JAY-Z, for all his status and success, has yet to do what many of his rap peers have done and conquer Hollywood — and the answer is simple: he’s never liked acting.
In a rare interview with Complex to discuss his work with legendary music video director Hype Williams, the Roc Nation mogul admitted that his “guarded” nature has long kept him from pursuing a career in film and TV — in front of the camera, at least.
When asked about the rumor that he was supposed to play DMX‘s character in Williams’ 1998 movie Belly, Hov explained: “That’s a rumor. Because of how guarded I was, I hated acting. This is why I don’t act, because I would get in my way. I would be thinking, ‘No, I don’t wanna do something that I ain’t gonna look cool.’
“But you know, I was young and immature. Or I was young mentally. You know, if you see our own movies, I was in for like 30 seconds and I wasn’t even speaking.”
JAY-Z hasn’t completely shunned acting, though. Early in his career, the Brooklyn native famously starred in the 1998 straight-to-home video film Streets Is Watching, which came out months before Belly.
Directed by Abdul Malik Abbott and co-written by Hov himself, the 60-minute film paired wild, sometimes X-rated street vignettes with songs from his debut album Reasonable Doubt and follow-up effort In My Lifetime, Vol. 1.
Despite his aversion to acting, JAY-Z had high praise for his former foe Nas, who made his acting debut alongside DMX in Hype Williams’ hood classic.
“I had no idea how Nas did that because I felt like he was in the same place as me. But he did it and he made it work,” he told Complex. “But I never was meant to be in Belly. I don’t even know where that came from.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Jigga reflected on filming big-budget music videos like “(Always Be My) Sunshine” and “Big Pimpin'” with Hype Williams, admitting that he probably wasn’t the easiest person to work with at the time.
“I don’t know if I was coachable as far as a performance at that time. I don’t know if anyone could coach me, you know, because I was so guarded,” he said. “I think about the early videos that I have and I listen to myself talking and it’s kind of hard for me to watch. That’s not even how I speak.
“So I don’t know if he could coach my performance, but he definitely coached the scene and everything around it. Other people may have a different experience. I’m sure he coached Missy [Elliott] more or coached Busta [Rhymes] more and you could get more out of them.”
He added: “I don’t know if he could get more out of us at that time. And then it was like 30 of us and all we wanted to do is laugh.”
Although becoming a thespian isn’t on his bucket list, JAY-Z has carved out an impressive career as an executive producer over the last decade, helming movies and documentaries like The Great Gatsby, The Harder They Fall and Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story.
More recently, the 53-year-old billionaire made a surprise return to Instagram to plug his latest picture, The Book of Clarence, which hits theaters in January.