The Magna Carter Will Jay-Z tone down his 'reality rap' now he's got Obama on speed dial? What would he play Noel G to get him into hip-hop? And, asks Malik Meer, does he really reckon he's the Kurt Cobain of hip-hop?

In the back room of a north London recording studio Jay-Z is rolling a rhyme around his mouth. "What was it again? 'I've got 99 problems but the ... huh?'" he says, scanning the walls, desperately trying to remember. "'I've got 99 world problems but the ba ...' Damn!" Slouched on a sofa, Jay-Z - AKA Shawn Carter, the Jigga Man, the God MC, the self-proclaimed "black Sinatra" - is recalling the last time he pressed flesh with the president of the USA. The 39-year-old rapper had been booked to perform at Barack Obama's inauguration party but at the last minute, panic set in. Worried that the first lady and her daughters may not take kindly to his casual cursing, he quickly reordered the set, reworking the lyrics of some his best-known tracks including "99 problems but a bitch ain't one". "It was slick," he laughs, "I gotta get that to you."
A quick Google reveals the line was "I've got 99 world problems but a Bush ain't one" but the anecdote only serves to underline the extraordinary journey Jay-Z's taken and where he stands on the pop-cultural landscape. Thirteen years on fron the release of his debut album, his life story reads like a made-for-TV movie: Carter Jr grows up in Brooklyn's notorious Marcy Projects to a single-parent mother, starts dealing drugs, turns to hip-hop, releases his debut album himself; years pass and he's crowned the greatest rapper of all time, amasses a fortune through various business ventures, marries the hottest pop singer in the world and his friend and fan becomes the POTUS.

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