Jay-Z admitted that he used to forget his lyrics while performing in the beginning.
When you’re a successful rapper with an extensive catalog stocked with complex rhymes like Jay-Z, forgetting your lyrics becomes part of the game. During his appearance on the first episode of the fourth season of HBO’s The Shop: Uninterrupted series with Lebron James, the rapper admitted that the temporary memory loss had befallen him on multiple occasions on stage.
When asked by Lebron if he’d ever get “so zoned out” on stage that he doesn’t even see anyone in the crowd, Jay-Z responded, “In the beginning, I used to get on the stage and just forget all my lyrics,” causing laughter to erupt in the studio among the hosts and guests.
While the admission may sound odd to some, it’s not entirely unusual. Though many rappers pen their own lyrics, they’ve been victims of this momentary lapse in memory a number of times. Young Money superstar Lil Wayne has admitted to forgetting his lyrics quite often for the reason that he and Jay-Z actually have in common – they don’t write them down.
Both rappers have stated in the past that they don’t actually write out their lyrics but rather retain them mentally and then record. In a 2003 interview with Sway, Jay-Z explained, “I think about what I’m going to say,” he said. “I think about what I’m going to do but it’s just never pen to paper. I think it through,” which is poetic in itself.
Back in 2013, who could forget when the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee completely spaced on the lyrics to his song “No Church in the Wild” during the opening show for the UK leg of his Magna Carta Holy Grail tour in Manchester. The rapper didn’t manage to recover until he got back to the chorus.
Other artists have, of course, had similar experiences forgetting their lyrics on stage, from Kanye West to Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and more. Like Lil Wayne, Eminem also says he has to sometimes google his lyrics to make sure he doesn’t say something he has said before. I guess it’s safe to chalk it up to the perils of having a jampacked catalog spanning decades.
The new season of The Shop: Uninterrupted will air on HBO this Friday (May 28) at 9:30 p.m. EST when Lebron James will host Jay-Z, Bad Bunny, Nneka Ogwumike, and Paul Rivera.