Jay-Z’s Decoded: A Real-Life Rags-to-Riches Story
By Maria Popova
Sure, it’s overpublicized. And, sure, it’s overpopculturized. Between the Bing push and the Andy Warhol cover art, Jay-Z’s autobiography (the genre seems to be a recurring theme today) runs a high risk of being overhyped. But overexposure aside, Decoded, out today, is a candid memoir that offers a rare first-hand account of a modern rags-to-riches story.
As part of the Bing promotion, 300 pages of the book were placed in the streets where the events they describe actually took place, for fans to locate and decode. So far, 298 of the 300 pages have been released, found and deciphered.
When you’re famous and say you’re writing a book, people assume that it’s an autobiography — I was born here, raised there, suffered this, loved that, lost it all, got it back, the end. But that’s not what this is. I’ve never been a linear thinker, which is something you can see in my rhymes. They follow the jumpy logic of poetry and emotion, not the straight line of careful prose. My book is like that, too.” ~ Jay-Z
When I first started working on this book, I told my editor that I wanted it to do three important things. The first was to make the case that hip-hop lyrics-not just my lyrics, but those of every great MC-are poetry if you look at them closely enough. The second was I wanted the book to tell a little bit of the story of my generation, to show the context for the choices we made at a violent and chaotic crossroads in recent history. And the third piece was that I wanted the book to show how hip-hop created a way to take a very specific and powerful experience and turn it into a story that everyone in the world could feel and relate to.” ~ Jay-Z
The tome is also an aesthetic masterpiece, designed by Steve Attardo:
While expectations of profound existential insight might fall flat, you may find yourself immersed in the fascinating non-linear narrative of Decoded and emerge with a more intimate, faceted understanding of a world whose media representation is wrapped in and warped by superficiality and bling-glam.
Published November 16, 2010