What do rap mogul Jay-Z and country star Thomas Rhett have in common?
A lot more than you’d think.
In a recent interview with USA Today Network, Jay and Thomas spoke very candidly about the intersection of real art and real life in their recent albums.
Thomas and his frequent co-writer/co-producer Jesse Frasure met Jay-Z through their joint ventures with Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s music and entertainment company.
As they sat down together for this chat, you get a sense that you’re seeing sides of these two that you’ve never seen before. There’s humanness and vulnerability in the way they speak about their latest musical efforts and life in general.
Jay-Z opened up about allowing himself to musically “go there” with the lyrical hints to his relationship with his superstar wife Beyoncé, and the rumors of his past infidelity.
For the rapper, husband and father, it was not easy.
“Yeah, it’s very difficult … for a lot of reasons,” he told the news outlet. “You don’t want to be vulnerable in front of the world. You feel naked … for the whole world to judge what you’re saying and your truth and sometimes minimize it to a song. Yes, it’s a song, but this is my real life.”
Jay went on to say that when critiquing music, audiences don’t always have empathy.
For Thomas, that authenticity means changes. Since the start of his career, the singer and songwriter has begun incorporating more contemporary pop, soul and funk nods in his music and style—all while still remaining a country artist at heart. But it’s tricky. By growing as a person and evolving and wanting your music to reflect your true self, that often means the music has to evolve with you.
And for him, that’s the hard part—helping the fans grow and evolve with him.
“A lot of artists become these people that fans look up to,” Thomas explained. “If they ever release songs that make [fans] feel differently about them, it’s a scary spot to be in. But at the same time, for me, I think I would rather tell the hardcore truth rather than float in a fairy tale land that nothing is ever wrong.
“I think that’s what made me fall in love with songwriting in the first place, is hearing about real legit issues and heartbreak and happiness,” he added.
And even though these successful men freely admit they sometimes doubt themselves and often worry about giving too much away, at the end of the day they know beyond the shadow of any doubt that telling the truth is always the right decision that will, hopefully, inspire other artists to do the same and choose honesty and vulnerability over popularity.
“I think the success … will give more artists the confidence to be yourself and not chase things [that] you don’t know about that aren’t true to you,” Jay-Z said.
“We can hear it. We can feel it. We can feel when it’s not authentic. We’re fans of music, too. It makes you cringe. I would rather not sell any records than not tell my truth.”
And for Thomas’ part, the singer believes that authenticity defies genre.
Thomas grew up listening to all kinds of music from hip-hop to heavy metal to country.It was a unifier for him and his friends, too, the center of conversation. And he hopes that never changes.
“What I’ve noticed this year is that genre is just a word these days,” Thomas said. “Everybody that’s coming to my concerts or going to Jay’s concerts, it’s amazing to see the crossover of the fans. It’s more like good music versus bad music. For me, right now, great songs can transcend boundaries like never before.”
No truer words, Thomas.
And clearly, Jay-Z was right. The truth does win every time—his album “4:44” was the most-nominated project at this year upcoming Grammy Awards, snagging a total of eight nods for the evening, making him the night’s leading man.
Thomas’ latest album, “Life Changes,” also scored a Grammy nod this year.