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T he American flag is flying proudly at Broadway. At the front, the address is printed big and bold and very gold. An elevator races to the 39th floor — the offices of Roc Nation and as high as you can go. Sit on the window ledge and you can virtually tweak the top of the Empire State Building. Behind a desk, Jay-Z twirls in a leather chair, stands up and greets me. Jay-Z, born Shawn Corey Carter, is one of the world's most successful rappers. He has sold more than 50m albums, won 10 Grammys and had more one albums than any solo artist on America's Billboard chart.
And there's the chain of all-American sports barsthe clothing line, Rocawearthe beauty productsthe basketball team he part-owns, the beer giant he has a stake in. Forbes magazine recently featured him on its cover alongside Warren Buffettthe third wealthiest person in the world. Not bad for a lad who started his working life at 12 selling crack. He arrived here at Roc Nation Rapper jay z age A year later, he bought out his business partner Damon Dash 's share in clothes company Rocawear.
Huge corporate buildings don't tend to bring out the sentimental in me, but it's quite an experience, eyeballing the New York skyline with this self-made master of the universe. Does his mum ever come up to the 39th floor and swivel in his chair? He giggles. His laugh, like his voice, is surprisingly high-pitched — relaxed, confident, likable. She always tells me, 'You just make me prouder and prouder every day.
She tells me that quite often. Does she still call him Shawn? Nobody calls me Shawn except my grandmother. He was a smart boy who lost his way at 11 when his father walked out on the family. This was the s, Brooklyn was infested with crack cocaine, and a generation of young black children were left fatherless. His older brother Eric became addicted to crack. Young Shawn responded by hooking up with a gang and selling the same drug.
Was he Rapper jay z age that he was surviving by destroying people like his brother and father? No way. You just think people are buying your service, and it's Rapper jay z age normal, you just think you're coming of age. It's everywhere. The smell, the stench is in the hallway — that's one of the things about the crack epidemic, people had lost their sense of pride The desperation. In a way, he says, children became parents and parents became children. He found himself supporting his family — even if it was by hustling on the streets. But now we were in power because the people who were supposed to be our support system were on crack, and they was telling us, 'I'll do anything to get it.
There was no one to police us. And we were out of control. I felt I was in a survival of the fittest situation. It was only gradually that he became aware of the consequences of selling drugs. First it was a joke, then as you get older you start to think, man, that really is decay in her body.
There are many Debbies. And you still justify it, because that's how you make your money and you don't want to stop. You say, man, she making her own choice. Through his 14 years on the streets, he never touched crack. He says there was a strict code among successful hustlers, and quotes me a line from the film Scarface : don't get high on your own supply. I never wanted that. I saw what it was doing to the community.
That's not to say he didn't get into trouble. At 12, he shot his older brother Eric in the shoulder for stealing his ring. Jay-Z has written about the incident in the song You Must Love Me "Saw the devil in your eyes, high off more than weed, confused, I just closed my young eyes and squeezed, what a sound, opened my eyes just in time to see ya stumbling to the ground" but he has never publicly talked about it before.
How did he get the gun? Guns were everywhere. You didn't have to go far to get one. Just everywhere. After the shooting, what did he think would happen to him? I thought I'd go to jail for ever. And what did happen? He has become monosyllabic. His discomfort is obvious. Did Eric simply not press charges? It's an astonishing story, I say.
It was terrible. I was a boy. I was terrified. Eric is clean these days, and the brothers get on. Was that the only time he shot someone? But guns were around every day. There were shoot-outs, but I never shot anyone else. Most people in shoot-outs don't get shot.
He knows just how lucky he was when he was hustling. He was shot at three times and each time the bullet missed. Have things changed in Brooklyn since then? I was in Miami the other day and there was this sweep of year-olds. It showed the weaponry they had — AKs, military weapons in the hands of these. He says he'll have a salad, and looks at me. So if you take away guns, then what about knives or rocks? You gotta correct the problem, not the tool. Our sal arrive — olives, chickpeas, crispy greens. As with all things Jay-Z, it's top quality — the crispiest lettuce money can buy.
The chair I'm sitting on is the comfiest but not flashest I've ever sat on. He tells me more than once how important quality is to him. On the table in front of us are a of elite magazines, all featuring Jay-Z on the front. He's got an unusual face for an idol: big puffy cheeks, pixie ears, fatherly and kind.
There are a few stray hairs above his lip. Somehow, you'd expect him to be a more meticulous shaver. Today, he's dressed in casuals.Rapper jay z age
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