Decoded

( 457 )

Overview

Decoded is a book like no other: a collection of lyrics and their meanings that together tell the story of a culture, an art form, a moment in history, and one of the most provocative and successful artists of our time.

“Hip-hop’s renaissance man drops a classic. . . . Heartfelt, passionate and slick.”— Kirkus, starred review

Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Hardcover
$25.73
BN.com price
(Save 26%)$35.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (44) from $3.19   
  • New (16) from $20.57   
  • Used (28) from $3.19   
Decoded

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$14.99
BN.com price

Overview

Decoded is a book like no other: a collection of lyrics and their meanings that together tell the story of a culture, an art form, a moment in history, and one of the most provocative and successful artists of our time.

“Hip-hop’s renaissance man drops a classic. . . . Heartfelt, passionate and slick.”— Kirkus, starred review

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

T his disarmingly honest autobiography by rap legend Jay-Z is now an enhanced paperback edition, containing new lyrics and annotations.

David Garber

Library Journal
Rapper/mogul Jay-Z presents the lyrics to 36 of his songs, and provides their fuller autobiographical and cultural context.
Kirkus Reviews

Accommodate. Dwindle. Suspicious. Obscene. We owe these and a few dozen other words to William Shakespeare, who coined some, twisted others into new shapes, heard still others in the mouths of bricklayers, milkmaids, merchants and shepherds in the English countryside. Moreover, Shakespeare mastered whole technical vocabularies, drawing on the language of sailing, of falconry, of hunting, of painting.

The corpus of Shakespeare's work, quantified, contains 31,534 individual words—or, as the helpful authors of the textbook Statistical Reasoning for Everyday Life put it, "a grand total of 884,647 words counting repetitions." But that doesn't seem a great deal, given that the English of our time contains, arguably (and scholars do argue about the matter, endlessly), a million words, great numbers of which are coinages in neoscientific Latin (by way of example, look up ibuprofen sometime).

Yet, considering the efforts of scholars such as C.K. Ogden and I.A. Richards in the 1930s to reduce English to a mere 850 words, the better to transport the language to every corner of a waiting world, Shakespeare's trove seems more than sufficient. He got literature out of his stock of words, after all.

And so did Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, who, 50 years ago, crafted an unforgettable children's book, Green Eggs and Ham, from a stock of a mere 50 words.

The story has it that Seuss, visiting publisher Bennett Cerf in New York, happily remarked that he had used only 225 individual words in a previous book, The Cat in the Hat. Not impressed, Cerf—himself a writer of children's books, most consisting of bad jokes that continue to poison my mind half a century later ("What's big and red and eats rocks?" "A big red rock eater.")—bet Seuss that he could not write a complete story using only 50.

Seuss returned with Green Eggs and Ham, which contains precisely 50 words, all but one of them ("anywhere") consisting of a single syllable. The tale is a simple one: A strangely shaped mammal named Sam (or Sam-I-Am) exhorts an unnamed friend to try a delicious plate of green eggs and ham. Rightly suspecting any egg that, even after cooking, remains green, said friend adamantly refuses, saying, "I would not eat them with a fox. / I would not eat them in a box. / I would not eat them here or there. / I would not eat them anywhere. / I would not eat green eggs and ham. / I do not like them, Sam-I-Am."

Pure poetry, that. Green Eggs and Ham was published in August 1960, just in time for me to count it among the earliest books I read, and it has gone on in the half-century since to become, by most measures, the fourth-bestselling children's book in the English language, making for good commerce as well as good literature.

If only Shakespeare had been so economical. We might today be reading Green Eggs and Hamlet.

—Gregory McNamee

Michiko Kakutani
…gives the reader a harrowing portrait of the rough worlds Jay-Z navigated in his youth, while at the same time deconstructing his lyrics, in much the way that Stephen Sondheim does in his new book, Finishing the HatDecoded leaves the reader with a keen appreciation of how rap artists have worked myriad variations on a series of familiar themes (hustling, partying and "the most familiar subject in the history of rap—why I'm dope") by putting a street twist on an arsenal of traditional literary devices (hyperbole, double entendres, puns, alliteration and allusions), and how the author himself magically stacks rhymes upon rhymes, mixing and matching metaphors even as he makes unexpected stream-of-consciousness leaps that rework old clichés and play clever aural jokes on the listener…
—The New York Times
From the Publisher
“Compelling . . . provocative, evocative . . . Part autobiography, part lavishly illustrated commentary on the author’s own work, Decoded gives the reader a harrowing portrait of the rough worlds Jay-Z navigated in his youth, while at the same time deconstructing his lyrics.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“One of a handful of books that just about any hip hop fan should own.”—The New Yorker

