Jay-Z is not your typical celebrity. His first book, "Decoded," is not your typical celebrity memoir.
In it, Jay-Z (real name: Sean Carter, aliases: many) paints the portrait of his life by delving into his lyrics, unwrapping his metaphors and opening up his ideology. He reveals who he was before he sold 50 million albums, scored 10 Grammys and established himself as a fixture in Forbes (current net worth: $450 million) as well as music history. He also ruminates on politics, race, and what it means to be successful in America.
Ambitious man, ambitious book, ambitious marketing campaign: Jay-Z teamed up with the search engine Bing to create a scavenger hunt that "hid" all 305 pages of "Decoded," which goes on sale today, in 200 locations pivotal in his life. The grand prize for a fan who "decodes" all the pages online: a lifetime pass that grants them free access to every single Jay-Z show on earth for the rest of their lives, and lets them bring a friend along for the ride. (Go to Bing.com/JayZ to enter.)
But for any hip-hop fan, the ride contained in "Decoded's" pages is exhilarating enough. Below, 20 of Jay-Z's biggest revelations from his first tome:
On why hip-hop is controversial: Hip-hop has always been controversial, and for good reason. ... It leaves s**t rattling around in your head that won't make sense till the fifth or sixth time through. It challenges you. Which is the other reason hip-hop is controversial: People don't bother trying to get it. The problem isn't in the rap or the rapper or the culture. The problem is that so many people don't even know how to listen to the music.
On people who misread hip-hop: The art of rap is deceptive. It seems so straightforward and personal and real that people read it completely literally, as raw testimony or autobiography. And sometimes the words we use, n***a, b***h, motherf***er, and the violence of the images overwhelms some listeners. It's all white noise to them till they hear a b***h or a n***a and then they run off yelling "See!" and feel vindicated in their narrow conception of what the music is about.
But that would be like listening to Maya Angelou and ignoring everything until you hear her drop a line about drinking or sleeping with someone's husband and then dismissing her as an alcoholic adulterer. But I can't say I've ever given much of a f**k about people who hear a curse word and start foaming at the mouth. The Fox News dummies. They wouldn't know art if it fell on them.
On his provocative song, "99 Problems:" The hook itself -- 99 problems but a b***h ain't one -- is a joke, bait for lazy critics. At no point in that song am I talking about a girl. ... And the joke of is still potent: During the presidential primaries in 2008, some Hillary Clinton supporters even claimed that Barack Obama was playing the song at his rallies, which would've been hilarious if it was true. It's hard to beat the entertainment value of people who deliberately misunderstand the world, people dying to be insulted, running around looking for a bullet to get in front of.