Jay-Z by Michael Eric Dyson [Book Summary – Review]


A typical hustler from America who was known for his tremendous gift and diplomatic cleverness that took him out of his misery when he was a child to grow to a talented and notable musician on this day, his name is JAY-Z. He succeeded in accomplishing a unique effort in merging financial luck and practical works of art, hitting the arts of visional and performance track, in addition to the inspiring lyrics. He has also gone beyond the usual hip-hop genre and how it’s played in clip shows.

JAY-Z goes further than an ordinary master of music. And here, you will get the chance to see his portfolio as a favored public figure, who fought injustice with his sonic talent. Moreover, you will explore his concept when he “puts his money where his mouth is,” and issuing notarial works from the huge fortune he has, established firms and stood by governmental expeditions that he embraces.


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Chapter 1 – Through his tremendous gift and willpower, JAY-Z made his way in shifting from a corrupted hustler to a brilliant one.


How to define a hustler? It can be considered to be like an American, a major feature of a person who is working so hard to achieve the well-known American dream. Hustling calls triggering, planning, paying efforts to accomplish your aspirations.

Though, hustling falls in many categories. Corrupted hustling is placed in the category of despair. Such as the Americans of African origins, who are known for their record as corrupted hustlers, that began when slavery was on. As tileries, African Americans didn’t enjoy the simplest privileges of mankind and financial freedoms. It illustrates how they were stripped of their own will to live and work as part of the community. The formal process of injustice which African Americans suffered through the system of bondage and after it, left enormous effects that you can still sense when you visit the poorest neighborhoods where Black American live today in every society.

JAY-Z tasted the poor living conditions directly. When he was still young, he lived with his mother who was working in hardship for a salary to feed him and his three siblings. He thought of starting to earn money and take off, so he turned into a corrupted hustler by selling drugs in the neighborhoods. Most of the boys who were trading like him got caught and prisoned.

Yet, JAY-Z managed to get away with his skin because of his love for music. Leaving that way of making money, he turned to his tremendous gift in music to issue the album number one. After wise, he worked very hard for making a contract with a production studio. When he failed to pay for it as no one he knew would fund his contract, he established his own business in recording music, working alone, and issued that first album.



JAY-Z had become a brilliant hustler – a person who is determinant and motivated in creating a path for an efficient active shift. While he has turned to enlarge in his flourishment, he managed to come up with smarter and more amazing tricksters, by becoming a music legend, gregarious popular figure, and benefactor.

Yet, JAY-Z always remembers his past and the way it feels like being a hustler once, and its hardship. He makes sure to say it over and over again in his lyrics and sustains solid relations with his original societies.

At the moment he started to be a famous rap singer, JAY-Z collected junior rap singers, such as Drake and Lil Wayne in his care. As their adviser, he paved the way for them towards the mastery of brilliant hustle – provoking them to create and shape a bright profession of their own.


Chapter 2 – JAY-Z succeeded to spread his music on a large scale of fans and during his work on national songs under trial. 


A large number of rap singers managed to earn a fortune through music with silly poems that were meant to the huge ground of fans of modern rap – hip-hop is a rap with an electronic base, from brotherhoods to banned parties. rappers, such as Talib Kweli and Common, decided to focus on the point they want to reveal in public, empowering music without the need to get to record labels as rights holders. JAY-Z’s profession, on the other side, is distinctive for achieving both.

His music concentrates on universal-subjects that are middle-of-the-road through hip-hop records, such as sport-vehicles and celebrations. Yet, he decided later to devote songs to express more sensitive gregarious topics.

One of his famous works; the song “Minority Report” speaks of the Black Americans and how the authorities left them without rescue on them after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, it also resists the idea that humans are not treated the same – some people deserve to be rescued while others don’t. While the influencing song “Young, Gifted, Black” JAY-Z touches on racial discrimination between the Whiles and the Blacks which illustrates the first’s rights which the Black Americans lack them and such discrimination prevents young Blacks from raising in the country.

