Wall Street Journal article by John Jurgensen
The State of Jay-Z's Empire
He's worth an estimated $450 million and hobnobs with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. How the Brooklyn-born performer has become the leading music impresario of his generation.
And yet, he chafes at the lack of respect for a genre that some people still dismiss wholesale because of ugly words and violent imagery. W hen he shares strawberry malts with Warren Buffett, confers with the president, or even vacations in St. Tropez, he does so on behalf of "the culture," he says, by which he means hip-hop.
Now, to state his case more clearly, the rapper born Shawn Carter has turned to prose. His first book, "Decoded," to be published Nov. 16, is a hybrid of music history, social commentary and memoir, with an emphasis on his transition from the crack trade to the music business. The 336-page book is structured around the lyrics to 36 Jay-Z songs, each footnoted to unpack his allusions, slang and double entendres. This couplet, "No lie, just know I chose my own fate/I drove by the fork in the road and went straight," is explained in footnote 16 to the song "Renegade": "I went straight—stopped selling drugs—but I also didn't accept the false choice between poverty and breaking the law." Microsoft put up about $1 million for the marketing of the book.
He had rejected proposals to write a conventional business-strategy book. "Our ambition was never to just fit into the corporate mold, it was to take it over and remake that world in our image," he writes in a footnote to "Operation Corporate Takeover," a song that rhymes "reverse merger" with "no need to converse further."
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