I love getting books as Christmas gifts especially from my 10-year-old daughter. This year’s Christmas gift is Jay-Z (Made In America) by Michael Eric Dyson.
I will confess upfront that Jay-Z is not my favorite rapper and I have not listened to a lot of his music. My favorite rappers are Big Daddy Kane and Rakim. I believe they are the best two rappers I have ever heard handle the mic in 48 years I have been on this planet. However, they have never achieved the cultural impact that Jay-Z has throughout his three decades long career. Also, I have always been interested in how an artist (irregardless of the artistic medium) taps into their creativity and submits it for public consumption. I heard Professor Dyson speak on the Toure and Barnes & Noble Podcasts about this book. His eloquence and love for Jay-Z’s artistry convinced me to ask for the book as a Christmas gift.
Dyson carefully examines the rise of Jay-Z from the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn to becoming hip-hop’s first billionaire. The professor provides proper context to Jay-Z’s musical oeuvre and reveals the art of the hustle as his main artistic theme. Moreover, Dyson shows that Jay-Z had a social conscious to his music from the beginning of his career along with his entrepreneurial spirit.
I really enjoyed the detail Dyson writes at length about Jay-Z’s artistic process from beginning a song as a mumble rap until lyrics come from his vivid imagination and experiences from the mean streets of Brooklyn into something that music fans can rock with and get a deeper meaning from simultaneously.
Dyson goes further in Jay-Z’s life of social consciousness and his commitment to black culture throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Also, he reveals the rapper’s missteps artistically and personally with his wife, Beyonce and most recently the former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Jay-Z (Made In America) gave me as a reader a better perspective on one of America’s best artists (not just a hip-hop artist). I have learned a lot more about what fuels Shawn Carter’s art and how he has presented it to the world. If you are a Jay-Z fan, then I recommend you get this book. And if you are not a fan of him or hip-hop, then I still recommend this book to you as a study one of the most unlikely American success stories that this country has ever produced.