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"Dyson writes with the affection of a fan but the rigor of an academic. ... Using extensive passages from Jay-Z’s lyrics, 'Made in America' examines the rapper’s role as a poet, an aesthete, an advocate for racial justice and a business, man, but devotes much of its energy to Hova the Hustler." —Allison Stewart, The Washington Post
"Dyson's incisive analysis of JAY-Z's brilliance not only offers a brief history of hip-hop's critical place in American culture, but also hints at how we can best move forward." —Questlove
JAY-Z: Made in America is the fruit of Michael Eric Dyson’s decade of teaching the work of one of the greatest poets this nation has produced, as gifted a wordsmith as Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and Rita Dove. But as a rapper, he’s sometimes not given the credit he deserves for just how great an artist he’s been for so long.
This book wrestles with the biggest themes of JAY-Z's career, including hustling, and it recognizes the way that he’s always weaved politics into his music, making important statements about race, criminal justice, black wealth and social injustice. As he enters his fifties, and to mark his thirty years as a recording artist, this is the perfect time to take a look at JAY-Z’s career and his role in making this nation what it is today.
In many ways, this is JAY-Z’s America as much as it’s Pelosi’s America, or Trump’s America, or Martin Luther King’s America. JAY-Z has given this country a language to think with and words to live by.
Featuring a Foreword by Pharrell
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We’ve always known Jay-Z was a genius, but even his biggest fans will be struck by the way Michael Eric Dyson elevates the conversation around this hip-hop icon. Dyson, a cultural critic, preacher, and professor, teaches a class on the multitalented rapper and music entrepreneur at Georgetown University, making him an ideal choice to explore why Shawn Carter is an important American artist. Dyson argues that hustling and truth-telling—qualities that basically define Jay-Z’s journey—have always been core to our national identity. He goes deep into how the lyrics of classics like “Dirt off Your Shoulder” extend and redefine those ideas, making a strong case for why Jay-Z should be heralded alongside poets like Rita Dove and Walt Whitman. Bonus: Pharrell wrote the foreword!
In this astute cultural biography, Dyson (Tears We Cannot Stop) analyzes the impact of Jay-Z through his music from his hard-knock life as a drug dealer from Brooklyn, to his becoming a billionaire rapper and husband of megastar Beyonc . "The more I pore over his lyrics," writes Dyson, who teaches a course on Jay-Z at Georgetown University, "the more I realize that I am dealing with an extremely intelligent poet whose work matches the poets I've admired since childhood... Tennyson, Hughes, Brooks and Yeats." With lyrics including "I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, man! Let me handle my business, damn," Dyson cites Jay-Z's "use of braggadocio and allusion, signifying and double entendre, metaphor and homophones." Dyson explores how Jay-Z created profound, meaningful art out of bleak urban decay. "When we hear JAY-Z," Dyson writes, "we listen to the incomparable tongue of American democracy expressed by a people too long held underfoot." Dyson compares Jay-Z to Barack Obama ("both tremendously charismatic men... married to strong and brilliant women"), and recalls Jay-Z's campaign ads for Obama and a tongue-in-cheek song he performed on the eve of Obama's inauguration, featuring the line "My president is black/ In fact he's half white/ So even in a racist mind/ He's half right". Dyson's excellent study serves as a succinct blueprint of Jay-Z's artistry and legacy.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I wouldn’t have expected any less from Dyson the genius. After reading the book you will see more clearly many critical historical connections to art through the view of Jay Z’s lyrics filled with poetic gems. I must admit I was one of those who admired Jay-Z’s skills and the production, but struggled with his earlier heavy references to drug culture. I began seeing it different through Decoded and now this masterpiece by Dr Dyson as well Jay-Z’s 4-44 is a classic and game changer. Seeing documentation of maturity in black art tied to black life, great artifact here. And it’s a fun read, not overbearing at all. Great job.