Jay-Z Says Nirvana and Kurt Cobain ‘Stopped’ Hip-Hop for a Moment

2012-10-09

Story by Anne Erickson

Hip-hop star Jay-Z discusses the rise of grunge in rapper Pharrell’s new book

Rapper Pharrell Williams is the proud author of a new, coffee-table book, “Pharrell: The Places and Spaces I’ve Been,” due out on Oct. 16 via Rizzoli. The read packs interviews between Pharrell and various music superstars, such as Kanye West and Jay-Z, and in it, the subject of grunge music makes an appearance.

“So, where were you mentally and physically when grunge music hit?” Pharrell asks Jay-Z in the read, via an excerpt in Spin. “Like where were you when you first heard, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit?’”

Jay-Z replies that he was in Virginia when he first heard the groundbreaking grunge-pop nugget from Nirvana, and right away, he knew it was big. So big, in fact, that it would change the course of music for a good while. “First we got to go back to before grunge and why grunge happened,” Jay-Z says in the passage. “‘Hair bands’ dominated the airwaves and rock became more about looks than about actual substance and what it stood for—the rebellious spirit of youth….That’s why ‘Teen Spirit’ rang so loud because it was right on point with how everyone felt, you know what I’m saying?”

Jay-Z goes so far to comment that grunge music stopped the rise of hip-hop in popular music for a while. “It was weird because hip-hop was becoming this force, then grunge music stopped it for one second, ya know?” he states. “Those ‘hair bands’ were too easy for us to take out; when Kurt Cobain came with that statement it was like, ‘We got to wait awhile.’”

Moreover, Jay says late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain had a rare charisma that was undeniable. “I have always been a person who was curious about the music and when those forces come on the scene, they are inescapable,” he says. “Can’t take your eyes off them, can’t stop listening to them. [Cobain] was one of those figures…”

For more of the excerpt, head to Spin.

 




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