- Patrick Nash
I figured I would stick with the Jay-Z theme for this one. I'm an avid reader, it's something I have enjoyed since basically I learned how to do it. I was intrigued by the thought of a book about Jay-Z since there was a mention of it's existence back in 2003. Jay had just dropped the Black Album (his temporary farewell from music) and had plans to release the Black Book, a book that was to recount his life. Unfortunately the book never actually materialized. Eventually though, Jay released Decoded on November 16th 2010, just in time for my birthday.
The book itself is a bit different than most autobiographies I've read. For one, it jumps back and forth between a loose chronological telling of growing up in the Marcy Projects and mixing in current (at the time) stories. The origin portion tells the story of Jay's first experiences with both Hip Hop and drug dealing. It goes through his life a a hustler and the trials and tribulations of dealing drugs. It also chronicles his his early dealing within the music industry and his almost giving up on hip hop to his forming of Roc-A-Fella records. The modern portion gives insight into other aspects of his life including his assault trial. It also tells stories of reflection of events from when he first met Barack Obama and Bono to his thoughts on Hurricane Katrina.
My favorite part of the book though are the lyrics. Jay-Z chooses specific songs and gives a breakdown of the meaning of the lyrics. The annotations include simple things like explaining what a brick is to a far more in depth explanation of lines in the songs. The songs themselves range from mainstream hits like 99 Problems and Big Pimpin' to lesser known songs (to the general public) like Coming of Age and Breath Easy (Lyrical Exercise) as well as some unreleased verses. In total Jay breaks down 36 songs for the reader.
The book itself isn't without it's flaws though. Jay-Z is known to be extremely private in regards to his life. So as much as there is about his past life, there is far more things left out in this "autobiography". It does, however, give the public its best look into what made Shawn Carter into who we know as Jay-Z., Somehow, I ended up with both a physical copy of the book as well as the kindle version. I recommend the physical copy. It is by far the easiest way to read the lyrics and the annotations for each song. If you are a fan of Jay-Z or simply a fan of Hip Hop I think you should give give this book a read. The lyrical breakdown itself is worth the price of admission. But, you don't have to take my word for it.......