Jay Z is one of the most influential people in modern culture, let alone music.
Videos by American Songwriter
As he once told us, he’s not a businessman. He’s a business, man!
Indeed, Jay has a myriad of No. 1 albums, hit singles, quotable song lyrics, and a life story that belongs in the Smithsonian. But what about what the man has to say outside of his music? What are his thoughts on life and love? On his craft and the business around it?
Well, that is exactly the exercise in which we find ourselves here today. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the best 20 Jay-Z quotes.
1. “I’m a mirror. If you’re cool with me, I’m cool with you, and the exchange starts. What you see is what you reflect. If you don’t like what you see, then you’ve done something. If I’m standoffish, that’s because you are.”
2. “Belief in oneself and knowing who you are, I mean, that’s the foundation for everything great.”
3. “I’m hungry for knowledge. The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter. That’s what this world is about. You look at someone like Gandhi, and he glowed. Martin Luther King glowed. Muhammad Ali glows. I think that’s from being bright all the time, and trying to be brighter.”
4. “Excellence is being able to perform at a high level over and over again. You can hit a half-court shot once. That’s just the luck of the draw. If you consistently do it… that’s excellence.”
5. “Wherever I go, I bring the culture with me, so that they can understand that it’s attainable. I didn’t do it any other way than through hip-hop.”
6. “Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama’s running so we all can fly.”
7. “Politics—I still think it’s a bunch of liars and a bunch of self-interest. It’s not about the people: it’s about themselves and their rise to power. They are voting on things based on whether they will have the support of the people when they vote next time. They don’t have the balls to say, ‘I believe in this. I don’t care what happens.'”
8. “One of the reasons inequality gets so deep in this country is that everyone wants to be rich. That’s the American ideal. Poor people don’t like talking about poverty because even though they might live in the projects surrounded by other poor people and have, like, ten dollars in the bank they don’t like to think of themselves as poor.”
9. “Successful people have a bigger fear of failure than people who’ve never done anything because if you haven’t been successful, then you don’t know how it feels to lose it all. You don’t have that fear. So why do you think people get stuck in those boxes? It’s that fear of going back down.”
10. “Hip-hop has done so much for racial relations, and I don’t think it’s given the proper credit. It has changed America immensely. I’m going to make a very bold statement: Hip-hop has done more than any leader, politician, or anyone to improve race relations.”
11. “I love what I do, and when you love what you do, you want to be the best at it.”
12. “I try to make music with emotion and integrity. And authenticity. You can feel when something’s authentic, and you can feel when it’s not: you know when someone’s trying to make the club record, or trying to make the girl record, or trying to make the thug record. It’s none of that. It’s just my emotions.”
13. “I grew up in Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, and my mom and pop had an extensive record collection, so Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and all of those sounds and souls of Motown filled the house.”
14. “Providing—that’s not love. Being there—that’s more important. I mean, we see that. We see that with all these rich socialites. They’re crying out for attention; they’re hurting for love. I’m not being judgmental – I’m just making an observation. They’re crying out for the love that maybe they didn’t get at home, and they got everything.”
15. “It’s hilarious a lot of times. You have a conversation with someone, and he’s like, ‘You speak so well!’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean? Do you understand that’s an insult?”
16. “You make your first album, you make some money, and you feel like you still have to show face, like ‘I still go to the projects.’ I’m like, why? Your job is to inspire people from your neighborhood to get out. You grew up there. What makes you think it’s so cool?”
17. “I would run into the corner store, the bodega, and just grab a paper bag or buy juice—anything just to get a paper bag. And I’d write the words on the paper bag and stuff these ideas in my pocket until I got back. Then I would transfer them into the notebook.”
18. “No one came to our neighborhoods with stand-up jobs and showed us there’s a different way. Maybe, had I seen different role models, maybe I’d have turned on to that.”
19. “Some people are attracted to vulnerability. From my very first album, I’ve been vulnerable. I’ve always given parts of me, parts of my life—good, bad, ugly. I’ve never put up this image as a super-thug. Also, some people just like the music.”
20. “That’s the reason why I’m making albums. That’s the reason why I love hip-hop: It’s a challenge every time.”
Photo: PRNewsfoto/Moët Hennessy