Fathers on Wax
From The New York Times:
In the summer of 1978, when he was 9 years old and growing up in the Marcy housing projects in Brooklyn, Shawn Carter — a k a Jay-Z — saw a circle of people gathered around a kid named Slate, who was “rhyming, throwing out couplet after couplet like he was in a trance, for a crazy long time — 30 minutes straight off the top of his head, never losing the beat, riding the handclaps” of the folks around him, transformed “like the church ladies touched by the spirit.” Young Shawn felt gravity working on him, “like a planet pulled into orbit by a star”: he went home that night and started writing his own rhymes in a notebook and studying the dictionary.
“Everywhere I went I’d write,” Jay-Z recalls in his compelling new book, “Decoded.” “If I was crossing a street with my friends and a rhyme came to me, I’d break out my binder, spread it on a mailbox or lamppost and write the rhyme before I crossed the street.” If he didn’t have his notebook with him, he’d run to “the corner store, buy something, then find a pen to write it on the back of the brown paper bag.” That became impractical when he was a teenager, working streets up and down the eastern corridor, selling crack, and he says he began to work on memorizing, creating “little corners in my head where I stored rhymes.”
In time, that love of words would give Jay-Z more No. 1 albums than Elvis and fuel the realization of his boyhood dream: becoming, as he wrote in one of his earliest lyrics, the poet with “rhymes so provocative” that he was the “key in the lock” — “the king of hip-hop.”
Watch Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys: