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Jay-Z: Kurt Cobain ‘Stopped Hip-Hop for a Second’

Jay-Z-Nirvana
Jason Kempin / Frank Micelotta, Getty Images

The grunge scene of the early ’90s has been credited for flipping the music world on its ear and effectively shoving the hair metal dominance of the late ’80s to the side. However, grunge’s takeover didn’t just affect hair metal, and rapper Jay-Z says in a new interview that even the growing popularity of hip-hop stalled out a little bit when Nirvana came to prominence.

In the new coffee-table book ‘Pharrell: The Places and Spaces,’ (excerpted by Spin) singer-producer Pharrell Williams interviewed rap icon and music mogul Jay-Z, who recalls in particular what an important record Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was in the history of music. Jay-Z says, “First we’ve got to go back to before grunge and why grunge happened. Hair bands dominated the airwaves and rock became more about looks than about actual substance and what it stood for – the rebellious spirit of youth … That’s why ‘Teen Spirit’ rang so loud because it was right on point with how everyone felt, you know what I’m saying?”

The rapper adds, “It was weird because hip-hop was becoming this force, then grunge music stopped it for one second, ya know? Those hair bands were too easy for us to take out. When Kurt Cobain came with that statement, it was like, ‘We’ve got to wait awhile.’”

Jay-Z says that while keeping an eye on the big picture, he’s always been fascinated by the acts that emerge as a powerful force, regardless of the genre. He adds, “When those forces come on the scene, they are inescapable – can’t take your eyes off them, can’t stop listening to them. [Cobain] was one of those figures. I knew we had to wait for a second before we became that dominate force in music.”

The ‘Pharrell: The Places and Spaces I’ve Been’ book is due Oct. 16.

Next: 10 Best Grunge Bands of All-Time

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