Did it different. Did it better. Did it nice. Did the impossible, then did it twice. Get it right.
Jay-Z “Hovi Baby”
Before I read this book, I have a couple things to say.
Lots of people expect me to like this book. So it’s been terribly difficult to write this. The thing with Jay-Z is… the fans. The popularity and weight that comes with the name “Jay-Z” is advertising in it’s own. He’s a brand-name whose point of sale is “quality with consistency”. Who wouldn’t buy that? Granted, I am one of those people who thinks that every Jay album is exceptional. But that’s only because it’s true. So in trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t a rider… I really listened to the new albums. But only in rotation with the rest. So, I know everyone might expect me to love this book and be excited for it which I was until I read the first page. Everyone has been hailing how great this book is. & while it is well written, the writing is so…. ordinary. & Jay-Z is an extraordinary nigga. So I was disappointed at first browse.
& I don’t know anyone who’s read the book whose opinion I trust. Books are personal things. Not every book is good. Authors are like rappers to me… I just don’t fucks with a lot of them. & fans reveling in the book aren’t my fav either. I don’t like trend books. I don’t like to read what people are currently reading. Before I opened up my Decoded yesterday, I was reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which is quite good. When I announced on FB, that my next post would be this one, I got some feedback. I even got an inbox message telling me the book is a “great read”. WTF does “great read” mean? That’s the shit they put on self help books on the front table at Border’s. It doesn’t mean a damn thing. On page 54, Decoded reads, “The problem isn’t in the rap or in the rapper or the culture. The problem is that so many people don’t even know how to listen to music.” If people can fuck up a basic skill like listening, I’d argue they’re even worse at reading. I wrote about the same idea in “For the Love of Hip Hop,” on November 17th. 2010. Just ONE DAY after Jay-Z released his book. That’s why I’m reading this book now. Because there is a voice in there, behind all the bullshit, that is meant for me. I’ll find it. But…the thing is… its not easy.
For a while, I hadn’t been able to get passed the first couple pages –Page 5 to be exact. Which is really page 2.5 of text and literal page 23 in the book –for a couple of reasons. First, HEAVY ASS BOOK. I understand why now, sort of… because the images in the book simply print and present better in this manner. But a soft/ply cover option would have been nice. I need a book I can throw in my bag and go. The book is too fuckin big. & I know that sounds like a dumb complaint, but there’s more to that. People love hardcovers as decoration on their end tables. This book looks amazing on a bookshelf. But what about those of us who read? Your book wasn’t welcoming. I think you missed out on an immense audience. The audience who will grab and go and read on the train or when they’re waiting on just anything. All business — you missed out on sales, dude. On a consumer level, it made your book sort of cold and distant especially with the white cover. There’s something about a soft cover book, in that you can lay up with it and bring it where ever you’re going, that connects you toit. Both the content and it physically. (Cred: Advertising major who once interned for a publishing house. & I liked my classes.)
#2: I hate that book. The very conception of it. You already know I hate the physical qualities of the book, but I’m also a hater on it’s construction. It’s essence. I’m saying this here because I’m strong enough to admit it. I’m not jealous of Dream Hammond and her being able to work with Jay on this book. She has (a supposed) 20 years in the industry. She’s reputable. But she sucks. This isn’t anything Hammond should take to heart, most writers suck. Not only does she suck, her blog sucks. Here, visit: DreamHampton.com. & I hate on her so much, that I’ve been misspelling her name, but I’m going to leave it misspelled where it already lays. Out of pure disrespect.
But now that it’s out, I have a crown to come at. A crown Hampton does not hold. No one knows her unless they’re in the industry. Have you heard of her? Before this? & With that said, I mean the Hip-Hop industry, because she is not a writer. Yes, she writes. And she writes with skill. But writing is not her passion. She’s a film major. Ok… She’s a very smart woman, I can’t deny that. She went to NYU. But it’s not my fault she paid more for her school name than I did. & before Jay, her claim to fame is that “she filmed her neighbor Chirstopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace for a documentary class.” Really? You put that in your bio? He was your neighbor. How tough was it to set that up? I read some of her other stuff on that website, and forreal, I’m not impressed.
She was a mediocre feature on this project. I just don’t think that Jay should have teamed up with someone who wasn’t at the top of the craft. Choosing Hampton was like choosing anyone. I wasn’t a collaboration. If Jay-Z & Lil Wayne is not a collaboration, but Jay-Z & Nas is, WTF has she done that makes this a collaboration? Even Jay-Z & Sista Souljah would have made more sense (from a publicity point) but I’m not a fan of hers either. There are few well known black writers. Even less female black writers. The only ones I respect are Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. But to me, Angelou is a better poet than essayist or story teller.
& Most of All: The writing sucks. To the point to where I have to edit my book. It took everything in me to not take out my red Sharpie. In the end I failed and let my ink wrestle the first page. I didn’t even like the first sentence. I wanted to feel like, with the first word, Jay was talking to me. Cuz that’s how big Jay is. As soon as you hear his voice, you know it’s him. He’s unmistakable. So unmistakable that my 56 year old mother knows when it’s Jay playin on the radio.
