This week, Oprah kicked off 2011 by launching her aggressively-logoed OWN network, featuring such gems as Miracle Detectives and Kidnapped by the Kids. One of the network’s most promising offerings is Oprah’s Master Class, a celebrity biography show infused with Oprah’s take-away lessons. And the first big shot to get the Oprah documentary treatment? None other than Jay-Z.
In his Master Class, Jay-Z is startlingly open, even for a man who just had an autobiography — think a Behind the Music episode with Oprah-level psychoanalyzing — talking about his faith in God, his difficulty with his father, and his belief that failure is better for you than success. (Though, alas, no more juicy details on a possible baby with Beyoncé.) It’s enough to convince us that Jay-Z’s next project should be a self-help book. Or at least an inspiration-a-day calender. Check out the episode and some more Jay-Z nuggets of wisdom below.
“There was a time when I realized: I got this,” Jay-Z remarks about his career — which, for a genre so built around boasting and bluster, seems awfully modest. But Jay-Z, possibly the most gangster CEO alive, is so successful that he can afford the luxury of revealing his insecurities. One of the most interesting moments in the Master Class session is when Jay talks about his second album, In My Lifetime, Volume 1, a huge commercial success but an album that Jay-Z now regards as a failure of imagination — one in which he caved to the pressure of making a successful album rather than working on his own stuff. As he explains, the kind of music he likes to make is “just for my friends, that’s how I started… The only difference is now I got a million friends. And now I’m writing for them.” But it’s the missteps that he values as game-changers — a very Oprah message indeed: “I don’t know how you learn from success. I haven’t figured that part out.”
Though he devotes time to his role models — Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Michael Jordan — Jay-Z believes that hip-hop has been as important a tool for social change as any of that rhetoric. “I think that hip-hop has done more for racial relations than most cultural icons… It’s very hard to teach racism in the home when your kid looks up to Snoop Doggy Dog.” It’s also illuminating to hear Jay-Z talk about his faith, a strong belief in one God but not a strictly Christian one. “I believe that religion separates people more than it brings them together,” he notes. And don’t worry about the new Sinatra quitting the game any time soon. “There’s always the next mountain.” We can only hope Oprah tackles Lil Wayne next.