Decoded by Jay-Z

By Jay-Z

Decoded is a publication 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 probably the most provocative and winning artists of our time.

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

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When Biggie rhymed about how things done changed he could’ve meant from one summer to the next. It wasn’t a generational shift but a generational split. Look at our parents, they even fukn scared of us. With that line, Big captured the whole transformation in a few words. Authority was turned upside down. Guys my age, fed up with watching their moms struggle on a single income, were paying utility bills with money from hustling. So how could those same mothers sit them down about a truant report?

What had been was gone, and in its place was a new way of life that was suddenly everywhere and seemed like it had been there forever. Cocaine wasn’t new and neither was selling it. There had always been older dudes who grew their pinkie fingernails out to sniff coke. There were always down-low dealers who partied with their customers as they supplied them. Melle Mel had a song called “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” and of course Kurtis Blow called himself “Blow,” but for the most part doing coke was something that happened at private parties, something you might’ve of heard about but had never really seen.

Authority was turned upside down. Guys my age, fed up with watching their moms struggle on a single income, were paying utility bills with money from hustling. So how could those same mothers sit them down about a truant report? Outside, in Marcy’s courtyards and across the country, teenagers wore automatic weapons like they were sneakers. Broad-daylight shoot-outs had our grandmothers afraid to leave the house, and had neighbors who’d known us since we were toddlers forming Neighborhood Watches against us.

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