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In many ways, Jovanotti has never left home, because home is a state of being, not a physical place. "I live in my language," he states, matter-of-factly, "I take my words with me wherever I go."
Jovanotti then shouts out Hollywood director Gabriele Muccino (Pursuit of Happyness, Playing For Keeps), who's sitting in the front row in a show of support for his old friend and fellow proud Italian.
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During our 40-some minutes, we talk about AIDS, world hunger, Europe's financial crisis, rap beefs, his relationship to Cuba, his friendship with Juanes, his profound love for New York, fatherhood, the meaning of success, and the things he still dreams of achieving.
But first I had to get something out of the way, and find out how a guy who spoke no English could become so enamored with hip-hop in the 80s that he took it upon himself to bring the art form to Italy. All it takes is one listen to his debut album, 1988's Jovanotti For President, the cover of which shows him rocking a sideways baseball cap, to realize just how much he was influenced by the culture.
"It was a way of having fun with words," says Jovanotti, who then breaks out into his best rendition of "Rapper's Delight." "Maybe that was the main reason that drew me to it, the fact that I didn't understand anything. I was like 13, 14, so at that time you're not interested in the lyrics. There was an energy inside that music and it was different from anything else I was listening to at the time."
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