Jay-Z on Katrina, Kanye, and the apology



Jay-Z appeared on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross promoting his memoir Decoded. In it, he reflects on his rough upbringing, drug dealing and rap career — he also discusses Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. In the interview, Gross asked him for his thoughts on former President George W. Bush's memoir (Decision Points) and his "lowest point of his presidency" comment, referring to rapper Kanye West saying "George Bush doesn't care about black people" on live TV. Here's what he said:

First, I find it strange like everyone else that one of his lowest points is somebody talking about him. People should insult him a lot. That's part of the job description. People are not going to be happy with what you do. When certain events happen like Katrina, when you see people on a roof, people of color for the most part ... and this is happening on TV, and you see the commander in chief just drive by on a plane ... we were all angry. ... It felt like something happening directly to blacks. ... Kanye really spoke what everyone else felt."

Jay-Z elaborates more in his memoir. Here's an excerpt:

Kanye caught a lot of heat for coming on that telethon and saying, "George Bush doesn't care about black people," but I backed him one hundred percent on it, if only because he was expressing a feeling that was bottled up in a lot of our hearts. It didn't feel like Katrina was just a natural disaster that arbitrarily swept through a corner of the United States. Katrina felt like something that was happening to black people, specifically.

I know all sorts of people in Louisiana and Mississippi got washed out, too, and saw their lives destroyed — but in America, we process that sort of thing as a tragedy. When it happens to black people, it feels like something else, like history rerunning its favorite loop. It wasn't just me. People saw that Katrina shit, heard the newscasters describing the victims as "refugees" in their own country, waited in vain for the government to step in and rescue those people who were dying right in front of our eyes, and we took it personally. I got angry. But more than that, I just felt hurt. In moments like that, it all starts coming back to you: slavery, images of black people in suits and dresses getting beaten on the bridge to Selma, the whole ugly story you sometimes want to think is over. And then it's back, like it never left. I felt hurt in a personal way for those people floating on cars and waving on the roofs of their shotgun houses, crying into the cameras for help, being left on their porches. Maybe I felt some sense of shame that we'd let this happen to our brothers and sisters. Eventually I hit the off button on the remote control. I went numb.

Read the full excerpt here.

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