The Ampersand

The Spiegel & Grau Tumblr

Last fall, Jay-Z published a book, Decoded, about his life and lyrics. Its text is one of the most marvelously deft pieces of self-definition I have ever seen — a gorgeous rhetorical performance that seemed designed to persuade every last reader, and maybe especially the sorts of readers who spend time at Carnegie Hall, that they have to respect both hip-hop and Carter himself. It spoke of the lessons he learned as a youth in the projects, and from his work as a crack dealer, and how they play out in his songs — but it spoke of all that in the gentle, reflective voice of someone who’s now a tuxedoed philanthropist and thoughtful wordsmith. More than anything, the book — and the way Carter promoted it with events like an interview at the New York Public Library, with the editor-in-chief of The New Yorker in the front row — seemed like an introduction: Jay-Z explains himself in the language of the cultural elite, and they officially welcome him into their social stratum…

—“Carnegie, Rockefeller, Carter,” New York Magazine