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LIVE from the NYPL: JAY-Z in conversation with Cornel West and Paul Holdengräber

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November 16, 2010

Program Locations:

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Celeste Bartos Forum

Fiercely candid, uncompromising, provocative, inspiring—DECODED is the long awaited first book by the multi-platinum, 10 time Grammy Award winning artist, entrepreneur, and icon JAY-Z.

"When I first started working on this book, I told my editor that I wanted to do three important things. The first was to make the case that hip-hop lyrics-not just my lyrics, but those of every great MC-are poetry if you look at them closely enough. The second was that I wanted the book to tell a little bit of the story of my generation, to show the context for the choices we made at a violent and chaotic crossroads in recent history.  And the third piece was that I wanted the book to show how hip-hop created a way to take a very specific and powerful experience and turn it into a story that everyone in the world could feel and relate to."-JAY-Z, from DECODED

DECODED is a narrative journey through the lyrics and life of one of the most prolific artists of our time. JAY-Z describes the meanings behind some of his most provocative songs and provides a highly personal narrative of the culture that so powerfully shaped his life and art. "I saw the circle before I saw the kid in the middle. I was nine years old, the summer of 1978, and Marcy was my world."

For JAY-Z, lyrics aren't just about songs, they're about life, and in DECODED he brings his own story to life, writing about his journey from Brooklyn's notorious Marcy Projects to becoming a world-class artist, cultural icon, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. 

"I went straight-stopped selling drugs-but I also didn't accept the false choice between poverty and breaking the law." 

At the New York Public Library, JAY-Z will share his thoughts on growing up as a hustler and feeling judged simply because of where he was from. He will also address issues that informed him and his songwriting:

  • How did visual art and poetry influence his craft?
  • How did he get involved in politics when he never really trusted the system?
  • How did he stay honest to himself in the world of big business and how did he shed stereotypes when he'd been labeled one all his life?

CORNEL WEST is a democratic intellectual.  He is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton University.  He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard and has an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton.  He has taught at Union Theological Seminary, Yale, Harvard and the University of Paris.  His books include Race Matters, Democracy Matters, and Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.  Cornel West has appeared in many documentaries and films including Examined Life, Call & Response, Sidewalk and Stand. He has made three spoken word albums including Never Forget, collaborating with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and the late Gerald Levert. His recent spoken word interludes were featured on Terence Blanchard's Choices, The Cornel West Theory's Second Rome and Raheem DeVaughn's Love & War: Masterpeace.

PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER is the Director of LIVE from the NYPL.

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