By: Stephen Gordon
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: January 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 2013
Shawn Corey Carter, later known as Jay-Z, began his life in Brooklyn, New York. The whole family, including his two older sisters and his brother, lived with his father’s parents. When Shawn was five, the family struck out on their own and moved to the “Marcy Houses, a big housing development for low-income families.” It was a home filled with love and plenty of music, something that undoubtedly influenced Shawn as he grew. One of the family favorites was “Soul Train,” a television show that featured soul and R & B artists. One unique group of artists, the Sugarhill Gang, performed their hip-hop number “Rapper’s Delight.”
This introduction to a successful group and watching an artist in Marcy got Shawn thinking, “I can do that.” He began to write down rhymes in a notebook, one that soon became full. Rapping soon became second nature to Shawn and a bit of an obsession. No doubt he was a smart young man and his later success would prove that. Tragedy struck the family when his uncle was murdered. Shawn’s father was unable to contain his grief and his personal life unraveled. Divorce was the unfortunate result and his mother “Gloria was left alone to raise four children.” Shawn, who became withdrawn, used his music as an outlet.
His talent didn’t go unnoticed. Jaz-O was well aware of Shawn’s talent and soon became his mentor. He needed a name that was sharp and noticeable so he became Jay-Z. Rapping was still very important to him, but soon the underworld beckoned to him. Jay-Z began to deal drugs, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was “destroying others’ lives by selling them crack.” Jay-Z had everything, but nothing. He had brains, he had talent, but his life as a hustler was pulling him down. Would he be able to turn his life around? In this book you’ll read about his trip to London, his decision to try for a music career, how he started his own record company, his albums, his phenomenal memory, his entrepreneurial ventures, his intense rivalry with Nas, his life with Beyoncé, and you’ll learn many other interesting things about Jay-Z, the CEO of hip-hop.
This is a fascinating look at the life of Shawn Corey Carter, the king of hip-hop. This biographical sketch for young readers gives them a good look at not only Jay-Z’s life, but also at the world of hip-hop and how it works. The layout is vibrant and has photographs, sidebars, and numerous period USA Today articles. The focus on his life, both good and bad, is well-balanced. For example, the fact that Jay-Z dealt in drugs is not glossed over, but neither is his determination to put his life back on track and succeed. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a timeline (1969 to 2012), a discography (includes collaborations), source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: Hip-Hop fans everywhere will enjoy reading about their idol, Jay-Z, an artist who's one of the best!