Jay-Z speaks to hip hop superproducer Pharrell Williams about late rock icon Kurt Cobain in Williams’ upcoming book Pharrell: The Places and Spaces I’ve Been. Jay recalls first hearing Nirvana’s anthemic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and discussed the impact frontman Cobain had on pop culture.
“First, we got to go back to before grunge and why grunge happened,” said Jay. “‘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? 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 got to wait awhile.’”
“I have always been a person who was curious about the music and when those forces come on the scene, they are inescapable,” Jay says. “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 dominant force in music.”