3 Album Leak." Over the past couple of weeks, a few Timbaland-produced joints from the new album had leaked, but yesterday morning what seemed to be the entire album was available online. We were the first to talk to Jay about the leak. Calling himself perhaps "the most bootlegged rapper in history" (funny because it's true), Jay was surprisingly unphased and not mad at the leak, describing it as a "gift and a curse." The curse is that people don't get to enjoy the album as a complete and finished piece of art, but the gift is that people still want to listen to Jay-Z. Although the Video Music Awards are just around the corner, there's little point asking the interview veteran who he thinks is going to win more awards, Eminem and Kanye West, or even if he fancies his chances with his own two nominations — he knows how to side-step better than a politician. But with Beyoncé nominated nine times and Kanye four, I asked him how many times he thinks he'll be getting up to clap. He said "13," quietly confident that it will be the night of Kanye West and Beyoncé.
We spoke about his surprise attendance at the Grizzly Bear concert over the weekend, leaving many a hipster gob-smacked. You shouldn't be. He's a firm fan of the good music, having been one of the first to start singing the praises of Coldplay and MGMT. He's so inspired in fact, that he's also working on a new indie rock-inspired album that he joked "wont be a #1." Never say never!