On Monday Jay-Z announced an interactive worldwide scavenger hunt to promote his forthcoming book, Decoded . (The book mixes first-person memories of Jay’s life with detailed discussions of his most famous and provocative lyrics, and comes out on November 16.) On Wednesday he and Beyonce followed this up with a party, held in partnership with scavenger-hunt collaborator Bing.com and ad agency Droga5, at Miami’s historic Delano Hotel. Here Jay unveiled two pages in which he discusses the lyrics to his 1999 hit “Big Pimpin’,” of the book.
Jay, clad in a crisp white dress shirt, olive shorts and Adidas sneakers, addressed the crowd early in the evening. “We put all these pages out into the world to be found through Bing’s search engine. You bring it all back together and you can read the book. That’s really the simple part of it.”
Londoner Eddie Smith, the first fan to track down a Decoded page earlier this week, earned a trip to Miami and a framed page from the book, autographed and presented by Jay himself. The latter is the reward for each winner who first texts in a code found on a newly debuted page placed on billboards, pool tables, flower-wrapping paper, cars, and other unconventional places in New York, Los Angeles, London, New Orleans, and Miami. “There’s a physical book, and a digital book, but no one’s bridged the two,” Bing executive Eric Hadley said. The pages can be tracked in the participating cities and online at Bing.com/Jay-Z.
As he handed Smith the framed picture of a poster hung high on a brick building on New York’s Bleecker Street, Jay joked that it could pay his kid’s college tuition. “I dunno if you can sell it, but you might. Times are tough. I get it.”
The rapper then led the guests past lit display cases with mock-ups of Decoded and over to the Delano’s regal swimming pool. After thanking the crowd — which by this point included wife Beyoncé, clad in a bright orange gown — Jay shouted “Lights!” As “Big Pimpin’ ” exploded from the speakers, an enormous white tarp representing a page with each couplet from the song was revealed at the bottom of the pool. Later on, towels printed with page 121, which includes the book’s first nine footnotes, were distributed.
Jay “does not want to do what’s been done before,” said Christopher Jackson, executive editor for the book’s publisher, Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group. “This marketing campaign is exactly the kind of thing that works for him. He didn’t want to do ‘sitting in Barnes & Noble and signing 1,000 books.'” Jackson said one future event for the book will take place at the New York Public Library and will include African-American scholar Cornel West, and added that there will be a “huge” Brooklyn component.
“There were people who wanted a Jay-Z tell-all book,” his business manager John Meneilly says. “I guess some people would be interested in that, but for Jay, that’s not interesting. He wants to make sure people understand what’s involved in this art form. It’s not just someone sitting in a room putting some words together like a nursery rhyme.”
Some of the footnotes are as simple as “7. Blades = B.L.A.D’s = rims,” but lengthier passages throughout the book include film references, shout-outs to MCs who inspired him and even some introspection. “He breaks down Slick Rick’s work, and Rakim and Scarface and other MCs that he really respects,” Jackson explained. “It’s not just about him, like ‘I’m the one who does it really well.’ It’s about, ‘This is what happens in this [art] form.’ “