If you are a Jay-Z fan then “Decoded” is a good and easy read that will confirm a lot of what you already knew and shed some light on things that you may not have known about his life and career. It will be especially enjoyable if you didn’t follow his earlier work because you will get a great idea about where he comes from musically and lyrically. If you aren’t a fan you may not care at all.
The book is broken out into four parts. Part 1. One Eye Open, Part 2. I Will Not Lose, Part 3. Politics As Usual and Part 4. Come and Get Me. Each section takes you chronologically through a different stage in his life and career.
While he doesn’t use the book as a tell all about his personal life, you get great insight into his motivations, his life story, his thoughts and his sentiments about himself and the world around him by following along as he explains the lyrics to some of his most popular songs and inserting autobiographical information along the way. I find that I enjoyed the autobiographical parts more than I enjoyed reading actual lyrics.
Some have expressed that they thought there would be “more”. I’m not sure what else people were looking for but I think that if you listen close enough and pay attention to his lyrics we may know all we really need to know about him. Even before the book.
A true fan will probably be able to think of a few songs that were not featured in the book that they would have loved to see. For me that would be “Rap Game/ Crack Game” and “You Must Love Me”
But I was also glad to see “Regrets”, “Soon You’ll Understand” and “Can I Live” dissected and decoded. I am kind of a biased fan of the earlier Jay stuff but I was glad to see very little focus on the tragic “Blueprint 2” album. The only Jay album I refused to buy.
After reading this I think critics would be inaccurate if they tried to categorize Jay-Z as a superficial bling and bitches type of rapper. He actually addresses his conflicting images and his comparison to more conscious rappers such as Common and Talib Kweli. The book is interesting but not heavy, and it humanizes Jay in a way that reminds us why we liked him in the first place.
P.S. He even addresses the fact that black people are brain washed to think that lighter skin and fairer features are more attractive and he admits he was one of those people too when he was younger.. but how many of us weren’t at some point right? This was far from a major focus in the book but I was still pleased to see it. You go Jay! Ge-ge-geyeahhh!