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Decoded [Kindle Edition]

4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $25.00
Kindle Price: $4.99
You Save: $20.01 (80%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Expanded edition of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller features 16 pages of new material, including 3 new songs decoded.
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.

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: Like its multi-hyphenate author, Jay-Z, Decoded is many things at once. At its core, Decoded is an eloquent and candid memoir detailing the story of a man who was born in a Brooklyn housing project, spent his teen years dealing drugs on the streets of Trenton, New Jersey, and grew up to be one of his generation’s most successful artists and businessmen. But Decoded is much more than a memoir: it is an intensely personal homage to hip-hop, as written by a man who so clearly adores the art form; it is a rare glimpse of the unexpectedly deep meanings behind the most recognizable rap lyrics of the last decade; and it is a truly moving collection of essays on topics ranging from Hurricane Katrina to the decline of the music industry. Unconventional type design, line drawings, and photographs visually emphasize the author’s message that rap is a form that transcends and defies easy categorization. There’s not much in the way of celebrity gossip here, but what we get, instead, is a gritty and enormously compelling look inside the cultural phenomenon of rap, from one of the men who contributed so much to its shape. --Juliet Disparte

Jay-Z on Decoded

When you're famous and say you're writing a book, people assume that it's an autobiography--I was born here, raised there, suffered this, loved that, lost it all, got it back, the end. But that's not what this is. I've never been a linear thinker, which is something you can see in my rhymes. They follow the jumpy logic of poetry and emotion, not the straight line of careful prose. My book is like that, too.

Decoded is first and foremost, a book of rhymes, which is ironic because I don't actually write my rhymes--they come to me in my head and I record them. The book is packed with the stories from my life that are the foundation of my lyrics--stories about coming up in the streets of Brooklyn in the 80's and 90's, stories about becoming an artist and entrepreneur and discovering worlds that I never dreamed existed when I was a kid. But it always comes back to the rhymes. There's poetry in hip-hop lyrics--not just mine, but in the work of all the great hip-hop artists, from KRS-One and Rakim to Biggie and Pac to a hundred emcees on a hundred corners all over the world that you've never heard of. The magic of rap is in the way it can take the most specific experience, from individual lives in unlikely places, and turn them into art that can be embraced by the whole world. Decoded is a book about one of those specific lives--mine--and will show you how the things I've experienced and observed have made their way into the art I've created. It's also about how my work is sometimes not about my life at all, but about pushing the boundaries of what I can express through the poetry of rap--trying to use words to find fresh angles into emotions that we all share, which is the hidden mission in even the hardest hip-hop. Decoded is a book about some of my favorite songs--songs that I unpack and explain and surround with narratives about what inspired them--but behind the rhymes is the truest story of my life.


“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

Product Details

  • File Size: 19385 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (December 7, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003E8AIJS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,950 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Opened my mind February 4, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I happened to catch an episode of Oprah a few weeks ago when she was in Australia and Jay-Z was a guest on her show. They talked about his book, Decoded, and how it changed the way she thought about Jay-Z and rap in general. A Jay-Z fan, I was intrigued and purchased Decoded for my Kindle.

Decoded was the perfect title and conveys multiple meanings. Jay-Z has the lyrics to many of his songs "decoded". The lyrics are seen in corresponding chapters with an extensive footnote section where he explains why he wrote some of the more cryptic lines. But more than just decoding his song lyrics, Jay-Z decoded many more issues for me: his early life, the drug culture, his business dealings, his philosophies on the music biz, politics, and why rap is so misunderstood by so many.

I came away from this book with a new appreciation for Jay-Z...his frankness and lack of apologies for his thug past, the affect of his father's abandonment, the intricacies of his lyrics, his business-savvy attitude and his apparent understanding of the world around him. But perhaps the biggest thing I came away with is a respect for Jay-Z the man. He's intelligent, articulate, and talented as well as paranoid (self described) and private. Rather than writing raps, he would speak them and transcribe them. In 6th grade, he was reading at a 12th grade level. He has a photographic memory. And whether it was by dealing drugs or having a rap career, Jay-Z strove to be the best at his game.

