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Decoded + Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812981154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812981155
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 3.6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

About the Author

Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) is the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings and Roc-A-Fella Records. He is one of the most successful hip hop artists and entrepreneurs of all time. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I am a fan of Jay- z's.
Tazlin
I'm so glad he wrote a book- I remember hearing his song "Anything" and thinking, wow, that's damn good advice- I wish the song was longer.
GDW
I found this book to be thoughtful, inciting, and very well executed.
Kevin11

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lauren Hidden on 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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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ronak on January 8, 2011
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.

LIFE-

"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."

Spirituality-

"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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Army O3Guy on 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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