Reading music is taking on a different meaning of late. That's due to a growing number of high-profile autobiographies and memoirs written by music artists. Among the artists-turned-authors hitting bookstore shelves this year are Susan Boyle, Justin Bieber, Keith Richards, Vince Neil, Rosanne Cash and Ricky Martin. Weighing in Nov. 16 with his own 336-page tome is hip-hop pioneer Jay-Z.
"Decoded," published by Random House imprint Spiegel & Grau, is a candid narrative of the multiplatinum rapper's life accented by his "decoding" of 36 songs from his catalog. Featuring an image of Andy Warhol's "Rorschach" on its cover, the fully illustrated book offers a firsthand account of Jay-Z's most famous raps -- including "99 Problems" and "Big Pimpin'" -- as well as a deeper look at a music genre dismissed early on as a fad but which has since become a cultural phenomenon.
In an excerpt from "Decoded," Jay-Z notes, "I wanted to do three important things. The first was to make the case that hip-hop lyrics -- not just my lyrics, but those of every great MC -- are poetry if you look at them closely enough. The second was I wanted the book to tell a little bit of the story of my generation, to show the context for the choices we made at a violent and chaotic crossroads in recent history. And the third piece was that I wanted the book to show how hip-hop created a way to take a very specific and powerful experience and turn it into a story that everyone in the world could feel and relate to."
An ambitious promotional campaign has been launched on behalf of "Decoded." In partnership with Microsoft's Bing search engine, pages of the book will be placed, unannounced, in various locations related to the content of those pages. Some will be located in the Brooklyn neighborhood where Jay-Z grew up, others in places where he drew inspiration (London) and still others in areas that led to the building of his hip-hop empire.
The pages are being displayed through conventional (billboards) and unconventional means, such as on pool tables and bronze plaques and in clothing, for example. In fact, when Jay-Z unveiled "Decoded" during an Oct. 20 book party in Miami, the lyrics for "Big Pimpin'" were displayed at the bottom of the Delano Hotel pool.
The campaign kicked off Oct. 18 and has been unveiling five to 10 new pages in new locations in 15 cities around the world. The same pages are also being placed in various locations virtually in an online gaming experience located at bing.com/jay-z.
Fans can use Bing to find the pages in either the virtual environment or in real life. Those who turn up a page then text a unique code to enter a contest drawing for prizes. All entrants are also eligible for the grand prize of two tickets to watch Jay-Z perform with Coldplay on New Year's Eve in Las Vegas. The contest ends Nov. 20.
List-priced at $35, "Decoded" is available for preorder on Amazon. At press time, the site's list of top-selling "Hot New Releases" included Keith Richards' "Life" (in the top five), followed by Ricky Martin's "Me" (top 20) and Justin Bieber's "First Step 2 Forever (100% Official)." According to Nielsen BookScan, which covers 75% of retail sales (except Walmart/Sam's Club), Richards' book (released Oct. 26) has sold 66,000 with Bieber (Oct. 12) coming in at 52,000. Martin's book was issued Nov. 2; sales data for the week ending Nov. 7 will be available Nov. 10.
(Additional reporting by Antony Bruno and Mariel Concepcion.)