Jay-Z Visits ‘Late Night’

stopped by ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’ on Thursday night to promote his new movie ‘Fade To Black’. Conan asked him about bling bling in hip hop, his private romance with Destiny’s Child star Beyonce Knowles, retiring from rap, music he listens to, idolizing Michael Jordan, Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs’ birthday bash, and more — but no mention of R. Kelly. Read on for a transcript.

Conan: All right, everybody, we’re back. Well, this is exciting —
my first guest is one of the biggest hip-hop stars in the world. He has
9 platinum albums, he has sold more than 18 million records, please welcome,

[ Cheers and applause ]

Conan: Thanks for being here.

Jay-Z: You got a lot of people here, man.

Conan: Oh, yeah.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Jay-Z: You got a lot of people.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Conan: That’s a nice feeling.

Jay-Z: Yeah.

[ Cheers ]

Conan: I don’t get that, you get that. That’s pretty nice. We need you
here every night to get the crowd whipped up like that.

[ Cheers ]

Jay-Z: Okay, I’ll come here —

[ Applause ]

Conan: That will be the new idea — if I have a joke and it bombs, we
just have you walk out behind me. People go — yeah!

[ Light laughter ] First of all —

Jay-Z: Should I walk out behind you now?

[ Cheers and applause ]

Conan: Nice. I’ll get you. You gave me the scare of my life. Before
the show, I like to go and say hi to people before the show and just say
thanks for coming — ask them for cash —

[ Laughter ] And I went in, and I knocked on your door, you know, knocked
on your guest room door — it’s here at “late night with conan o’brien”
— and someone goes, “hey, wait a minute,” like you’re not supposed to
go in there, and I turn around and the largest man I’ve ever seen in the
world is guarding your door. And I wet myself. Look at this guy right here.

[ Laughter ]

Jay-Z: He would have to duck under the door, literally.

Conan: Hi there.

Jay-Z: He was dedicated, though. That guy, he’s so — the guy has to
duck under the door.

Conan: Wait a minute. He put his arm on my shoulder, and it melted like

[ Laughter ] He did. This is a — what is your name, sir?

Jay-Z: Samson, of course.

Conan: Samson? Oh, great.

[ Laughter ] Samson, I am conan.

[ Laughter ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

Jay-Z: Man in audience: Conan!

Conan: I will shock him. Now, so much to talk about. First of all, this
is interesting to me — your videos, your music, it represents a certain
kind of lifestyle that people probably come to expect of you.

Jay-Z: It is.

Conan: You know, the scantily clad women, the cristal —

Jay-Z: Fun.

Conan: Fun, living the life. But there must be times when people expect
that from you, and, you know, you can’t be that person.

Jay-Z: It is.

Conan: Is that true?

Jay-Z: Like, it’s on all the time.

Conan: Right.

Jay-Z: Right, like one time I went to a radio station, it was 10:00
in the morning and they had buckets of cristal at 10:00. I was looking
around like, “who’s drinking cristal at 10:00 in the morning?”

[ Laughter ]

Conan: Right, right.

Jay-Z: And he was like, “I just left the house. You’re video was on
at 9:00 in the morning, you was drinking cristal.”

[ Laughter ]

Conan: And they get confused.

Jay-Z: Yeah, yeah.

Conan: You know, it’s like, “I don’t want to do that right now.” Yeah,
it’s madness. Now, I have a question for you. So much in rap is about the
bling-bling. You know.

[ Laughter ] It’s about materialism. Has there ever been and should
there be a rapper who’s just known for being thrifty?

[ Laughter ] Like M.C. Thrifty?

[ Laughter ] A cheapskate, the guy who stretches the cash over a long
period of time, he’s out there wearing — like, “I got this at the gap,”
and he’s, you know –?

[ Laughter ]

Jay-Z: That’s basically our real life.

Conan: Oh, really? Okay.

Jay-Z: We don’t wanna live that.

Conan: Okay, so you project it, but then in real life you’re putting
it away.

Jay-Z: Yeah, that’s our real life. You know, we all come from struggles.

Conan: Right.

Jay-Z: So, you know, that’s what we do — you know, thrift shops and
saving sneakers for three months, so when we get a chance to shoot videos
and different things like that we aspire for the opulent lifestyle. You
know, some of us don’t reach it, some of us do, but —

Conan: Right, but you can project that, and it’s almost a fun, fantasy

Jay-Z: Right. And hopefully you get it one day.

[ Light laughter ]

Conan: I’m still dreaming.

[ Laughter ]

Jay-Z: Not you.

Conan: No, not me. I’m not doing my job if I don’t ask you about this
— long, lots of speculation, are you dating beyonce, are you not, are
you together, what’s going on? You know, I gotta ask. I mean, a lot of
people think, “yes, yes, these two are together.” What’s going on?

[ Laughter ]

Jay-Z: What happens is, you know, when you live so much of your life
in the public eye, it’s my political instinct to just go with it.

Conan: Yeah, yeah, go with it.

[ Laughter ] Really?

Jay-Z: When you live so much of your normal life in the public eye,
you wanna keep parts of it private, so —

Conan: All right. You don’t have to answer that question. Let me just
tell you, from my perspective —

[ Light laughter ] If I were dating beyonce, I’d be telling everybody.

[ Laughter ]

[ Cheers and applause ] I would be public about it. And I don’t care
that I’m in the public eye. I’d get, like, her phone number for the first
date, and I’d be on tv going —

[ Conan makes babbling noises ]

[ Laughter ] I’m a sad man. Yeah.

[ Light laughter ] You have — you’ve retired. You’ve said that —

Jay-Z: From, yeah, recording solo albums.

