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By Jay-Z

Decoded is a ebook like no different: a suite of lyrics and their meanings that jointly inform the tale of a tradition, an paintings shape, a second in heritage, and some of the most provocative and profitable artists of our time.

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

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Decoded is a e-book like no different: a set of lyrics and their meanings that jointly inform the tale of a tradition, an artwork shape, a second in historical past, and the most provocative and winning artists of our time.

“Hip-hop’s renaissance guy drops a vintage. . . . Heartfelt, passionate and slick. ”— Kirkus, starred overview

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Example text

But it happens all over, not just in the streets. In fact, the inspiration for coming back to the “Coming of Age” story was what was happening with Bleek in real life. Just like the character in the song, after the original song Bleek got a little fame in the hood. He built up a following of chicks in Marcy and started feeling himself—which is understandable. But then it came time to record the next album. I made plans to meet Bleek at the studio to work on some new material and he didn’t show.

He was generous, too: He’d stop the show and bring me out when nobody knew who the hell I was. Cee would put on a break beat—“Spread Love,” by Take 6—and I’d just go in on it in the breakneck double- and triple-time rhyming that me and Jaz thought we’d pioneered. The crowd would go nuts. Kane put me on a song on his Daddy’s Home album in the early nineties. The video for the song was pretty low-budget, which worked out okay, because all the director could afford to do was something that looked real: They ran the cameras in the middle of the projects and filmed a bunch of hungry New York MCs spitting in a cipher, surrounded by a crowd.

Chuck D famously called hip-hop the CNN of the ghetto, and he was right, but hip-hop would be as boring as the news if all MCs did was report. Rap is also entertainment—and art. Going back to poetry for a minute: I love metaphors, and for me hustling is the ultimate metaphor for the basic human struggles: the struggle to survive and resist, the struggle to win and to make sense of it all. This is why the hustler’s story—through hip-hop—has connected with a global audience. The deeper we get into those sidewalk cracks and into the mind of the young hustler trying to find his fortune there, the closer we get to the ultimate human story, the story of struggle, which is what defines us all.

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