Q&A: Jay-Z

We were afraid Jay-Z's retirement from making albums had been a bad idea when we heard he was selling his shoes. Turns out he's auctioning a pair of his own S. Carter Reeboks to benefit a scholarship fund. Not to worry. But we'll let him tell NEWSWEEK's Allison Samuels how he's living.

How's retirement? Are you sure you're done?

Yep. Rap in many ways is a young man's game, and I know that. I never wanted to wear out my welcome. In fact, my plan in the beginning really was to make only one album in the first place. But I was fortunate enough to have staying power, so I kept going.

In your latest video, "99 Problems," you get shot and killed. You've never had that type of video violence before. Did it have a particular meaning?

Yeah--it meant the end of Jay-Z and the birth of Shawn Carter. I always wanted a separation between myself as a rapper and a businessman. In the beginning I couldn't get a record deal, so I had to hustle to sell my own records to outlets and stores. That made me learn real quick the business side of everything. If you didn't know, you'd get taken, and I wasn't planning on letting that happen.

Why the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund?

I realize that everybody can't be a basketball player or a rapper, despite what most young kids might think. I tell them that even if you become a rapper, it's really only 5 percent of us that really make money and last. A lot of other cats aren't making the money you think they are. It's all for show in the videos. But I made it, and those who have ought to give.

You and Beyonce try to keep it low-key. What's it like to be dogged by reporters?

It's funny, really. Just yesterday I had them chase me through Beverly Hills when I was going to get breakfast. I'm not sure who they thought was with me. Before I started dating Beyonce, I had people thinking they know you, so they come right up and sit down when you have a mouthful of food. This is just a little more of the same.

Sharpton Keeps It Real

The Rev. Al Sharpton's impish, scene-stealing presidential candidacy always felt like a reality TV show, anyway. So we weren't surprised to hear that last week he signed on to be a career counselor for the new Spike TV reality series "I Hate My Job." He's also negotiating for his own radio show and TV talk show, and he'll speak at the Democratic convention--during a break from his running commentary on CNBC.

Not that he's taking himself less seriously. "Whether leading a march or running for president or doing media, it always comes down to seeking a more just way for those that are ignored." But--reality TV? "It will come through as my purpose." Will he be wearing that track suit? "My track suits have been hung up for all time," he says. "I have to act my age."

And I'll Be Your Server

A blond Russian bombshell was the talk of Wimbledon last weekend--so what else is new, right? But this was the tournament's second weekend, so it wasn't Anna Kournikova, who rarely survives more than a day or two. Instead, Maria Sharapova, 17, did what the lovely Anna has never come close to doing: she won the whole darn thing. With her straight-set demolition of Serena Williams, who knocked off big sister Venus to take last year's title, the six-foot-tall Sharapova became the youngest Wimbledon champ since Martina Hingis in 1997. Her modeling career was never in doubt. But now Sharapova has proved she's not just another pretty face. She can put on a game face too.