“Elegantly designed, incisively written . . . an impressive leap by a man who has never been known for small steps.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“A riveting exploration of Jay-Z’s journey . . . So thoroughly engrossing, it reads like a good piece of cultural journalism.”—The Boston Globe
 
“Shawn Carter’s most honest airing of the experiences he drew on to create the mythic figure of Jay-Z . . . The scenes he recounts along the way are fascinating.”—Entertainment Weekly

The Barnes & Noble Review

The name of Jay-Z's first book is Decoded, a curious title given that among the work of celebrated rappers his lyrics might need perhaps the least decoding. Unlike the Wu-Tang Clan, for instance, whose arcane allusions, slang neologisms, and syncretic philosophies have spawned two books and counting, Jay-Z is decidedly plain spoken and confessional. His most powerful lyrics -- and there have been many since his 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt -- reveal anxiety, uncertainty, and an uncanny awareness of human frailty to go along with the expected bluster and bravado of the rap idiom.

Despite Jay-Z's willingness to bare his emotions in song, we know precious little about the man himself, Shawn Carter. The general arc of his life's narrative is clear: a child of Brooklyn's Marcy projects transforms himself from aspiring rapper to drug hustler to global superstar to corporate mogul. He is the self-made man of American myth, remixed with a kick drum and a snare. Under the guise of his invented name, Jay-Z has become less person than persona. As he once rapped with characteristic concision: "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man." Though he's released a staggering eleven albums in fourteen years, the man behind the business still remains a mystery -- often seen, but rarely heard.

That is what makes Decoded such an unexpected and welcome gift. At over three hundred pages, it is a multimedia, multi-genre extravaganza: part memoir, part coffee table book, part annotated compendium of lyrics, part polemic in the defense of hip hop's poesy. Jay-Z (with the aid of the respected hip-hop journalist dream hampton) intersperses personal anecdotes, rhetorical broadsides, and deep reflections with rich images and typography. From Andy Warhol's striking "Rorschach" on the book's front cover to the interior art, which ranges from Michelangelo's "Pietà" to a vintage Little Orphan Annie button, the book is a visual feast.

What the book isn't -- and what many hip-hop fans have long anticipated -- is a tell-all memoir. Though rich in anecdotes, the narrative is organized thematically rather than chronologically, underscoring the continuities across Jay-Z's career. The themes range from poverty to fame, from sports to politics. At times, these subject-driven sections leave one dissatisfied with the level of revelation and reflection, such as in his cursory treatment of race relations. Combined, though, they provide a penetrating glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest American artist-celebrities.

As a collection of lyrics alone, Decoded is an essential contribution. It joins a growing body of works, such as Paul Edwards's How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC and Yale University Press's The Anthology of Rap (which I co-edited with Andrew DuBois), that place the rap lyric in its proper context within the American popular songbook and the broader tradition of poetry through the ages.

Jay-Z is a rapper who famously doesn't write down his lyrics -- or as he once termed it, "the only rapper to rewrite history without a pen" -- and seeing his words on the page is a revelation. Syllables and sounds bounce off one another; clever figures of speech unfold before our eyes. Throughout the book, he continually makes the case for understanding rappers as poets, complex artists capable of rendering the familiar unfamiliar, embodying paradox and tension in their lyrics, and making things beautiful -- and ugly too -- as artists at their best always do.

"Turning something as common as language into a puzzle makes the familiar feel strange;" he writes, "it makes the language we take for granted feel fresh and exciting again, like an old friend who just revealed a long-held secret. That's why the MCs who really play with language [. . .] can be the most exciting for people who listen closely enough, because they snatch the ground out from under you. . . ." Decoded will do just that, upending assumptions about hip-hop and leaving readers suspended in midair, staring down at a new and complex ground beneath their feet.

--Adam Bradley

Adam Bradley is the author of Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip-Hop and the co-editor of The Anthology of Rap.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400068920
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/16/2010
  • Pages: 317
  • Sales rank: 134,367
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

More by this Author

Read an Excerpt

A note from Jay-Z:

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 ’80s and ’90s, 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. There's poetry in hip-hop lyrics - not just mine, but in the work of all the great hip-hop artists, from KRS-1 and Rakim to Biggie and Pac to a hundred emcees on a hundred corners all over the world that you've never heard of.

The magic of rap is in the way it can take the most specific experience, from individual lives in unlikely places, and turn them into art that can be embraced by the whole world.

Decoded is a book about one of those specific lives - mine - and will show you how the things I've experienced and observed have made their way into the art I've created. It's also about how my work is sometimes not about my life at all, but about pushing the boundaries of what I can express through the poetry of rap – trying to use words to find fresh angles into emotions that we all share, which is the hidden mission in even the hardest hip-hop.

