Excerpts from Jay-Z’s forthcoming book Decoded were published in the New York Post this week, and they promise that the book will be every bit as entertaining as fans have been anticipating. Pulled over by cops with drugs in the car? Check. Anger at Cristal’s apparent repudiation of the hip-hop culture that brought it millions? Sure. Great stories about Notorious B.I.G.? Indeed.
Decoded goes on sale November 16. The day before, Jay will hold a talk at the New York Public Library, hosted by Cornel West, along with the library’s Paul HoldengrÃ¤ber.
Some of the book’s juiciest bits:
What “99 Problems” Is Really About
During his early years as a crack dealer, Jay was driving down Interstate-95 with a stash hidden in his car, and was pulled over by police for “no good reason.” The officers couldn’t search the car without probable cause, so a K-9 unit was called. But the unit didn’t show up, and Jay was released. Minutes later, he saw the K-9 unit tearing down the highway in the other direction, but he was already free.
In the book, he reveals that the famous line from his 2004 song “99 Problems” ? “I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one” ? is not about a woman but a female dog, or the dogs he dodged that day. “It would have changed my life if that dog had been a few seconds faster,” he writes.
The Dangers of Hip-Hop Stardom
Jay was close friends with the Notorious B.I.G. ? the two teamed up for the classic “Brooklyn’s Finest” on Jay’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt ? and in the book Jay talks about the mid-’90s murders of Biggie and Tupac Shakur. Jay writes: “They were both perfectly safe before they started rapping; they weren’t being hunted by killers until they got into music. Biggie was on the streets before he started releasing music, but he never had squads of shooters (or the Feds) coming after him until he was famous.”
Jay also writes about his 2003 collaboration with Eminem, “Moment of Clarity.” At the studio session, Jay went to hug his friend, and realized Em was wearing a bulletproof vest. Jay writes that Em should have been “on a boat somewhere” rather than living in fear for his life.
A Notorious Blunt
In another Biggie moment, Jay recalls the MC making a cameo appearance in the video for “Ain’t No N—-a,” which Jay was filming with Foxy Brown in Miami in 1996. Jay-Z says he was never much of a pot smoker and only did so on vacation. “I could count the number of times I’d smoked trees,” he writes. But when Big offered him a smoke, he thought to himself, “Relax, you’re not on the streets anymore.” So he smoked ? and got completely wasted, just as the video shoot was to begin. Seeing what he had done, Biggie laughed and whispered to Jay, “I got ya.” Jay said it took him 20 minutes to pull himself together. Later on, he told Big, “Never again, my n—-a.”
Biggie also introduced Jay to Cristal Champagne in 1994. Since then, he and other hip-hop stars helped popularize the expensive drink by name-checking it in their rhymes. But when Cristal executive Frederic Rouzad was asked about the drink’s hip-hop connotations, he said, “We can’t forbid people from buying it.” Jay promptly led a boycott. “That was a slap in the face,” he writes. “I released a statement saying that I would never drink Cristal or promote it in any way or serve it at any of my clubs ever again. I felt like this was the kind of bullshit I’d been dealing with forever, this kind of patronizing disrespect for the culture of hip-hop.”
Jay-Z: How I Went From Rags to Riches [New York Post]