Columns: 5 Reasons Why You Should Buy "Decoded": "I'm Someone Jay-Z Trusts To Listen To"

Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010 4:30PM

Written by SOHH for dream hampton

[With today's release of Jay-Z's Decoded tome, contributor dream hampton gives her Top 5 reasons readers should add the rap mogul's latest project to their bookshelves.]

1. The Thinking Man

You should buy this book because it's Jay-Z. I think what people are going to be surprised about when they pick up the book is how much Jay-Z thinks and cares about hip-hop as a whole. You'll really get to understand what he means when he says, "I do this for my culture."

2. From Marcy To Hollywood

I think the whole concept of him bringing the suburbs to the hood is something he has continued to do. When you look at "Empire State of Mind" (which isn't one of the songs we break down) [you notice] some of the things that bloggers and people are pointing out are kind of these funny contradictions. You got Mayor Bloomberg up here and a parade and on a float with a song talking about cooking crack, but I think that is quintessential Jay and not the worst of the hood but the best of the hood. Jay has not just exported out to St. Tropez or Bill Gates or to Warren Buffett, but he's brought those people into his circle. They've come and gotten on board with his program. I think that's what's interesting about Jay.

3. I Got A Hustler's Spirit, N---a, Period

I think the first time [suburbs met the hood] with N.W.A. it was kind of about, 'let's take the scary hood and freak all these white suburbanites out' and what Jay has done is [he's written] an analogy for hustling. They come to our hood for drugs but in this case, the drugs are the music. He hasn't really changed, well, he's changed overall, but he's kept it real. It's just amazing how he balances stuff with a focus on the hood and his actual life which is where he left the hood a long time ago. And that's like bringing Oprah Winfrey to Marcy Projects to do the interview, it's everything.

4. Girl's Best Friend

I'm not the co-author of this book, I'm more of a collaborator, and this is Jay reflecting on his lyrics. [It's] Jay not only remembering what state of mind he was when he wrote the lyrics, but what they meant and what they mean now and what they meant for hip-hop at the time. So what I did is listen to those stories and I have the advantage because I've basically been friends with him since Reasonable Doubt. I guess I'm someone he trusts to listen to. That was kind of my contribution to the book, was to be that finding voice.

5. New York Times Best Seller

I think people are going to be surprised at how careful Jay-Z is when they read the book and how much of a thinker he is and how much he thinks about what he does. Obviously in hip-hop we his fans know he doesn't write anything down, but we shouldn't mistake that for thinking he's not a careful emcee [or] that his music isn't layered. [His songs] often have four or five different meanings. This book we started last year, summer of 2009, so it took a year [to finish]. When Jay told me in 2005 that the Black Book wouldn't come out and that he wanted to do a book about lyrics, even back in 2005, he was thinking about what this book was going to be. Even when you're in the studio with him looking like he's talking to himself, I'll try to talk to him and he'll be like, 'Yo, you're f*cking up my lyrics,' I didn't know he was sitting over there writing a song in his head. And so I guess that's what he's been doing with this book.

You Decide. Will you buy Decoded?

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