Such political ideas are dangerous enough to threaten a profession when they are published. Authorities would take them seriously and disband the fans. Knowing such a result for launching the first collection of songs in the mid-nineties; Reasonable Doubt, JAY-Z didn’t profit from records sales, though these records got huge praise. The fans were shrunk so only a few managed to listen to the album.



JAY-Z was determined to break this oppression practiced upon his fans and spread his music. So he wanted to reach all minds and hearts of the crowd and gain more support on state issues to make a difference. Yet, how to launch such sensitive issues and be heard at the same time?

An idea occurred to him was to produce dancing dancing-rhythm in songs for all parties. Using a solid ground of celebration songs, he would get the chance to practice and have fun, moving to make the expected profit in every collection of songs. In addition, he benefited from the “B-sides” in the collections to perform and release songs that would perturb his audience in a hip-hop buzz. 


Chapter 3 – JAY-Z the disregarded lyric-man who ought to be announced as an expert in his profession.


It’s unusual for hip-hop singers to write their lyrics. JAY-Z considered not to be a match for poets like Wordsworth and Shakespeare as a celebrity of our canon. Nonetheless, it’s because of the lack of audience caused by his song’s themes and not his lack of gift in music.

JAY-Z is an expert in articulating language alongside his other talents. When you listen to articulation in his songs, you recognize the sophisticated figurative language with which he writes to express intelligent political ideas implicitly and to have sharp gregarious remarks.

Even Though he didn’t get any specialized practice in language except for the regular classes at school, JAY-Z paid huge efforts in training on lyrics on his own. Dedicating plenty of time – hours and hours – rethinking and rewriting his lyrics mentally. Spectacularly, JAY-Z doesn’t express his sophisticated verses on paper, ever.

According to his way of work, JAY-Z is more likely considered as progressing the narrative of the Black American folk, where classic stories came from previous generations orally and not by being written down. Therefore, the language he uses in songs are heard as informal and easy to understand. It possibly makes the audience think that these lyrics were easily written. Yet, this thought would skip the time JAY-Z spends in improving his profession.



In a misleading way, a straightforward chunk of language like “flyer than a piece of paper bearin’ my name” is taken from the song “Public Service Announcement”, is loaded with intellectual figurative language. Publishing advertisements in folded paper sheets is of significance in identifying hip-hop. Then, JAY-Z refers to this idea using the concept of being airborne – as the Black American tradition denotes, for it expresses the sense of freedom of slavery. Using a modern language, to be airborne is to be a gentleman in appearance.

JAY-Z’s lyrics written in such loudness forms with the discord of notions – cause it’s written implicitly – and echo for the Black American tradition. As the case in any influential verse, the accurate you listen, the stronger sense it reveals. 


Chapter 4 – JAY-Z’s training in music removes the boundaries between “good” and “degraded” art.


The song “Guns and Roses” pictures Jay-Z the same as Michaelangelo through the words “paint[ing] pictures with poems”. A verse that shows the way JAY-Z always describes himself before other rap singers and longs for ideas from their art.

Having indications for artists from other genres; painters and their paintings in his songs show extraordinary and ruined move as for a hip-hop expert. He is clearly calling to be named as a visual artist. Moreover, he is questioning the concept of hip-hop as a low-class genre of music that is “on the streets”, and demonstrating its ability to be in a house as in musical center too.

Maybe “Performance Art Film” (according to JAY-Z in the video clip of the song “Picasso Baby”) is the one place where this is obviously described. In such filming, JAY-Z acts in a fine arts center, performing the video clip in an artistic theme. The video clip is shot in the Chelsea Pace Gallery using its characteristics that refer to masterpieces like those of Picasso and the Mona Lisa, also sacred centers like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.



JAY-Z acts like a living character inside a painting hanged in that center. Shooting the video clip lasted exhaustingly for hours, while JAY-Z’s acting symbolizing respect to the fabulous works of the artist Marina Abromovic who took 700 hours to perform her work in the MoMA. 

