Jay-Z Decodes 18 Things

September 6th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Sometime in 2010, Jay-Z published a memoir/manifesto/song explainer, Decoded.

Decoded by Jay-Z

Soon to be released as a blog post, here are 18 original Authwhore tracks sampled from the book:

1. Childhood Kicks: “It was the seventies and heroin was still heavy in the hood, so we would dare one another to push a leaning nodder off a bench the way kids on farms tip sleeping cows.”

2. Adolescent Fortitude: “When Dee Dee was murdered, it was like something out of a mob movie. They cut his balls off and stuffed them in his mouth and shot him in the back of the head, execution style. You would think that would be enough to keep two fifteen-year-olds off the turnpike with a pocketful of white tops. But you’d be wrong.”

3. Form: “I still loved rhyming for the sake of rhyming, purely for the aesthetics of the rhyme itself – the challenge of moving around couplets and triplets, stacking double entendres, speed rapping.”

4. Thoroughness: “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.”

5. History: “I was part of a generation of kids who saw something special about what it means to be human – something bloody and dramatic and scandalous that happened right here in America – and hip-hop was our way of reporting that story, telling it to ourselves and to the world…We came out of the generation of black people who finally got the point: No one’s going to help us.”

6. Hip-hop: “Hip-hop is the only art that I know that’s built on direct confrontation…There are very few beta rappers – it’s alphas all the way…It’s a recurring story in hip-hop, the tension between art and commerce.”

{Isn’t hip-hop a funny word when written? It seems a character from Watership Down.}

7. Boxing: “Boxing is a glorious sport to watch and boxers are incredible, heroic athletes, but it’s also, to be honest, a stupid game to play. Even the winners can end up with crippling brain damage.”

8. Cristal Champagne: “It was symbolic of our whole game – it was the next shit. It told people that we were elevating our game, not by throwing on a bigger chain, but by showing more refined, and even slightly obscure, taste.”

9. Failure: “I don’t accept that falling is inevitable – I think there’s a way to avoid it, a way to win, to get success and its spoils, and get away with it without losing your soul or your life or both.”

10. Physics: “There’s an equal and opposite relationship between balling and falling.”

11. Seeing Yourself on TV for the First Time: “After my first record got on the radio and on BET, it was wild being at home, feeding my fish, and suddenly seeing myself on TV.”

12. Duality: “I think it’s worth it to try to find that balance. It’s like life – sometimes you just want to dumb out in the club; other times you want to get real and go deep.”

13. Poverty: “One of the reasons inequality gets so deep in this country is that everyone wants to be rich. That’s the American ideal. Poor people don’t like talking about poverty because even though they might live in the projects surrounded by other poor people and have, like, ten dollars in the bank, they don’t like to think of themselves as poor. It’s embarrassing.”

14. Charity: “To some degree charity is a racket in a capitalist system, a way of making our obligations to one another optional, and of keeping poor people feeling a sense of indebtedness to the rich, even if the rich spend every other day exploiting those same people.”

15. 80s Hair Bands: “Rock started to change. Style started trumping substance, which culminated in the rise of the big hair bands. There were probably some great hair bands – I wouldn’t really know – but I do know that most of them were terrible; even they’ll admit that now. And what’s worse is that the thing that made rock great, its rawness, whether it was Little Richard screaming at the top of his lungs or the Clash smashing their guitars, disappeared in all that hairspray. It was pure decadence. It crippled rock for a long time. I wasn’t mad, because rap was more than ready to step in.”

16. Preferences: “More than anything, I love sharp people; men or women, nothing makes me like someone more than intelligence. Big was shy, but when he said something it was usually witty. I’m talkative when I get to know you, but before that I can be pretty economical with words. I’m more of a listener.”

17. Religion: “I don’t believe in the fire-and-brimstone shit, the idea that God will punish people for eternity in a burning hell. I believe in one God.”

18. Poetry: “…a set structure forced sonnet writers to find every nook and cranny in the subject and challenged them to invent new language for saying old things. It’s the same with braggadocio in rap…If you can say how dope you are in a completely original, clever, powerful way, the rhyme itself becomes proof of the boast’s truth.”

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