09/09/2009 at 01:40 PM EDT
It wasn't the crack. It was the job.
"You become addicted to the feeling, the uncertainty and adrenaline and danger of that lifestyle," Jay-Z tells Oprah Winfrey
in the October issue of O Magazine
of his former life as a drug dealer.
Jay-Z, real name Shawn Corey Carter, was only 13 when he started selling crack in his crime-plagued neighborhood in Brooklyn, and yet it never dawned on him that his situation was unusual, because anyone who became successful never returned to the projects to share his or her wisdom.
"If anyone made it, you never knew it," the hip-hop artist, now 39, says. "That's why I've always said that if I became successful, I'd come back here, grab somebody, and show him how it can be done."
During his dealing days, Jay-Z was even shot, only to be saved by what he calls "divine intervention, and nobody knowing how to shoot."
Of course, Jay-Z inhabits a far different version of Brooklyn now that he's wildly successful and married to Beyonce Knowles
"There's a great pizza spot we go to every Sunday. It's our tradition," he says. "It's a small place in Brooklyn, you can bring your own wine, and there are candles there. It's a nice date."