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. Buy Here
Although, I am a Jay-Z fan, I firmly believe that this book, much like his music, rings with universal truth in every word that anyone around the world can relate to on many different levels. It can mean a million different things to a million different readers. Doesn’t matter whether you are a fan of hip hop or not, you will appreciate his child-like sense of wonder that he approaches his life with. Whether you appreciate his music already or not, you won’t be able to see him in the same light. This is a book about life, spirituality, self-discovery, music, poetry, business, craftsmanship, and society.
This well crafted auto-biography in many ways runs parallel to his music in the aspect that it is inspired stream of conscious, contains vivid imagery, and layered metaphors. He speaks about his life, his upbringing, his struggles, his paradigm-shifts, and his music but also dissects dozens of his songs. In this book Jay Z picks his own brain by analyzing his music. Below are excerpts from the book on some of the topics he touched on. I left out the parts where he really goes in and dissects his lyrical content so you can pick up the book and enjoy the journey yourself.
“I love metaphors, and for me hustling is the ultimate metaphor for the basic human struggles: the struggle to survive and resist, the struggle to win and make sense of it all.”
“When you step out of school and have to teach yourself about life, you develop a different relationship to information.”
“I don’t spend a lot of time on records talking about spiritual ideas in an explicit way, although I think a lot of my music sneaks in those big questions-of good and evil, fate and destiny, suffering and inequality…at the heart of a lot these competing ideas of the afterlife and heaven and hell and thug angels and all that is the idea that if the universe is just, things have to even out eventually, somehow. And sometimes that’s a scary thought.”
“Competition pushes you to become your best self, and in the end it tells you where you stand. Jordan said the same thing about Larry Bird and Magic”
“I’ve discovered that there really is such thing as win-win situation. And sometimes, I’m only competing with myself, to be a better artists and businessman. To be a better person with a broader vision”
“The flow isn’t like time, its like life. Its like a heartbeat or the way you breath, it can jump, speed up, slow down, stop, or pound right through like a machine. If the beat is time, flow is what we do with that time, how we live through it. The beat is everywhere, but every life has to find its own flow.”
“Knowing how to complicate a simple song without losing its basic appeal is one of the keys to good songwriting”
“This is another place where the art of rap and the art of the hustler meet. Poets and hustlers play with language, because for them simple clarity can mean failure. They bend language, improvise, and invent new ways of speaking truth.”
“A poet’s mission is to make the words do more work than they normally do, to make them work on more than one level. For instance, a poet makes words work sonically-as sounds, as music….the point of those bar is to bang out a rhythmic idea, not to impress you with the literal meaning of the words”
“He knew that great product was the ultimate advantage in competition, not how big your office building is or how deep your pockets are or who you know. In the end it came down to having a great product and the hustle to move it, which is something I learned working the block”
“But in business, like they say, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. So I mind my business and I don’t apologize for it.
“The thing that distinguishes Jordan wasn’t just his talent, but his discipline, his laser-like commitment to excellence. That’s something I always respect, especially in people who have great natural talents already.”
“When we take the most familiar subject in the history of rap-why I’m dope’-and frame it within the sixteen-bar structure of a rap verse, synced to the specific rhythm and feel of the track, more than anything it’s a test of creativity and wit”
“To tell the story of the kid with the gun without telling the story of why he has it is to tell a kind of lie”
“Its like listening to Maya Angelou and ignoring everything until you heard her drop a line about drinking or sleeping with someone’s husband and dismissing her as an alcoholic adulterer”
In summation this book should come with a warning label because anyone who picks this book up with an open mind is sure to put it down a different person. You’ll also never be able to listen to his music the way you used to as well. This book is an auto biography, a book of poetry, bible, a text book, a reference manual, a blueprint, but most importantly…. A roadmap on becoming `Dope’. And no one like Mr. Carter can say “I’m dope” with as much poetic eloquence.