Jay-Z tells Andrew Marr: ‘Rappers are the poets of our generation’

Rapper squares up for a heavy-weight political chat

Jay-Z has declared “rappers are the poets of our generation” and has insisted he will not compromise his lyrics despite friendship with the political elite, including President Barack Obama.

Speaking about the political impact his rhymes can have, the rapper said he now had connections in Washington DC – admitting he has the Commander In Chief “on speed dial” – but insisted this did not mean he has to water down his opinions.

“Sometimes there are hard truths in rap, they’re not packaged with pretty ribbons. Sometimes the realities of the situations are harsh and they need to be told,” he told BBC1’s Andrew Marr. “We’re the poets of our generation! Those truths and those honesties need to be told and sometimes that will rub people the wrong way but that don’t mean you don’t tell them… I think when rap is done brilliantly it can inform you of a problem, things that are going on.”

Jay-Z also spoke about his Glastonbury appearance, insisting that arguments against him headlining the event in 2008 were as outmoded as slavery.

“[Glastonbury] was like winning the first Grammy for me,” he explained. “It was one of those times that was almost like knocking the door down. It was almost like the people saying, ‘No, we want that to happen, it’s the natural progression, we like rap, we like rock, we like everything’.

“It was just that last archaic thinking that was in the way of this festival’s prestige, [the idea] that it should be held this way forever. If we believe that a thing that’s started should be held forever I’d still be a slave, right? Things change and the world changes. I think it’s best to embrace change.”

The rapper also celebrated going to Number One in the US with ‘The Blueprint 3’ as it now puts him ahead of Elvis Presley in terms of chart-topping albums.

“I just passed Elvis with my 11th Number One album. We were tied on ten,” he explained. “I think The Rolling Stones have nine but, of course, The Beatles have got 19, so that’s my next goal.”

He added: “Fame is a very difficult thing to manage. Every day people are telling you you’re great, you’re fantastic and every time they tell you your head gets bigger and you’re floating away. You need your friends to pull your legs back down and keep you grounded.”

Watch the full Jay-Z interview at bbc.co.uk/iplayer.