Decoded - Jay Z
Fans of one of the world’s biggest rap artists will no doubt be putting this glossy, hard-bound autobiography on their Christmas list, but the hardcore don’t seem to be the only audience Shawn Carter is targeting. Although illustrated with decades of US hip-hop iconography and bleak vistas of the Brooklyn Marcy Projects in which Carter grew up, the book is dense with words and real, well-expressed insight, both in his text recollections and annotated dissections of his own tracks.
Explaining the roots of hip hop and its meaning to him as a New York street kid, Carter illuminates a world where he was forced to sell drugs as a child and had to learn to rap as the result of a ‘something-out-of-nothing, do-or-die situation’, and how choosing art over violence ultimately led him to summits with America’s first black president. Undoubtedly self-edifying, Decoded nevertheless puts heart, soul and a strong underdog narrative back at the heart of rap.