My conversation with Jay-Z began with O.J. When I was a kid growing up in black New Orleans in the 1960s, O.J. Simpson was a god. We imitated his moves, his swagger. We didn’t want to just play like him. We wanted to be him, gorgeous and running in the California sun. We practiced his juking moves in the mirror, our hands too small to hold the ball loosely, the way he did. We even wanted to go to U.S.C., where he led the nation in rushing two years in a row. We were angry when he lost the Heisman Trophy to the white, All-American, clean-cut U.C.L.A. quarterback Gary Beban, known as “The Great One.” We were triumphant when he won it the next year.