Jay-Z explains it all in autobiography

“Decoded” tells the story of Shawn Carter, more commonly known as Jay-Z, from his days growing up in the Marcy Projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn through his current rise to fame. This autobiography provides the opportunity to change the mindset of hip-hop fans and non-fans alike.

Rather than just telling the facts of Jay-Z’s life, “Decoded” dissects each and every distressing detail of his journey. Jay-Z admits very openly and candidly that he lived as a hustler, or a street-level drug dealer. What makes this description of street life so different from the lyrics that bombard the music scene today is his effort to place the struggle of a hustler into the bigger frame of human survival. Jay-Z hardly leaves a rock unturned in this thought-provoking piece.

Calling “Decoded” an autobiography is slightly inaccurate: a majority of the book is commentary and unraveling of brilliant metaphors and double-entendres found in Jay-Z’s songs. The book aims to show hip-hop as an art form and achieves that purpose well.

“Decoded” features lyrically-titled chapters of narrative text, combined with aesthetically pleasing pages of graphic art and photography that enhance the layout and level of understanding the book intends to provide.

What also makes “Decoded” live up to its title are the pages of lyrics from Jay-Z’s entire career. Thirty-six songs are set aside and analyzed with numbered footnotes on the following page. He explains himself and proves that his lyrics have some depth.

The autobiography is complex, as Jay-Z shares his thoughts on politics, education, and his love/hate relationship with America, besides sharing the details of his life and his dedication to less fortunate youth. He offers his most explicit and provocative insights about culture, street life, himself, his work, art, business and human nature. “Decoded” shares victories and failures as having equal importance in his journey to success and fame. The storytelling hits home with the theme of internal struggle.

“Success,” Jay-Z states in the book, “meaning winning on the block as a hustler –and Death and me are like three lovers.” What can be easily drawn from even a skimming of “Decoded” is that Shawn Carter came out swinging in an effort to not face defeat.

“Decoded” is now available in paperback as well as hardcover.

Charlotte Lewis can be reached at charlotte.lewis@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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