Book Review: Decoded

I just finished Decoded by Jay-Z. Ugh, this book was not what I expected. Where to start with all the things I hated..... Well, first & foremost, it's not really about Jay-Z, which I found surprising since it's a MEMOIR. In the last part of the book, which I'm honestly shocked I even made it to, Jay-Z writes:

"When I first started working on the book, I told my editor that I wanted it to do three important things. The first thing 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."

Yeah, that paragraph would have been helpful to read at the beginning of the book, or on the cover, because had I read that, I probably wouldn't have bought the book. Again, this book is rarely about Jay-Z. It's 80-90% about hip-hop & rap in general.

Also, the way the book is actually printed is ridiculous. It's the way I imagine a paranoid schizophrenic would read. I'm well aware of the fact that I'm probably not Jay-Z's target demographic, but come on. Do people really read this way?

The book is divided into 4 parts & each part has 3 or 4 sub-parts. Each part starts with a couple of pages of normal text, albeit with large print, weird spacing & sometimes pictures, but fairly normal. But then! He prints the lyrics to a couple of his songs & has footnotes (FOOTNOTES!) explaining what specific lyrics mean. Oh, & it's not that insightful. If you have even a modicum of prior knowledge about rap or inner-city living, his footnotes are redundant.

I love Jay-Z. I daresay I've watched/listened to many of the tv & radio interviews he's done, at least in the mainstream media (read: Oprah & NPR), so I'd like to think I know a little about his background & he's always downplayed his brief stint into selling drugs. Oh, but not in this book. No, no, no. In the book, he's a hardcore drug dealer & was for many years. Granted, watching 1 episode of Oprah does not a Jay-Z expert make, but there's a huge discrepancy between what he said on Oprah & what he portrays in the book. I'm just saying....

Clearly, I'm not recommending any of you rush out & buy this book, not that any of you probably would have anyway. The one good thing I'll say about this book is that it made me want to listen to more rap (sorry, John). I also realized I don't own as much Jay-Z as I thought I did & I need to download some of the old-school rap that I grew up listening to on cassette tape: Run DMC, NWA, Eazy E, etc.

In closing, I'm going to address Jay-Z directly, because apparently this is the week when I pretend celebrities read my blog.

Dear Hova,

I know I'm not supposed to hate the player, but this book is bad. I have happily followed you down your numerous career paths: rapper, Def Jam, Roc-A-Fella, Rocawear, etc., but 'author' is something I just cannot support. While I appreciate your obvious need to keep Beyonce in leotards & diamonds, don't quit your day job(s).


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