Skip to main content

Jay-Z's new book Decoded is anthology, catalogue, memoir of his creation of a persona; no AY; bio next year should dig deeper

So, is there anything about Atlantic Yards, and his fractional ownership of the Nets, in Jay-Z's new book Decoded?

Not really, at least according to my quick skim of the book at the bookstore. It's not an autobiography. The New Yorker, covering Jay-Z's recent appearance at the New York Public Library, described the book as "part memoir, part carefully annotated lyrics anthology, and part visual catalogue."

MTV provides a compendium of early reviews. The best review I've seen is from Zach Baron in the Village Voice, headlined Decoding Jay-Z's Decoded: Why the rapper's memoir is definitely not Shawn Carter's.

The person and the alter ego

Baron writes:
Unlike, say, compatriot Eminem and his constantly rehabbing progenitor, Marshall Mathers, there has always seemed to be a lot of harmony between Jay-Z and his real-life alter ego, Shawn Carter, the Marcy-born drug dealer who gave Jay-Z the nerves and the seed money to get his music-biz start. "I never had to reject Shawn Carter to become Jay-Z," the rapper explains, but note the distinction—those two people are not the same. That this is a fact that matters is one of the central revelations of Decoded, which began life as an autobiography, penned with the smart critic Dream Hampton. The bio, once called The Black Book, was scrapped for its too-personal revelations about his father and Carter's years as a career criminal—"It's too much," he told Rolling Stone.
He adds:
It also explains why Decoded's most central revelations are about not Shawn Carter, who remains stubbornly distant, but about hip-hop itself, the genre that made Jay-Z rich and that he in turn helped make a fully global, world-beating industry.
Making the myth

Millions of people love Jay-Z, but who exactly do they love? Baron explains:
But as Decoded makes clear, what the rapper's project actually is is a kind of self-novelization: person meeting persona in 16 measure bars. "The flow isn't like time," he writes about the craft. "It's like life."

...As his author is careful to observe, Jay-Z is not a person but a "first-person literary creation," a product with a vast and addicted clientele, to be sold like the work his progenitor used to stash in "baggy jeans and puffy coats" while shivering in the New Jersey winter. As for that guy, whose name was Shawn Carter—well, he got away a long time ago.
Jay-Z's take

And here's what the author (assisted crucially by the writer Dream Hampton) explains:
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.
Brooklyn landmarks

One commenter on the Voice web site suggests that "RapGenius.com explained all of the songs in the book better than Jay-Z did" and, indeed, the site's worth a look.

Its New York City Rap Map presents numerous Brooklyn locations, including the Barclays Center linked to Jay-Z's over-claim in "Brooklyn (Go Hard)" that "I'm the black Branch Rickey" and his former stash house at 560 State Street (from "Empire State of Mind").

A non-interactive screenshot is below; click to enlarge.


Biography coming

For some of the details Mr. Carter left out, we'll have to wait 'til next March, when Zack O'Malley Greenburg's Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office, is published.

He was recently interviewed by Rap Genius.

RG: Will Jay-Z have you killed when he reads your book?

ZOMG: He probably won’t be thrilled with some of the stuff that’s in there, particularly some of the stuff Jaz-O told me. But it’s not a hatchet job, it’s both sides of the story. You don’t go from street corner to corner office without making a few enemies along the way, regardless of whether they’re justified in hating you.

By the way, the author pegs Jay-Z's net worth at $450 million and suggests that the first $900,000 stake came from dealing.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…