One of my favorite Christmas presents was from Heather – the only book with my name on it, Jay-Z’s Decoded. The book is the story of Jay-Z’s life, with his lyrics mixed in. The book also had pictures to mix with the words, to try and create a more artistic approach to the story.
Jay-Z grew up in New York’s projects and had enough personal drive, and opportunities to leave the inner cities and become an international rap artist. His book goes back and forth between apparent genius, politicking for rap’s acceptance as actual art, and posturing Jay-Z as the guy with the solutions to the problems. It’s impressive while feeling silly for taking it serious at the same time. Plus, this book had more f-words than I had ever seen in any book I’d read before.
Here’s some decent words from the pages:
- p.27, “Che’s failures were bloody and his contradictions frustrating. But to have contradictions – especially when you’re fighting for your life – is human, and to wear the Che shirt and the platinum and diamonds together is honest. In the end I wore it because I meant it.”
- p.31, “Money and power don’t change you, they just further expose your true self.”
- p.39, “In the game there’s always a younger guy who has an old soul and an understanding of things beyond his years…An older guy will see a kid and think, Man, that kid moves differently from the rest. He’s ready for this life. They know that if they find the right kid, they can put him under their tutelage and he’ll get it fast, step right into the rhythm of the life. But it starts by the other guy watching him, trying to pick up clues.”
- p.41, “He’d forgotten why I put him on in the first place. I loved his hunger. But he got full real quick.”
- p.49, “It’s always the one who knows the least who is the first to start trying to tell someone what to do. The farther outside the circle someone is, it seems, the more they want to stir up resentment, mostly because they don’t know better, or they’re bored and have nothing better to do.”
- p.100, “Everybody look at you strange, say you changed / Uh, like you work that hard to stay the same / Uh, game stayed the same, the name changed”
- p.220/1 There’s an interesting examination of giving and charity in a capitalist society, with a Jewish approach.
- p.276, “But I wasn’t looking for church, anyway; I was looking for an explanation…I believe that religion is the thing that separates and controls people.”
- p.279, “The truth is always relevant.”
Hopefully you can see, as I did, that this book’s contribution to the church may well be in the area of discipleship and leadership development. It approaches both of these in real ways that are actually helpful.