Our four picks, plus our Knockout of the Year. Presenting Jay-Z, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake, Michael Fassbender and lovely lovely Mila. We’ll be rolling out our profiles of each cover subject this week, and today’s offering is the King of the Year, Jay-Z, who was profiled by GQ’s Alex Pappademas. Click here to read the full piece. Our favorite bit, in which Jay, the father-to-be, talks about his own father, is below.
So now Jay’s going to be a father, and he’s thinking about his own father. He’s thinking about his roots in a nonmythological way, what he’s carried with him from Marcy to here, what he’s escaped. What’s relevant about Adnis Reeves, Jay’s dad, is not so much that he left when Jay was 11 but that he was present up until that time, long enough that when he left, it was worse than not having a father at all.
“If your dad died before you were born, yeah, it hurts—but it’s not like you had a connection with something that was real,” Jay says. “Not to say it’s any better—but to have that connection and then have it ripped away was, like, the worst. My dad was such a good dad that when he left, he left a huge scar. He was my superhero.”
Reeves loved all the things Jay-Z loves today—sports, food, and especially music. He had the best record collection in the neighborhood; the classic-soul-derived beats on Jay’s 2001 album The Blueprint are in part a tribute to the music that filled their house when Jay was young. But when his brother was murdered, Reeves imploded. Slipped into alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse. “He was gone,” Jay says. “He was not himself.” Jay’s mother, Gloria Carter, tried to push him to see his son; there were meetings scheduled that Reeves didn’t show up for. They didn’t see each other again until 2003.
“[I talked about] what it did to me, what it meant, asked him why. There was no real answer. There was nothing he could say, because there’s no excuse for that. There really isn’t. So there was nothing he could say to satisfy me, except to hear me out. And it was up to me to forgive and let it go.”
By then the doctors had told Reeves to quit drinking, and Reeves had kept on drinking, and a month after he and Jay had that conversation—which Jay wrote about on The Black Album’s “Moment of Clarity”—he died.
[Photograph of Jay-Z by Nathaniel Goldberg; Fallon / Timberlake by Peggy Sirota; Fassbender by Goldberg; Mila Kunis by Terry Richardson]