On "Roc Boys," Jay spits: "Hero'n got less steps than Britney/ That means it ain't stepped on, dig me?"
The coded reference, Hov said, is part of the appeal of making rhymes. He called the lyrical device his favorite function of music, but sometimes the references are even more veiled. It's not for him to spell things out all the time — don't expect him to hold your hand.
"[Those hidden references are] really for the people who like to listen like that [closely], first," he said. "And it's [also] for people to catch later. I think sometimes you have to leave [them] in there — it's almost like an Easter egg hunt or whatever. You just leave things in there that are too far. They're not set up, it's not your typical punch line, and you can't guess it. You know how sometimes someone says a line and you can guess the second one, where they're going? You can't guess it or can't see it [with me] — it just comes out of nowhere. And you might not get it ever. Or you might get it five years later. That's what it's for. Something you put on and you go, 'Oh my goodness, I didn't realize that he said … .' I think that's the best thing about music, just realizing something years later. So I leave certain things out there, open-ended in space."
Although Jay's hidden Britney gem isn't exactly a double-entendre, he considers that type of clever hidden phrasing to be his main strength as an MC. He's rapped so many of them over the years — so many, in fact, that he said he can't pick a favorite off the top of his head. ("Man, I'mma need to send that to you, I got to think about that one," he said, joking.)
But he explained how he extended the double reference beyond a line or two for "I Know," a track from American Gangster in which Jay again discusses heroin. He cleverly disguises the story about addiction as part of an allegory about love and lust.
"The emotion of the song dictates the song for me," Jay said. "The first thing I do, I say, 'What is the song saying?' For me ['I Know'] sounded like heroin. It sounded like someone like Miles Davis in a jazz club just high out of his mind, just going off playing some of the most amazing freestyle music you ever heard. That's what it felt like to me. That's what happens with drugs: They don't pound you like that. They talk to you, sweet. That's the allure of it, and it pulls you in. And that's what was happening. The lyrics were harmless — it's like a love song. So it was pulling you in, further and further. Until you realized that now you've become addicted to this drug. That was the whole method behind why [the song] sounded so sweet."
Although Jay was candid in talking about his strengths as an MC, he was less revealing when it came down to nailing his biggest flaw as a rapper.
"My voice," he said, before laughing, "is less than 10. Let's just say that. I never thought I had a great pitch. … What I do is overcompensate with words and flow."