On September 29th, 2017 Shawn “Jay- Z” Carter sat down with Dean Baquet of the New York Times for what may have been the most insightful interview of his 22-year career. It rivals and may even surpass 4:44, Jay’s 13th solo studio album, which is a really tough act to follow. With Jay opening up and sharing his innermost failures and hardships in an impeccable body of art, how could an interview possible come close? That’s easy! By sharing the unfiltered experiences and life lessons that lead to the body of work. I’d like to call them the “Polished gems from the School of Hard Knocks”. It’s very possible that you watched this interview and left some of the most important takeaways on the table, and didn’t even notice. Let me break them down for you.
Jay showed up to the New York Times building wearing a white t-shirt, black pants and a dark bomber, completely comfortable and ready to share it all. Dean set the tone of the interview by asking Jay who he was trying to reach with “The Story of O.J.” And the answer was “Us”. Jay goes on to explain how O.J. Simpson’s rise to fame and eventual demise serve as several valid lessons.
Gem # 1: In America, it’s important to remember who WE are and never lose our sense of self.
Gem # 2: Regardless of how successful we may be or become we will always have a social responsibility to work TOGETHER to continue to move towards equality in all areas of life.
Gem # 3: Disconnection from your people and the culture is separating you from your power. 1 voice will never be louder than 100 voices. There’s strength in numbers.
Gem # 4: if being Rich and famous is your only goal you’re blind to the power you actually possess.
As we get further into the interview Dean switches directions and begins to focus on Jay’s family life. Asking about the difference between the resources he needed growing up versus those that his children will need. Landing on one of the most important gems of the interview.
Gem # 5: We must have compassion for others! Regardless of their struggle, it’s utterly important to understand the importance of having compassion and love for others.
Gem #6: Empathy is of key importance! Being able to identify with someone else’s struggle will be useful at any point in life. Regardless of where you are physically, emotionally and financially.
For years we’ve watched Jay level up from a mid-range rap star to the CEO of multiple organizations and even to the boardroom of an NBA team. But he’s never shared any insight on how his life has changed as a result of all his success. Considering the fact that Jay rarely does interviews, I guess we’re lucky that we didn’t get to hear his perspective until now. Dean tried to get Jay’s perspective on how he’s treated when he’s often the only person of color in a boardroom, and he shined more light than expected.
Gem # 7: It’s all good until you want a seat at the table. Success doesn’t eliminate the presence of racism, however, it may mask it. It may not be apparent until you try to fit in. Always mind the way you carry yourself, never let it get the best of you.
Gem # 8: There’s nothing wrong with Therapy! It actually promotes growth. As people of color, we may have been in survival mode for the majority of our lives. Survival mode is to react off of instant without emotion. Not being able to display emotion can eat a person alive from the inside out and therapy can help us let go of those emotions we never knew were fueling our anger, insecurities and fears. Therapy undoubtedly has the ability to change your life.
Gem 9: everything in life is connected. Understanding this may be all you need to take you from your current situation to exactly where you want to be. It can help you deal with people on their terms while never compromising yourself.
Throughout the course of the interview, Dean steadily peeled away layers of Jay’s guard. By the 20th minute, Jay is completely exposed and he’s embracing. Sitting there as confident as ever in all of his vulnerability talking about his family secrets and the true definition of a man. At this point in the interview, we’re given an introduction to the emotionally aware and mentally grown Shawn Carter.
Gem 10: it’s hard to be vulnerable. But it’s necessary for advancement. Being able to be vulnerable is real strength
Gem 11: your time isn’t always the right time. At times we may be ready to address or open up dialogue around feelings we may have with someone we care about. However, if that other person isn’t as ready to address these feelings or situations as you are it’s okay to wait.
Gem 12: Life’s most beautiful offerings aren’t material. The best things in life are the relationships, bonds and experiences we live through in life. PThe ability to discover is one of the most amazing things in life
Gem 13: It’s not a crime to be smart. “Intelligence isn’t an attribute of color”. It’s fine to be both book smart and street smart. The common street ideals of being book smart being corny or nerdy are the same ideals keeping millions of potential scholars of color from their true greatness.
** You can’t sacrifice others for your own personal gain!