Conan: Right, from recording solo albums, you said, so — which is going
to give you a lot of free time. What are you gonna use that energy to do?
What do you aspire to do beyond —

Jay-Z: My next thing is to open up doors, like — you know that did
for rap on the executive level, so you know, I’ve got a couple offers.
One is to be the president of def jam, a couple offers other places. You
know, one day I just hope to run the whole universe.

Conan: That’d be nice.

[ Cheers and applause ] Did you get –? Was there any talk about universal

Jay-Z: You might wanna be nice to me.

[ Laughter ]

Conan: Yeah. I understand I’m lower on the food chain. Don’t worry,
you don’t have to rub it in. Did you get an offer from universal at all?

Jay-Z: Yeah, yeah.

Conan: ‘Cause nbc universal, if you took that job, you would be my boss.

Jay-Z: That’s what I’m tryin’ to tell ya. You know.

[ Laughter ]

Conan: All right. All right, all right. Tell me about the music that
you listen to. You talk about people would have this image of you that
you would only listen to rap, but that’s not true.

Jay-Z: Yeah, like what they call —

[ Deep, bass thumping sounds ]

Conan: Right, right.

Jay-Z: I just believe in two different types of music — good and bad
music. So I listen to all types of music. You know, I listen from coldplay
to u2, sting, john mayer.

Conan: Right.

[ Scattered cheers ]

Jay-Z: John mayer’s hot around here, huh?

[ Cheers ] I say u2, all u2.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Conan: Reo speedwagon.

[ Cheers and applause ] See, that’s where I’m coming from here.

[ Laughter ] You’re gonna fire my ass so fast.

[ Laughter ] “Well, jay-z, get rid of o’brien. Right, yeah, we took
care of it.” I’ve got to ask you about this. You played pool with michael

Jay-Z: Yeah.

Conan: You actually — you guys are tight somewhat, and you actually
played pool. What was that experience like?

Jay-Z: I grew up watching michael jordan. You know, I idolize and the
way he play basketball, and you know him just as a human being, so we got
the opportunity to meet, and we became friends. It was my birthday, I was
at a club in the city, in chelsea, called the 40/40 club. So he came by,
and we was playing pool, and he’s really, really seriously competitive.

Conan: About everything, I’ve heard.

Jay-Z: Really.

[ Light laughter ] And so I had him down 2-0, and he was upset, he said
— he was upset, but then he looked at me and said, “the knicks had me
down 2-0 before, you’re in trouble.”

[ Laughter ]

Conan: And you’re just trying to have a friendly game of pool, and he’s
getting incredibly —

Jay-Z: He was being really serious. He was like, “you’re in trouble.”
Then he won the next two games, and I was like, “that’s it, let’s just
leave tied up.”

Conan: Right. Was he okay with that, or was it, “no, we’re doing this

Jay-Z: No, he wasn’t okay, but I — you know, I just wanted to say I
tied michael jordan.

Conan: Yeah.

[ Laughter ] That’s nice.

[ Applause ] That’s pretty good. Doesn’t matter what you played him

Jay-Z: Right, right.

Conan: It is P. Diddy’s birthday. He’s having a birthday party tonight.
Are you going to this party?

Jay-Z: Yeah, absolutely, yeah.

Conan: Can I roll with you?

[ Laughter ]

Jay-Z: Yeah.

Conan: That’s not gonna happen.

[ Laughter ] On tv it’s like, “yeah, of course.” Afterwards, that guy
got his hand in my face. I’m trying to walk, and he’s just holding me back
like that.

[ Laughter ] No, samson’s not having it. Samson’s coming over here any

[ Laughter ] Let me talk about “fade to black.” Let’s talk about “fade
to black.” I watched this. They got me a copy of the documentary today,
and I was watching this documentary, and what I loved about it was that
you show the creative process, which I think a lot of people don’t understand,
and people that don’t understand rap music don’t understand how hard it
is to actually stay at the top.

Jay-Z: Right.

Conan: And I thought that was the coolest part of the documentary —
it shows you when you’re working on the album, just almost putting yourself
through torture to come up with the right hooks and the right samples.

Jay-Z: Right. I mean, I love to do it, for one. And then, I know how
in rap music, you know, the thing is to get to discovery, so, you know,
every year they’re trying to find a new artist, so you have to really stay
on top of your game. I love doing it, but I also understand that part of
it. You know, I don’t write lyrics. Like, you’ll see in the documentary
a few guys go — you’ll see that. Maybe you should walk out after me, I
kind of —

[ Laughter ]

[ Applause ]

Conan: Thanks. I think you help me more than I help you, in fairness,
but anyway —

Jay-Z: You know, I sit there and I listen to the music, and I just,
you know, I look at music like a puzzle. I try to figure the whole thing
out, what the emotion of the track is saying. When I look at myself on
screen, I’m like, “I look crazy.”

Conan: That’s what’s funny. It shows you listening to some samples,
and then you find one you like, and you start kind of mumbling to yourself,
and yeah, you look a little crazy, but it’s you going through your process,
and it works.

Jay-Z: Yeah.

Conan: And what I like about it is that I thought it was important that
people see — so many people idolize you and say, “I wanna do what he’s
doing, and I wanna be that good,” and I think it’s important for young
people to see — it’s hard.

Jay-Z: Right.

Conan: When you look at this documentary, you can tell that you’re working
your ass off and you’re trying to put out the best product you can, but
that it’s not easy, it just doesn’t come.

Jay-Z: That’s right. It’s not something that you just turn the music
on and it’s a hit disc. Like, you have to work at it. And it’s work. The
work doesn’t stop there.

Conan: Right, then you d yo it’s really fantastic. “Fade to black” opens
tomorrow in select cities. And, you know what? It’s a real honor to have
you here. Whether you’re ever my boss or not, very cool to have you on
this show.

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