He implicitly saluted business partner Bruce Ratner is a fellow "hustler," described himself as having been an "incredible" crack dealer, claimed he wasn't intimidated by the suits, and likened NBA teams--money-losing then but not now--to "paintings for billionaires."
What's a hustler?
Howard Stern: A hustler means a guy who ends up... he can figure them out--
Sidekick Robin Givens: A master manipulator...
Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z): That's part of it... a hustler is anybody--you can be a hustler--a hustler is anybody who gets up every single day and figures out how to make good for themselves in this society...
RG: Without the usual...
SC: A hustler is anyone who has the drive to make something happen for himself...
That would surely encompass developer Bruce Ratner and partner Mikhail Prokhorov.
On the street
SC: For us, being in the street, a hustler meant we had to find a different way... there were no jobs available
HS: People might not understand you being a crack dealer, but it seemed like in your neighborhood--
SC: Anything without proper context... you can judge someone totally wrong... given the circumstances we were in... we made horrible decisions... you can see why a person can make such horrible decisions... just understand the circumstances and not just dismiss us as being just crack dealers...
HS: Describing Biggie Smalls... he identified that parents were scared now of their own children, that was a whole new generation... were you a great crack dealer?
SC: Incredible... not the best, but I was really good.
He went on to say, however, that the money per hour was pretty bad.
In the boardroom
Later, they asked Jay-Z about his journey.
RG: So when you walk into a boardroom, with a bunch of guys in suits who all went to college, you're fine.
SC: Yeah, because they've read a bunch of words, I've lived a bunch of life...
HS: Their law degree doesn't intimidate you
SC: It kind of evens out, whether you know it or not.
HS: Where'd you get that self-esteem from?
SC: My mom, first and foremost. just living life. Like, y'know, being in real situation and having to be a person of high integrity and honesty.
Then again, as the Times reported last August,
Mr. Ratner was wary. He often says he overcame his concerns about Mr. Carter’s more offensive lyrics — celebrating gangster culture and denigrating women — only after learning there were cleaned-up “radio versions” of the songs, too. And Mr. Carter, he said, appeared nervous about having to meet with David Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner, who asked him to discuss his guilty plea to stabbing a record producer in 1999. (Mr. Carter described the incident, for which he received three years’ probation, as a symptom of “the world I lived in once,” Mr. Ratner recalled.)That was just four years earlier.
About the Nets
Stern first confused the efforts by the New York Knicks and (then-)New Jersey Nets to recruit free agent superstar LeBron James.
HS: About the Nets. They had contacted me at some point, 'try and get LeBron here, be part of a committee'.. I was part of this thing, try to get LeBron to the Knicks, I said, I'm not going to beg... did you make the major play for him?
SC: Well, he's a friend of mine... It's a different conversation for me and him.... For me, it was just, present the opportunity, and then let him make his decision.
Making money from the team
HS: Are you making any money with the Nets... It's gotta be profitable, right?
SC: No, It's not really profitable.
HS: It's just an ego thing?
SC: Yeah, NBA teams are like paintings for billionaires
RG: They don't make money, those teams?
SC: No, I mean, the Lakers, the Knicks, they're very few teams... the Knicks maybe make money, that place is always packed.
HS: Could you ever imagine at nine years old, you'd grow up to own a piece of a team?
SC: No, as a dream, it's hard enough to be a basketball player.
As it happens, Jay-Z has done very, very well with the team and the arena, leveraging his career, advertising, and a free suite. And the value of the team, thanks to the Brooklyn move and the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, has skyrocketed.
And guess what--the public (city, state, national) has helped make that new arena happen, with tax breaks, direct subsidies and other support, achieved by... the hustler Bruce Ratner.