For people expecting a tell-all memoir, you will be disappointed in the book. Beyonce's name doesn't even appear. There are also many, many pages of song lyrics throughout the book that probably appeal to the most diehard fans but I skipped a lot of them. Decoded is a great read, and a book I expect will expand some people's minds (at least a little).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A read that forces you to "Decode" to really get it September 7, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I approached Decoded from a "businessman's" perspective to get insight on how and why Jay does what he does. Like his rhymes, his writing takes a moment to digest, and re-read (often over and over again) as I believe he operates strategically to the "tee." I say this that because during his developmental years (from his early teens into his mid to late 20's) he spent his life in an environment where first level thinking would get you killed, or in jail. Someone of Jay's caliber has to think and process multiple levels down as he took on a leadership role even during his time working in capacities that weren't productive to American society. Instead of staying in Brooklyn to sell drugs, he chose to take a pioneers route and explore new territory (which is the fastest way to get killed, or arrested - Jay reflects on this within his writing as well). Thinking about that perspective, you will see how and why he was successful, and many times within the book if you actually take time to read (I'm not saying that you didn't take the time to read, I'm just rambling a bit here) what he's writing, he even repeatedly notes it himself. Someone who chooses to title his book "Decoded" is not an average thinker, nor will a reader totally digest all he has to say in one reading. In a way, I believe Jay wants you to dig deeper into what he's always saying whether written or "spoken" word. Think about it....

He sold drugs, yes, but, from what I took from his writing was that he was always looking at a larger goal. He fully embraced rapping from age 9, so I'm sure he always had a goal of transitioning and using his "past" life to fuel his future.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm a hustler's hope, I'm not his pipe dream" January 8, 2011
By Ronak
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Although, I am a Jay-Z fan, I firmly believe that this book, much like the man's 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...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book when he sticks to his life and music!
This was a great book about the music and the person behind it and then...Jay-Z went too far. It turned political and anti-police. Read more
Published 4 days ago by William H. Folk II
5.0 out of 5 stars Best perspective ever written...
I recommend this book for anyone who consider themselves to be Jay-Z fans... What more can I say? This book took me on a journey, allowed me to look at life and rap from multiple... Read more
Published 10 days ago by J. Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good read
Published 25 days ago by FashionICON
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opening
I've been a Jay-Z fan for about 15 years now and his attention to detail still amazes me. His description of not only his lyrics but Hip-hop in general paints a picture of man who... Read more
Published 25 days ago by kngmerriweather
4.0 out of 5 stars Decoded is a very insightful and probing look into the ...
Decoded is a very insightful and probing look into the mind of one of rap music's premier poets. Reading this book is a must for any hip hop fan or any one who is interested in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by johnnie whicker
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful
One of the most well designed books I've read. The behind-the-scenes stories are fascinating - would liked to have read more personal stories though
Published 1 month ago by Ed Vance
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good quality
Published 1 month ago by sherine gilchrist
4.0 out of 5 stars A cool little book
Different than what I expected but a nice read regardless. I would recommend it to fellow lovers of rap, or lovers of poetry.
Published 1 month ago by Claudia
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Not very good. Would have loved to read more of Jay Z as a business man
Published 2 months ago by R.C.J. Hoeffnagel
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by mark kohut
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What 'Decoded' should look like.
Well this book isn't a book about his life. This book is about his songs, his lyrics, the story behind them and their meanings. So depending on what songs he chose to reference, you may not get the things that you want out of this book. He's on record as stating that he doesn't want to do a... Read More
Oct 20, 2010 by Darren |  See all 2 posts
Is Decoded Appropriate for Young Teens?
I have just finished reading this book on my Kindle and I would have to say that it was an excellent read. In my opinion, as a high school teacher, this book would be PG-13 to maybe a R rating due to language. This book has no sex or violence in it and the improper language comes mostly from... Read More
Dec 21, 2010 by F. Chowdhury |  See all 4 posts
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