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Made in America

Michael Eric Dyson with a Foreword by Pharrell

St. Martin's Press

JAY-Z Download image

ISBN10: 1250230969
ISBN13: 9781250230966


240 Pages



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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.


Praise for JAY-Z

"This book is a long look into hip-hop’s critical place in culture. Dyson reveals the role of politics, criminal justice and social change in the words and music of JAY-Z."—Detroit Free Press

"Dyson has made a career out of contextualizing the struggles of Black America. With his latest work, JAY-Z: Made in America, he continues to unpack the catalysts and consequences of black creativity, power, and wealth . . . Ultimately, [Jay-Z's] rebellion started on the page—and Dyson is the perfect chronicler of its permanence."—Candace McDuffie, Christian Science Monitor

“If you want the definitive treatment of a man who took it from Marcy Projects to the White House with wit, wisdom, and talent, and changed hip hop along the way, look no further than this insightful and moving book.”—Common

"My Brooklyn Homeboy Jay-Z is one of the most prolific and gifted rappers of all time. My man Michael Eric Dyson is uniquely qualified to interpret Jay-Z’s art and cultural meaning, and this dope book is all the proof we need."—Spike Lee

“As a proud standard bearer of hip hop’s golden age, I greatly admire Jay-Z’s lyrical talent, and just as important, his business acumen. This brilliant book not only explains Jay’s magnificent artistry and career, but it sheds light on the broader American culture as well.”—Queen Latifah

“Jay-Z is one of the most remarkable figures of our time. I identify with him as a person who started poor but who rose high to conquer our realms on our own terms. This brilliant work probes every dimension of this iconic American original.”—Tyler Perry

“Michael Eric Dyson is the perfect thinker and writer to grapple with Jay-Z’s artistic and political meaning. This is a fascinating and fulfilling book that eloquently engages one of the most profound and influential artists of our time.”—Al Sharpton

“Jay-Z's music has helped to shape a generation, and his rise from hustler to billionaire is an inspiration to millions. Michael Eric Dyson, himself a gifted writer and inspiring thinker who has risen from the bottom too, offers us a bracing, brilliant look at an iconic American. This book is eloquent and profound, and will help all of us understand why Jay-Z is in a class by himself.”—Tamron Hall

“Michael Eric Dyson, a preeminent public intellectual, has covered the waterfront of black cultural criticism—from politics to pop culture, from race to religion. With JAY-Z: Made in America, he returns to his roots and offers us a poignant portrait of one of hip hop’s most intriguing figures, a brilliant self-made man who, if he didn’t exist, you’d have to invent. This tour de force takes full measure of an icon who is an American original like no other!”—Henry-Louis Gates

"[Dyson] makes his case that as a truth-telling racial unifier, political influence, and 'vocal evangelist for developing generational wealth in black communities,' Jay-Z represents a symbol of 'overcoming' for hip-hop culture and American society."—Booklist

"Under Dyson’s guidance, to read about Jay-Z is to learn not just about the journey and works but also about ourselves, our history, our world, and our way forward . . . we are sitting in a classroom under the spell of a captivating teacher."—Library Journal (starred review)

“In this astute cultural biography, Dyson 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 Beyoncé. '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.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


“I’m the Definition of It”


Let’s begin with what even his greatest admirers may miss: JAY-Z is a prescient theorist of American history. No, he hasn’t shaped our conception of the...

About the author

Michael Eric Dyson with a Foreword by Pharrell

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON is one of America’s premier public intellectuals and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Tears We Cannot Stop and What Truth Sounds Like. He occupies the distinguished position of University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and is a contributing editor of The New Republic and ESPN’s The Undefeated. Ebony magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans and one of the 150 most powerful blacks in the nation.

© KK Ottesen

Michael Eric Dyson

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