Jay-Z is used to strangers knowing the dirty details about his personal life, but on the Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman, the rapper gives his take on the stories and events that brought him to where he is now.
In his interview with the former Late Show host, the artist, whose real name is Shawn Carter, talks about overcoming martial problems and being a dad.
Growing up in an area where men were told to "Be a man. Stand up. Don't cry," he had to strive to become the husband and father that Beyoncé, Blue Ivy and the twins, Rumi and Sir Carter deserved. "I want to have the emotional tools that it keeps to keep my family together."
"I have a beautiful wife who was understanding and knew I am not the worst of what I've done," he said. "We did the hard work of going to therapy, we love each other. We really put in the work for years. This music I'm making now is a result of things that have happened already. Like you, I like to believe that we're in a better place today, but still working and still communicating and growing. I'm proud of the father and the husband I am today because of all the work that was done."
Jay-Z also talked about growing up without a father in Brooklyn and being a dad.
He shared that, "As a kid I had a bunch of anger towards him, but as I grew up I realized that the things he went through in life were very difficult."
"I'm not heartbroken at this point in my life," he tells Letterman. "I wake up, I look around, I look at my kids, they're healthy."
And the star has come a long way from the hard life he once knew. In the years since he lived in Brooklyn, Jay-Z has transformed from a drug dealer who could "see that person in the corner and be like, ‘OK, they got a gun in their pocket,'" into a family man who worries about getting his kids to school on time.
Not that he didn't worry about being a good father. If anything, he felt under prepared for fatherhood seeing as there were not "very many examples for us growing up of that."
When Blue Ivy was born, however, he said it all just clicked.
He mused, "It's strange that way."
Despite the hardships, or perhaps, because of the hardships he faced in his earlier life, the producer says, "I feel grateful every day."
That effort to preserve his marriage, along with his mother, Gloria Carter, coming out as a lesbian to him, is what has fueled his music and his most recent album, 4:44.
When she told him nearly eight months ago that she was in a loving relationship, he said, "I cried ‘cause I was so happy for her that she was free."
"Imagine having to live your life as someone else and you think you're protecting your kids," Jay-Z explained. "For my mother to have to live as someone that she wasn't and hide and protect her kids and didn't want to embarrass her kids for all this time and for her to sit in front of me and tell me, ‘I think I love someone.' I mean, I really cried."
In addition to opening up about his family life, Jay-Z also dished on his current—and complicated—friendship status with Kanye West.
"That's my brother. We're beyond friends," he said. "Really, like, literally my little brother is Kanye. And like your little brother, things happen sometimes."
(Originally published on Thursday, April 5 at 9:30 p.m. PT)