Decoded is a book about some of my favorite songs – songs that I unpack and explain and surround with narratives about what inspired them—but behind the rhymes is the truest story of my life.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 457 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(216)

4 Star

(96)

3 Star

(67)

2 Star

(38)

1 Star

(40)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 472 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 17, 2010

    A New look on Jay-Z' life

    I Pre-ordered it in September, Just got it last night. It is very interesting the way it's set up, a hybrid between memoirs and an autobiography it definatley was original in not only design but as an entirety. This book might mean more to somone like myself who has been a fan since a kid of Jay-Z. Since Elementary school, through junior high and senior high school ive always bought his albums, and downloaded his music. I never thought he would come out with a book but now that he has i think my respect grew a little more. I believe you dont have to be from Brooklyn to get inspired by Jay-z' story and success, for me a kid who grew up outside of Philly and Baltimore his advice can help out a lot of teens anywhere. Even if you have not even heard of Him, his story is worth getting to know.

    24 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 19, 2011

    An amazing look inside a different world

    I'm not huge fan of rap and I really didn't know much about Jay-Z. After listening to an interview on NPR, my interest was piqued and gave Decoded a try. I've never read an autobiography quite like this and was thrilled with the window Jay-Z gives to the reader into not just himself, but his music and his generation. Not to sound melodramatic, but Decoded changed me...like any kind of education. I'm probably not going to go out and buy a bunch of rap/hip-hop albums, but I have a better understanding of the force behind this music.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Insight into a fascinating individual

    First, I have to say, you don't have to be a serious fan of Jay-Z to enjoy this book. Really, you have to be a student of business and the interesting people who build empires. If you listen to Jay-Z's music, then you realize it exposes you to very little of Shawn Carter. This book opens that door and shows us how a child of Brooklyn's Marcy projects transforms himself from aspiring rapper to drug hustler to global superstar to corporate mogul. He is the self-made man of American myth, remixed with a bass-heavy beat.

    Under the guise of his invented name, Jay-Z has become less person than persona. As he once rapped with characteristic concision: "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man." Though he's released a staggering eleven albums in fourteen years, the man behind the business still remains a mystery -- often seen, but rarely heard.

    That is what makes Decoded such an unexpected and welcome gift. At over three hundred pages, it is a multimedia, multi-genre extravaganza: part memoir, part coffee table book, part annotated compendium of lyrics, part polemic in the defense of hip hop's poesy. Jay-Z (with the aid of the respected hip-hop journalist dream hampton) intersperses personal anecdotes, rhetorical broadsides, and deep reflections with rich images and typography. From Andy Warhol's striking "Rorschach" on the book's front cover to the interior art, which ranges from Michelangelo's "Pietà" to a vintage Little Orphan Annie button, the book is a visual feast.

    What the book isn't -- and what many hip-hop fans have long anticipated -- is a tell-all memoir. Though rich in anecdotes, the narrative is organized thematically rather than chronologically, underscoring the continuities across Jay-Z's career. The themes range from poverty to fame, from sports to politics. At times, these subject-driven sections leave one dissatisfied with the level of revelation and reflection, such as in his cursory treatment of race relations. Combined, though, they provide a penetrating glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest American artist-celebrities.

    This book is definitely one of the top business books of the year, and I rank it right up there with Emotional Intelligence 2.0

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 16, 2010

    More expensive than hardcover?

    im having a hard time understanding how a hardcover book costs more than digital. random house needs to stop trying to fleece loyal customers.

