Promoting his new book "Decoded," which gives vivid detail on some of his most iconic songs and how a boy from the projects became one of the richest men in America, Jay-Z dropped by "The Late Show with David Letterman" last night (Nov. 16).
Video: Jay-Z Discusses "Decoded" on "David Letterman"
Hova took the stage set to Paul Shaffer and the late night band's horn-fueled rendition of "Empire State of Mind." Jay-Z spoke as hip-hop's ambassador about the start and growth of the genre since its early days, as well as his first experience with the art form.
"There was this circle around this guy, and he was freestyling off the top of his head and just saying all these magnificent things and actually insults to people," Jay told Letterman, describing his first time seeing a rapper in the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
While much of the conversation dealt with the hardships the rapper experienced growing up, Jay-Z managed to crack a few jokes here and there. When Letterman asked the emcee if he ever used drugs, Jay-Z responded, "I never used drugs… I mean, I used them," bringing laughter to the crowd while describing how he sold drugs to get by, but never actually used them.
"I was one of the lucky ones because I had a talent to make music but most people don't. Most people either go to jail or get killed -- that's pretty much the ending," Jay-Z said, matter-of-factly.
Good to hear a rap legend informing a national audience about the hard-knock life.
"Decoded" is available now at retailers.