As I am reading through Jay-Z’s book Decoded, I am making some notes about his articulation of music, art and writing. He is very insightful in seeing rap and hip-hop through the lens of appropriation of traditions, I think, and how many rap artists saw hip-hop as a way to tell their story. I’m not sure if that is still the case, given the commercialization of the genre and the global reach, but it was true at the start: rapping and rhyming gave voice to many of the urban musicians’ world that was mostly forgotten about or ignored by mainstream America.
Here are a few quotes from Jay-Z:
“In poetry, the meter is abstract, but in rap, the meter is something you literally hear: it’s the beat.” (p10)
“The flow isn’t like time, it’s like life. It’s like a heartbeat, or the way you breathe ...” (p12)
“(I love) … the challenge of moving around couplets and triplets, stacking double entrendes, speed rapping.” (p17)
“Great rap should have all kinds of unresolved layers that you don’t necessarily figure out the first time you listen to it.” (p54)
“A poet’s mission is to make words do more work than they normally do, to make them work on more than one level.” (p54)
“(Poets and rappers) …bend language, improvise, and invent new ways of speaking the truth.” (p56)
“Everything that hip hop touches is transformed by the encounter, especially things like language and brands, which leave themselves open to constant redefinition.” (p84)
I’m only about halfway through the book and yesterday, I was posting these on Twitter with the hashtag of #JayZsez and it sparked a number of people’s interest in the book.
Peace (in the writing),