I love words. And I think every story has its own voice because every person has their own voice. The ability to ghost write, I think is a gift. The opportunity is not. The first 2.5 pages of this book don’t read “Jay-Z” enough for me. I keep thinking… he wouldn’t really say that like that. The first pages are real detached. Too professional. Pretentious. Too methodical for a man who is a freestyling legend. And some of it is just awkward.
The first sentence:
“I saw the circle before I saw the kid in the middle.” is not a powerful enough sentence. The first line in a verse (like the first line in a paragraph) is always a statement & then a breath. That statement should be able to stand alone. So I typed a quick “Jay” into the iTunes search tab & threw him on shuffle. Just to prove my point: the Theory of the First Line. If Jay does it while rapping, I’m sure he’d do it in writing.
“Still there’s pain.” – Sweet
“Hello brooklyn.” – Hello Brooklyn
“You’re my best friends sister.”-Soon You’ll Understand
“I hustle from night to morning.” There’s Been a Murder
Then I cleared my search tab & hit “next”.
“See. I’m like a new breed of female.” – Secret Location Remy Ma.
“Look, Nigga what you think this is?” – Here We Go – Trina
Even the females are doing it!
Worst sentence so far:
“When I got a little older, Marcy would show me it’s menace, but for a kid in the seventies, it was mostly an adventure, full of concrete corners to turn, dark hallways to explore, and everywhere other kids.”
First, LONG ASS SENTENCE.
Second, “When I got a little older Marcy would show me it’s menace.” Who would say that? It’s meance? That sounds way too scripted. #FilmMajor. Third, “concrete corners to turn” as opposed to…. concrete corners to jump? What else do you do with a corner? Or may be meant as opposed to plastic corners to turn. But I’m not sure how many different types of corners there are out there. Fourth: How many of you say, “and everywhere other kids”? How about… “and other kids everywhere” or we can take advice from Strunk & White and simplify to “and kids everywhere.” No shit other kids. “Other kids” means the exact same thing as just saying “kids” “Simplify, Simplify,” wrote Thoreau. “Do not overwrite,” says Strunk & White along with “Write in a way that comes naturally.” I want to send Hampton a copy of my Strunk & White. I even got it out for her. Point is, I shouldn’t have this much to say about one sentence.
So I’ve been acting out my marginalia. I’m correcting less as I read along, but there are still too many places where I, as a reader, am asking for more elaboration. Sometimes the story isn’t playing out like it should. Things aren’t said in the way they should be. They’re lacking depth. Sorry, Ms. Hampton, but you know how Hip Hop goes. To be the best, you gotta prove yourself better than those on top. I still have my own work to do. So grammatical faux pas are acceptable of me, in my Blogging venue. But some writers are just real overrated *cough* Thing is… I’m like Jay. You know, how he used to pull out that binder on the mailbox? (page 5: an instance where the imagery you wrote didn’t appropriately describe the desperation or the passion. You made it sound like the same kid who stops to tie his shoes even if he falls behind. The tone is too nonchalant….) & thats what makes me dope, Ms. Hampton. & if I’m not doper than you yet, I will be. Be patient, these things take time.
“Dopeness,” A dope picture.
I’m already the best. I’m going to say it here. Now. So later, when when you hear about me, you’ll know exactly how I said it, when I said & that I meant it. On page 26, you helped write, “if you can say how dope you are in a completely original, clever and powerful way, [that in itself] becomes proof of the boast’s truth.” Watch this.
This dope shit is nothin.
I was there when Dope was invented; I hold the copyright.
Mattafact, everytime you say “dope” it should be followed by
“Copyright © 88” with my name beside it. You can add on the “All rights reserved” if it so moves you.
-ELLA being dope.
Only thing doper is the picture to the right. I really believe I’m one of the dopest bloggers out right now. (lol.. had to laugh at the one.) This blog, for me, is like “The Come Up,” for J Cole. I’m hungry. I’m gonna make it. & If they don’t think I’m the best now, they’ll jump on the wagon later. These things also take time. Note to Hampton: This is how you show confidence as opposed to cockiness which you failed to do in the last sentence on page 5. You know that “show don’t tell” thing you learn early on? It’s one of those cases. The way to be confident in speech is to show, then tell. Then show again. Like a “Reminder”. You know that song, right?
So hopefully, the book gives me what I need. & it’s gotten better as the writing gained momentum. My last opinion on Hampton is that it takes her too long to get a story off the ground. But the pace and flow improve as the words and the story settle into each other. I’m consciously trying to read this with an unbiased eye but I had to get my preconceptions out first. I’m open to it to the rest of this. Maybe she’ll prove to me why she’s dope. I don’t have much faith though. At worst, this is really just primary research into how his autobiography should be written… which I really should write.
We’ll see. Back to the book.
I’ll give a final opinion when I finish: “Jay-Z’s “Decoded” – Part 2″