“My life after childhood has two main stories: the story of the hustler and the story of the rapper, and the two overlap as much as they diverge. I was on the streets for more than half of my life from the time I was thirteen years old(…).The feelings I had during that part of my life were burned into me like a brand. it was life during war time”
Most rappers come from ‘the hood’ and have struggled in life with drugs or have been involved in illegal activities, so what makes Jay-z’s story interesting? When reading Jay-z’s memoir it is not the classic hustle story that stands out, it’s the introspection with which Jay-z describes those events. When you’re reading the autobiography you can easily picture him in the process of remembering his childhood. The descriptions make those memories seem extremely vivid, as if by telling the story he was reliving those days. Most rappers just tell their stories through rap music, which cannot get really in a lot of details but they also do not explain the mental process that made the rapper become who he is. Jay-z through this book is trying to provide that to his fans. It is in fact evident that his focus is on what was emotionally pushing him to make the decisions he made, he also explains what sparked his interest in rapping and rhyming.
The story starts with a description of what a normal day in his childhood was, playing around with other kids, daring each other to do things, and then one day he saw a kid rapping, and that’s when it sparked. He wanted to do it too. As the story goes on we see how Jay-z’s life evolves. He keeps rapping but one day he starts selling crack. In the song December 4th Jay-z says:” this is the life I chose or rather the life that chose me”, he’s not blaming others for his actions, and he recognizes that it was 100% his choice, although being from a neighborhood like Marcy was a little bit of a trigger. Jay-z realizes that as terrible as it can sound the days when he was selling drugs are actually the days that made him who he is. There’s a reason why he calls it “life during wartime”. Sure he was not fighting for his country nor for a good cause but during that time of his life things got ugly, he saw loved-ones die.
The memoir is surprisingly beautifully written, and what gives it and extra interesting touch is the fact that we see how hip-hop and rap culture evolved, as Jay-z matured into the rapper he is now. Almost like if the two were growing alongside. Jay-z made the most of what life gave him, and a big lesson to take away from this book is that we have to remember where we come from because it is thanks to our past that we are the person we are today. This is what makes Jay-z’s story not only extremely interesting and different, but also educational and motivational.