Normally, places like “fine art” centers where Black people are not allowed and even of hatred to them. Issues and works by black artists are extremely obliterated, which also unlikely to be there. JAY-Z mourns this reality through his lyrics; “Marilyn Monroe, she’s quite nice. But why are all the pretty icons always white? Put some colored girls in the MoMA”.

The fact that everything is white in the center, is not the only thing that JAY-Z mourns. His video clip pictures him inside the exhibition’s walls giving the music a touch of artistic concept, such work reveals the idea that this video clip is part of the art which the center presents, and that a “good” and “degraded” concepts are just created out of the tyranny and to marginalize the blacks.


Chapter 5 – JAY-Z devotes his efforts to gregarious fairness and acts in spending to support the case


Until this day, we have witnessed many famous people sympathize with gregarious fairness through their speeches. Yet, it’s rare to find them supporting their words in doings.

JAY-Z, on the contrary, is well-known for standing for the gregarious fairness via TV shows.

Through his own broadcasting programs on social media, he expresses his will to support social issues in which he is interested in provoking his audience. Moreover, he has his own journal articles in the New York Times carry his mindset about ending the corruption in courts and discrimination in the community. 

Yet, JAY-Z is not a man who spreads his opinions to influence the reform. He is a man of actions through which he resists oppression for his ideas.

For instance, JAY-Z initiated several effective moves to deal with corruption in courts. He founded the Shawn Carter Scholarship for youth who finished their verdict in jail and would like to resume their education at school with no enough money for the tuition fees. Then, he associated the founding of an institution that opposes straightforwardly the deficiency in the corrupted court’s system of discriminating against the young Black Americans.



Looking for a path to reach the masses to listen and see this matter, he worked on a notarial series to draw on Kalief Browder; the violent treatment he received, then, catastrophic suicide he committed, after the authorities captured him with false charges, imprisoned him for few years on an island without a fair judgment by the court. In prison, he was tortured to the extent that he lost his mind. He took his own life after they set him free.

Based on his fortune, relations, intellectual abilities, and artistic talents, JAY-Z has the capacity to influence a huge involvement in a matter that relates to him personally.

Reviewing the charitable works in his name speaks of JAY-Z’s contribution in supporting the poorest people financially, such as the ones who suffered the consequences of the 9/11 attack and Hurricane Katrina. Moreover, he financially supported the rescue of the founders of the  Movement for Black Lives, thus, covered lawyers’ expenses for the African Americans who were abused by the cops.

JAY-Z encountered poor living conditions directly when he was young and blocked from having a chance to flourish. Such a cruel background encouraged him to put his fortune to use in influencing the people in need and support those who are suffering the living conditions he had once to offer them what he was cut off from getting. 


Chapter 6 – JAY-Z has exercised power inside institutions against political reforms.


Various methods are found to stand against the gregarious fairness. Rallies are among the prominent to speak of the gregarious obstacles. For instance, the American athlete Colin Kaepernick, who is well-known for his stance against abuse by cops, kneeled on one knee while the national anthem was on before the starting the match run by the NFL to send a message against racism.

Although he explicitly had Kaepernick’s back, JAY-Z appeared to retrieve his stand with the athlete when he approved the request by NFL to be their consultant concerning music broadcasts and involvement in the gregarious fairness approach.

Such cooperation with the NFL had too many critiques and misunderstood as not being faithful for the gregarious fairness. JAY-Z’s huge rally before the cops’ abusive acts and the corrupted courts were all questioned! Why did he take advantage of Kaepernick?

Because such quibbles stand true, it was so easy to accuse JAY-Z of quitting his case. To consider it more accurately would suggest to him a practical man of acts who is willing to resist voices in favor of reforms inside institutions. The same way JAY-Z inspired the audience with his brilliant hip-hop music, he would cooperate with a body such as the NFL to stress the issues he feeds.



