Jay-Z brings it all back home

Jay-Z brings it all back home
Photo by Paul Martinka

Brooklyn’s finest returned to the borough where it all began on Thursday night, reminiscing about being a crack king in the Marcy projects before becoming hip-hop royalty in the 1990s.

In a lengthy interview with Charlie Rose in a packed auditorium in the Brooklyn Museum, Jay-Z continued his role as rap’s ambassador — and promoted his new book, “Decoded” — while his adoring fans hung on his very word, laughed at every joke, and clapped at every opportunity.

“Hip-hop is poetry,” Jay-Z said, with his wife, Beyonce, and his mother, Gloria Carter. “I’m telling the story of a generation of people who grew up through an era that was very difficult.”

That time was in the 1990s, when the then–Shawn Carter lived with his mother in Bedford-Stuyvesant and hustled rock.

Rose asked Jay-Z — now known by his self-declared nickname “Brooklyn’s Finest” — to share how he got into the crack game.

“It wasn’t difficult — it was one conversation [to sell crack],” said Jay-Z. “I made and lost a lot of money. Even a corner hustler had a dream: that he could make it out of an environment of hopelessness.”

At one point, Rose flashed a photo of Jay Z’s childhood home — the tough Marcy Houses.
Photo by Paul Martinka

Naturally, Rose had to ask if he had ever used the drug that he pushed for the better part of his youth.

“No. Crack cocaine — no,” said Jay-Z. “Come on man, that’s hardcore. Maybe a little weed. A Ballantine. Or a Guinness Stout.”

The biggest laughs of the night came when Rose put his foot in his mouth, mispronouncing Tupac Shakur’s name as “two-pack.”

“White people call Tupac ‘Two-pack’ ” said Jay-Z, getting the biggest laugh of the night. “If it were ‘Two pack’ there would be a ‘K’ at the end. You’re not the first, hopefully after tonight you’ll be the last.”

That threw the normally on-point Rose off his game, but a fist-bump from Jay-Z got the interview back on track.

Rose stuck mostly to the classic celebrity interview script, so the main area of local interest — Jay-Z’s miniscule ownership stake, and outsized public role, in the soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets — was unaddressed.

The rapper’s wife, Beyonce, also entertained just by being on hand.
Photo by Paul Martinka