[Not singe-page] The rap superstar discusses his career and how he’s remained relevant:

“In the years since his masterpiece ‘Reasonable Doubt,’ the rapper has often been accused of running on empty, too distant now from what once made him real. In ‘Decoded,’ he answers existentially: ‘How distant is the story of your own life ever going to be?’ In the lyrics, practically:

Life stories told through rap/Niggas actin’ like I sold you crack/Like I told you sell drugs, no, Hov’ did that/So hopefully you won’t have to go through that. But can’t a rapper insist, like other artists, on a fictional reality, in which he is somehow still on the corner, despite occupying the penthouse suite? Out hustlin’, same clothes for days/I’ll never change, I’m too stuck in my ways. Can’t he still rep his block? For Jay-Z, pride in the block has been essential and he recognized rap’s role in taking ‘that embarrassment off of you. The first time people were saying: I come from here — and it’s O.K.’ He quotes Mobb Deep: ‘No matter how much money I get, I’m staying in the projects!’ But here, too, he sees change: ‘Before, if you didn’t have that authenticity, your career could be over. Vanilla Ice said he got stabbed or something, they found out he was lying, he was finished.’ I suggested to him that many readers of this newspaper would find it bizarre that the reputation of the rapper Rick Ross was damaged when it was revealed a few years ago that he was, at one time, a prison guard. ‘But again,’ Jay says, ‘I think hip-hop has moved away from that place of everything has to be authentic. Kids are growing up very differently now.’”