Taking his musical art into account, JAY-Z has a unique impact on the dominant governmental norms. For instance, he had a special relationship with President Obama, mainly supporting him during his path to the presidential office and using his massive audience to do the same by voting for Obama. Speaking of JAY-Z’s influence, the President officially stated himself being affected by JAY-Z to the extent where the public Presidential statements contained JAY-Z’s wise words.

A quiet number of critics will fall angry because JAY-Z is not seen as a political extremist. Eventually, JAY-Z is a wealthy man, involved in capitalism which plays a major part in bringing discrimination. Plus, he looks so close in relation to the state’s apparatus. Yet, what turns out to be good about being a practical activist is his obvious impacts and determination. As he grows in wealth and influence, his spoken musical talent gets brighter in front of the oppression. 


Chapter 7 – From private to public is what happened between JAY-Z and Beyoncé. 


Beyoncé’s influential record, Lemonade, was launched in 2016. The album expresses her side of her affair with her boyfriend described with uncertainty and anxiety of betrayal by him. A video clip of hers shows the scene when she was walking in victory on a route, destroying anything that comes in her way, demonstrating the power of ravage.

She implicitly tells her story with JAY-Z without saying his name so the songs wouldn’t seem her life narrative, yet, she gives her audience plenty of clues to solve the puzzle. For both of them have been secretive about their affair, thus, it accumulated for a surprised audience’s inspiration. It implied wide political reflections as well, creating a call for conflict because of women’s abuse issues in a masculine society.

JAY-Z also participated in those issues by supporting the case in hip-hop, singing rap music and narrative about abused females and facing the aggressive masculinity. Maybe this is why he got that shocking reply to Beyoncé’s album; Lemonade.



He chose to announce his feelings by showing the album rather than to remain silent. Rather, he released his musical response which tells his great regrets for the case. It happened one day of the year 2017 at dawn time. In his reply, he blames himself for his doings to Beyoncé and admits his unfaithful part during their love life. He shows disgrace and scares off his family’s reaction to this and how would they consider him when they learn the truth.

Illustrating himself as fragile and vulnerable, J-ZAY shows an unusual and devastating image of himself. He lessens the tensity of the masculinity to which he contributed in his music and in wide negative culture against females.

The next year, the couple worked on the collection named Everything is Love and launched it at markets, it came as the third part of the narrative of their affairs which started with Beyoncé’s album, then JAY-Z reply album. The third collection is destructive but in another context. Anger and disgrace were not the concepts of destruction here, yet, their passion that overwhelming the songs. The audience doesn’t see much love affairs between African Americans. This musical collection draws the case in a focal point.

Such lovers who are public figures with rich social biography are risking a lot by exposing their relationship. This act of revealing the breakup in their private life using amazingly played music and video clips made a huge step in the world of musical art and on a state level as well. They modified the language that can be used in conversations between male and female according to masculine rap music.


Jay-Z: Made in America by Michael Eric Dyson Book Review


It’s unlikely for academics to pay attention to look in-depth at the achievements of music heroes such as JAY-Z. And Michael Dyson regrets this fact calling it a huge mistake. Studying JAY-Z’s work of musical art as a collection of political verses forms initiative clues on the concept of having a history with racial and color discrimination and the abusive authorities like cops in the US. Analyzing the track of  JAY-Z’s profession gives prominent examples for using the will to initiate and following up in wealth as a combination weaponed by devotion to the gregarious fairness and positive will of the act. 


Follow the sense of DIY (Do-It-Yourself).

JAY-Z is among the world’s giants in wealth and hip-hop music. Yet, when his artistic business began, his appeals for production studios to record his first music were all rejected. Such a response by trademark companies made him angry and determinant to building a company with his name. He issued his musical collection to be faced by sensitive recognition – but the others are gone. Don’t let anyone discourage your innovative desire. Plenty of music production studios are there now and composing on the internet. If you need assistance with your art and talent and nobody stepped in, look for another way to do it yourself.


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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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