Book - 2010
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Decoded is a book like no other: a collection of lyrics and their meanings that together tell the story of a culture, an art form, a moment in history, and one of the most provocative and successful artists of our time.

Praise for Decoded

"Compelling . . . provocative, evocative . . . Part autobiography, part lavishly illustrated commentary on the author's own work, Decoded gives the reader a harrowing portrait of the rough worlds Jay-Z navigated in his youth, while at the same time deconstructing his lyrics." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"One of a handful of books that just about any hip hop fan should own." -- The New Yorker

"Elegantly designed, incisively written . . . an impressive leap by a man who has never been known for small steps." -- Los Angeles Times

"A riveting exploration of Jay-Z's journey . . . So thoroughly engrossing, it reads like a good piece of cultural journalism." -- The Boston Globe

"Shawn Carter's most honest airing of the experiences he drew on to create the mythic figure of Jay-Z . . . The scenes he recounts along the way are fascinating." -- Entertainment Weekly

"Hip-hop's renaissance man drops a classic. . . . Heartfelt, passionate and slick." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2010.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9781400068920
Characteristics: p. cm.


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Top Picks: Celebrating Jay-Z

Jay-Z, rapper, songwriter, performer, executive and entrepreneur, is one of the most successful and influential hip-hop artists of our time and is best known for hit songs such as "99 Problems", "Big Pimpin' ", "Holy Grail", and "I Just Wanna Love U".   Born Shawn Carter on December 4, 1969 in New York's Brooklyn borough, he adopted the stage name Jay-Z as a nod to his mentor Jaz-O and his… (more)

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Dec 11, 2015

He may not be, as he has often said, the greatest of all time, but Jay-Z is maybe the most successful hip-hop MC of all time; he's not a businessman, he's a business, man. This heavily produced book (photos, drawings, explanatory notes) is a mix of memoir, cultural history and exegesis of his lyrics. Since there are few rap memoirs, this fills a void and is both a compelling story of his life as well as a cogent argument for the importance of hip-hop music and culture. I read part of this while watching "The Wire," which is highly recommended. Portland gets a shout out (sorta) when he explains why he chose the city for a song: "I chose Portland because it's the whitest place I could think of." Ha. Go on brush your shoulder off P-town.

ideemtik Oct 12, 2012

if there are things you know about jz you should read to be reminded that we all have our roads to take and if you don't know jz you should take time to get to know what are some of his respects as he is to be respected peace is salaam

May 26, 2012

I only know a few of Jay-Z's songs from the radio and TV. I read this book because of Jay-Z's interview on Howard Stern. I was expecting more personal details (autobiography). Instead, this book had just a few personal anecdotes and was very repetitive in emphasizing that he's a hustler, that he was a crack dealer, that he's the best of the best when it comes to writing lyrics and so on. Even when he gives shout outs to his own idols and musical influences, it's pretty shallow.

I had no idea that he's so fanatically pro-African-American almost to the point of racism. We are all human, but the tone is very divisive. I had no idea that he had such a huge ego and was so shallow. This book alienated me.

Mar 28, 2012

Jay-Z has always been my favorite rapper/artist. With Decoded he heightened my respect and admiration for him. He lays out stories from way back and not too far back to almost give the reader a lesson before going into breaking down verses and their metaphors and more. Awesome read for any hip hop fan, artist, musician or poetry lover.

diesellibrarian Aug 03, 2011

I have a great deal of respect for Jay-Z and his music. I also like the concept of this book, in which he "decodes" his lyrics, unpacking otherwise obscure references and explaining his choice of certain terms. In the final analysis, though, what comes through most strongly is his obvious pride in his own success. But I guess that's hip hop. Still, this is a lot of frontin' that left me wantin'.

Apr 24, 2011

It is better than anticipated. I must admit my own misconceptions about Hip Hop and its larger culture. I still don't believe I understand it fully, but at least I can appreciate that I do not. JayZ uses his lyrics and creativity to highlight and poke fun at critics' misinterpretation of a world they have no real insight to.


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