Jay-Z decodes life, hip-hop, songs in literary debut

Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:53pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - From selling crack cocaine as a teenage hustler to becoming one of America's richest rappers, Jay-Z writes about his life, decodes his music and explains hip-hop culture in his literary debut "Decoded," set for release on Tuesday.

The New York City native writes in the sometimes coarse language of the Brooklyn streets where he grew up, explaining how hip-hop was his generation's way of telling the world what it was like to grow up in an urban "wartime."

"I lost people I loved, was betrayed by people I trusted, felt the breeze of bullets flying by my head. I saw crack addiction destroy families -- it almost destroyed mine -- but I sold it, too," Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, writes in "Decoded."

"Guns were easier to get in the 'hood than public assistance. There were times when the violence just seemed like background music," Jay-Z, who has won 10 Grammy Awards, said of growing up in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The 40-year-old said he started rapping in 1978 when he was nine and saw an older child "rhyming" at the Marcy public housing complex in Brooklyn where he lived. "That night I started writing rhymes in my spiral notebook," he tells readers.

Hip-hop music was born in New York's South Bronx in 1970s and has grown into an industry worth billions of dollars with mass appeal beyond its urban roots. Rappers not only make music, but also sell the hip-hop lifestyle.

Jay-Z has released 11 studio albums -- 2009's "The Blueprint 3" produced No. 1 U.S. hit "Empire State of Mind" -- and also founded the Rocawear fashion label, which he sold in 2007 for $204 million.

DREAM OF A HUSTLER   Continued...

<p>Jay-Z performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California April 16, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>