JAY-Z & Kevin Hart Discuss What Would Happen If Black Celebs United

There are few names that are bigger in entertainment than JAY-Z and Kevin Hart. Both men are at the top of their respective crafts, and each is a business unto himself. Hart is a comedian who is selling out arenas, shepherding multiple companies and has generated more than $5 billion at the box office. JAY-Z was Hip-Hop’s first billionaire, leveraging his Rap career to build a fashion line, open a sports club, launch a spirits company and buy a streaming music service, among other things. While Kevin has been a prominent fixture in the media over the last several years, Jay has been more reclusive, doling out interviews sparingly. The two men sat down together recently, however, for a 50-minute conversation, when JAY-Z was a guest on episode 2 of Season 2 of Kevin Hart’s Hart To Heart show on the Peacock streaming service.

When Hart is the subject of interviews, he is often animated and jovial, playing it up for the camera. As a host of his own show, however, he takes his job seriously, showing deference to his guest, asking thoughtful questions and listening intently. From the outset of the conversation with JAY-Z, the admiration that Kevin has for him is clear, with him saying “Holy sh*t, I can’t believe I got you here,” shortly after they take their seats. Despite Hart’s excitement, it is clear that the men are friends off camera and that the respect between them is mutual.

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Hart starts by asking JAY-Z if Jay, himself is awed by his own accomplishments. Jay replies “I was actually on Facetime with Ty [Jay’s close friend and Roc Nation co-founder], and I was saying I don’t think people realize that we just sit around all the time and [say] like ‘Can you believe this sh*t? I can’t believe this sh*t.'” They are surprising words from an artist who has projected steely confidence for more than two decades, on and off the microphone.

Later in the conversation, Kevin Hart asks JAY-Z if he is retired, presumably since Jay has not released an album since 2017’s 4:44. Jay says no, acknowledging that he has already done that once. The Marcy-born rapper announced he was hanging up his microphone after the release of The Black Album in 2003, because he had been going non-stop since the release of his Reasonable Doubt album in 1997. Unlike the 3-year period that Jay stepped away between 2004 and 2007, Jay has been releasing a number of guest verses over the last several years, including collaborations with Nas, Pusha-T, Nipsey Hussle, Kanye West and more. When Hart asks JAY-Z how he decides which feature verses to do, Jay replies “It’s mostly relationships. It’s actually always been mostly relationships. Sometimes it’s talent and sometimes someone asks me to be on something. Pretty much every song that I’m on I’m asked to be on. I don’t ask people to be on their songs. I never charge.”

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Midway through the conversation, Hart and JAY-Z have a personal exchange about how they dealt with the absence of their fathers, when growing up. While Hart and his father do have a relationship now, JAY-Z’s father left when Jay was young. The two men connected later in life, but the man born Shawn Carter’s father died in 2003. Jay shared with Hart how he changed his perspective on his father’s abandonment. “What cracked the code for me was [asking myself] ‘what was he going through,'” said Jay about how gaining empathy for his father helped him. Jay continued, “I took it like it’s happening to me. He’s doing this to me. When I looked at it from his position–like my dad wasn’t around and all these things happened. And, then when I took a further look, his younger brother got killed…So, he’s going out in the middle of the night and he’s looking for the guy that killed his little brother.” Jay speaks on the tension his father’s behavior caused at the time with his mother, and relays how this was part of what fractured his mother and father’s relationship.

Toward the end of the sit down, the conversation between Kevin Hart and JAY-Z shifts to the prospect of Black celebrities working with one another, instead of launching separate ventures and competing with one another. Jay says “We gotta get outta that space, obviously, as a people and really lean on each other, and work and talk.” Hart acknowledges that this is a recurring discussion between him and Jay, saying “That’s our biggest conversation. I think the biggest conversation we have is there’s going to come a day when there’s a realization between all of our counterparts–that kinda sit at a great table–to realize that we can go to one table and figure out one thing that we all say we’re going to do together. I think for some reason, that’s been the most difficult thing. And, I think it’s difficult because the assumption of egos from some of the biggest people that would be at that table of ‘they’ll probably never do it, of he’ll probably never do it.’ There’s an assumption of personnel and what that person may or may not do, but I think the correct table of men and women, and just the will and want to do something together, it changes a huge narrative, and it’s scary. It’s scary as to what we could actually do, if we actually sat down.”

Many have noted the revenue generated by Black entertainers and athletes and speculated as to what would happen if all of that talent and resources was pooled to launch their own media companies, sports leagues and other endeavors. Jay offers his insight as to what some of the obstacles might be to such unification. “There’s a lot of people involved. It’s so many people. There’s lawyers. There’s accountants, and everyone’s pulling on for their [piece.] No one wants to lose control,” he says. He continues, articulating some of the fears that manifest “Is he getting more than me?”

Jay ends on a hopeful note, however, saying “But, I think we’re getting closer. Once we eliminate some of them barriers of like just so many people involved, we can figure out a way to really just join together and do things.” In many ways, JAY-Z’s Roc Nation is a microcosm of such an alliance. Jay says of the company, “The reason we created Roc Nation was to be able to say ‘OK. This is all the information we gathered. Here it is, Rihanna. Here it is, Kanye. Here’s the information. So, if we achieved those goals at 36, you do it at 26. If we created a billion dollar company, you create a 7 billion dollar company.'”