Last Friday, Netflix finally released an episode of David Letterman’s show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction they had been teasing since the beginning of that week. The show features David Letterman hosting intimate interviews with iconic figures in pop culture today. The latest of those icons has been none other than Jay-Z.
Four clips of Letterman’s interview with Jay-Z have been released in total, with the fourth one released the day of the episode’s online air date. Other clips have included the two discussing topics such as what makes a good rapper, and how his mother came out as lesbian to him for the first time.
In the latest clip, Letterman probes Jay-Z on his relationship with Kanye West: “Kanye West… Are we friends? Or are we not friends?” he says. Jay-Z treads carefully, saying “That’s my brother; we’re beyond friends. Literally, my little brother is Kanye, and like your little brother, things happen sometimes.” When pushed to divulge what “things” happened between the two, Jay-Z sidestepped answering directly, a common move made by hip-hop veterans when confronted with sensitive subjects.
A little digging for the answer to Letterman’s inquiry would reveal that Jay’s current tension with Kanye is rooted in events that transpired in late 2016 while Kanye was performing what would be the final shows of his Saint Pablo tour. In one of his performances, Kanye ranted about Beyoncé and her role in the 2016 MTV VMAs:
“I was hurt, Beyoncé, I was hurt, because I wanted to present a video called “Fade”, and out of respect MTV told me “Mr. West, out of respect to you, I will let you know that Beyoncé is winning the video tonight for ‘Formation’ over ‘Hotline Bling’ and ‘Famous’… Beyoncé, I was hurt, because I heard you wouldn’t perform unless you won Video of the Year over me, and over ‘Hotline Bling’.”
He quickly follows up by telling the crowd not to go dissing Beyoncé, and that she’s a great artist, but the damage had already been done. At an earlier show, Kanye had complained that his and Jay-Z’s kids had never played together, blaming a sour business relationship for the divide.
In Jay-Z’s first Rap Radar interview after his release of 4:44, Jay explains that Kanye crossed a line by involving his family in their dispute. Jay alludes to their falling out in the track “Kill Jay-Z”, but explains his issue plainly in the interview:
“What really hurt me was, you can’t bring my kids and my wife into it. Kanye’s my little brother. He’s talked about me 100 times. He made a song called ‘Big Brother.’ We’ve gotten past bigger issues. But you brought my family into it, now it’s a problem with me. That’s a real, real problem. And he knows it’s a problem… He knows that he crossed the line, I know him. He knows. I know he knows, because we’ve never let this much space go between one of our disagreements, and we’ve had many, because that’s who we are. That’s what I like about him. He’s an honest person, he’s open and he’ll say things and he’s wrong a lot of times and he’ll confront it.”
Both in his Rap Radar interview as well as his talk with David Letterman, Jay-Z steers clear of any inflammatory rhetoric, showing that he isn’t interested in exacerbating beef with someone he considers to be his brother. At the end of the No Introduction clip, Jay-Z includes a short anecdote that illustrates how Kanye has always been the same person, in his opinion. “He interrupted our studio session and stood on a table and started rapping,” Jay-Z said. “we’re like, ‘could you please get down?’, and he was like, ‘No! I am the savior of Chicago!’” You can watch the Jay-Z episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, titled “I had a Paper Route Too”, on Netflix now.