The B&N Podcast: Michael Eric Dyson on an American Icon

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper.

Our guest on today’s episode is the writer, thinker and teacher Michael Eric Dyson, who joins us to talk about his new book Jay-Z: Made in America. Dyson is the author of a wide array of books, including the bestsellers Tears We Cannot Stop and What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America, and has become one of the most incisive and eloquent voices speaking about race and the black experience. And among the subjects he’s written about memorably is the poetry and meaning of hip hop, with works on rap superstars like Tupac Shakur advancing our understanding of hiphop as an art form with unparalleled global impact. In Jay-Z: Made in America, Dyson takes on one of the most influential personalities working not only in hip hop but in business and on the world stage — he sat down in our studio with B&N’s Miwa Messer to give us a taste of how he sees this moment in our nation’s life through the lyrics and life of an icon.


JAY-Z: Made in America is the fruit of Michael Eric Dyson’s decade of teaching the work of one of the greatest poets this nation has produced, as gifted a wordsmith as Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and Rita Dove. But as a rapper, he’s sometimes not given the credit he deserves for just how great an artist he’s been for so long.

This book wrestles with the biggest themes of JAY-Z’s career, including hustling, and it recognizes the way that he’s always weaved politics into his music, making important statements about race, criminal justice, black wealth and social injustice. As he enters his fifties, and to mark his thirty years as a recording artist, this is the perfect time to take a look at JAY-Z’s career and his role in making this nation what it is today.

In many ways, this is JAY-Z’s America as much as it’s Pelosi’s America, or Trump’s America, or Martin Luther King’s America. JAY-Z has given this country a language to think with and words to live by.

Featuring a Foreword by Pharrell.

“Dyson’s incisive analysis of JAY-Z’s brilliance not only offers a brief history of hip-hop’s critical place in American culture, but also hints at how we can best move forward.” —Questlove

See more books by Michael Eric Dyson.

Like this podcast? Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher to discover intriguing new conversations every week.

Photo of the author (c) Nina Subin.