Pitchfork has a dope interview with Roots member ?uestlove, which you can read in full here. Below is an excerpt of where he talks about Jay-Z asking him to work on his MTV unplugged album.
?: Remember when getting with him was such a controversial move? [laughs] We had a two-day summit meeting with our friends and our peers and everything. It was like the riskiest move I ever did in my life: “Shall I take this call from Jay-Z?” For obvious reasons, I will say that’s the smartest move I’ve ever made.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all people who are considered geniuses have a common trait: they sabotage their shit. My circle is a textbook example of that. But Jay’s best trait is that he asks questions. He’s not afraid to take advice. It’s never been a brown-nosey thing with him. He hates that; never do you laugh at the boss’ jokes when they’re not funny. He’s always willing to A-B it: Let’s try A, let’s try B, and let’s even try C, and figure out which one works best. That approach is key to anyone’s survival.
We’re dealing with a kinder, gentler Jay-Z now– but he really wasn’t showing that side back in ’99. I mean, he was fresh off the Un stabbing. The perception of him was different back then. But he came to me with zero ego. He’s a dude that can give you a hundred “Simpsons” quotes, like, “What you know about the monorail?” I’m like, “What?!” It shows that he’s human.
Of all the people I’ve worked with, I’ve never had any huge arguments with Jay. I’ve walked out on Erykah. I stopped speaking with [D’Angelo] for four years until we started working again recently. Working with the artist elite can be like banging your head against the wall. But what actually makes Jay a true artist is that he has no fear of failure. Half the time, my job is basically to talk people off the ledge. It’s more psychological than just me picking up some sticks and counting, “1, 2, 3, 4.” I don’t have to talk him off the ledge. He’ll try something. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll admit it: “OK, didn’t work. Let’s try something else.”