    10 out of 44 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 4, 2011

    The Life and Times of Shawn Carter

    Through the early chapters of 'Decoded,' I was dogged by a sense of dissonance. Apart from the lyrical transcripts, the voice of Jay-Z, the persona, scarcely appeared. It's an unmistakable voice, recognizable by its bravado, its misogyny, its unabashed prioritizing of the self. Here, instead, I heard a narrative voice humming with graciousness, sharpening on occasion but tending toward softer, more elegant rhythms and tones. Was this disembodiment the work of a ghost? I presume that, for a man whose trade demands mastery of language, pride would not allow it. I wondered, more plausibly, if Jay-Z had dissembled so as to please a literary crowd that's leery of the method and message of contemporary hip-hop. After all, in this very book, he contends that every emcee is part trickster and that art "elevates and refines and transforms," but "sometimes it just fu*** with you for the fun of it." As 'Decoded' wound on, the steady stream of humble prose, despite being uncharacteristic, eventually compelled me to dispatch my suspicions. It felt too honest to be artifice. Confronted with the contradictory personalities of Jay-Z and Shawn Carter, I realized I needn't embrace one and decry the other. Both could be genuine. The rapper persona is a paradoxical being - a character that lets the artist dissociate into a fictional form, yet, in so doing, provides heightened means for genuine expression. This is not a book, however, that's primarily concerned with its creator or his alter ego; the prevailing authorial desire in "Decoded" is outward-oriented: to advocate for hip-hop as a legitimate art form. He does this by analyzing bars and verses - a sometimes tedious, sometimes illuminating undertaking. He does it through an audacious-but-successful likening of braggadocio rap tracks to Shakespeare sonnets. And he does it through deft navigation of the social and political aspects of the African-American ghetto experience, thus providing a vivid context for the rise of hip-hop. In a particularly incisive passage, he writes, "We came out of the generation of black people who finally got the point: No one's going to help us. So we went for self, for family, for block, for crew - which sounds selfish; it's one of the criticisms hustlers and rappers both get, that we're hypercapitalists concerned only with the bottom line and enriching ourselves. But it's just a rational response to the reality we faced." These cultural observations, while mostly fascinating and artful, substitute for deeper probing into the author's life. For instance, Carter discusses ghetto violence, but sanitizes his own experiences. He examines Darwinian competition in rap culture, but avoids comments on his own battles with fellow rappers. In this sense, the book does not satisfy the taste for autobiography that it activates. Still, focusing on what is included, "Decoded" is a refreshing book. Thoughtfully constructed, it has emotional and intellectual heft. Varied in form, with text/lyrics/footnotes/graphics, it's an expedited read. Because of its author's renown and the inclusivity of the subject matter, it also has broad appeal. Carter proposes that great characters compel the audience to feel connected to their motivations and actions, as if they own them. The dissonance between Carter and Jay-Z, the person and the persona, is striking but, for this reason, not absolute. Both perceive and evoke their reality with acuity, allowing us to hear our voices in theirs.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2010

    expensive

    This book is $10 for the Kindle.

    EDIT: 12/4 - Now this ebook is $10. Before it was upwards of $20. Thanks for changing the price, B and N!

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2012

    If you are a fan.

    Being a Jay Z fan this is a good book to read. Breaks down the lyics in depth. Art work is also provided.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

    Decoded

    This is a book i would recomend by any body who likes jay z its a good buy

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 10, 2011

    Highly Recommended- One of my favorites!

    This book is great! It goes into such great detail about living in the ghettos of New York. It has so many emotions and feelings that are being expressed! Good book! Great job Jay-Z!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2011

    so+far+so+good

    im+a+13+yr+old+n+i+love+this+book

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 4, 2011

    books way overpriced

    who would pay 28 for this book!!!!

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 3, 2010

    it's $9.99

    ..

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    Please lend

    Please i would LOVE A LEND

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2013

    jraubenolt@yahoo.com

    Friend me

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 15, 2013

    Decoded is a great first person view of hip hop music itself. Ja

    Decoded is a great first person view of hip hop music itself. Jay-Z portrays the struggle as something
    everyone can relate to. Even though rap music as a whole is very provocative, the message is not, and 
    is simple enough to be applicable to everyday life. Easily a top recommendation because of a more in
    depth look of HIp-Hop and the artist himself. I especially became accustomed to Jay-Z's simple writing
    style and the contrast from his music and his book. The only drawback from this is sometime in some
    stories Jay makes some leaps that are hard for the reader to make connections, but the gaps aren't too
    prevalent, so it doesn't affect the overall piece. Overall a very good novel, and an easy read over vacation. It should not be made into a movie though, it would be too long or too hard to follow.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013

    Jay boy

    Lala hehehe good bye

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 19, 2013

    Decoded is an autobiography of the rapper Jay-Z and the challeng

    Decoded is an autobiography of the rapper Jay-Z and the challenges he faced growing up in Brooklynn. As a young boy Jay-Z became apart of Brooklynns gang life; dealing drugs and facing other gangs while writing down his own ryhmes and lyrics that were extremely valuable to him. I really enjoyed this book because Jay-Z is one of my favorite artists and understanding what the lyrics mean gives it greater story to tell in his music. The books writing style changes a lot in the book but that is mostly to keep it sounding like Jay-Z and his voice. This book is perfect for music lovers and people looking for a great story about making it big by doing what he loved so much.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    Outsyanding

    Amazing

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2012

    Worth a read

    I am a fan of hip hop and jay-z, this book gave me a whole new perspective into things i have missed in the music.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2012

    Amazing

    Great reading and a great gift

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 472 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)