If you know Jay-Z, then you know that he’s had one of the longest-running careers of any hip-hop artist. You also know that he’s had countless crossover hits. Jay-Z is truly an artist that both the culture has celebrated by winning multiple BET and urban outlet awards, as well as with the industry with awards such as Grammy’s and being inducted into both the Rock & Roll and the Writer’s Hall Of Fame. And he did it without a pen I might add. He’s even been a guest and performer at the White House. There’s no doubt that Jay-Z has been celebrated around the world. But to be celebrated in your own home. I would have to think that’s a whole other feeling, because few people are celebrated in their own city, much less, get to come back home a hero. But that’s just what is happening with the new exhibit at the Brooklyn Public Library called “The Book of Hov: A celebration of the life and work of Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter”. We got a first chance look at the exhibit.
The exhibit was not just put together by the good people of Brooklyn. No. This was a curated art installation that the Brooklyn Central Library partnered with Roc Nation in order to create some truly personal and interactive experiences between Jay-Z and visitors. I found myself lost in the memories of photographs that lived as artifacts like cave drawings, yet these pictures were plastered on wooden blank canvases. The interesting part is that these photos never seemed to show a particular chronological order, but more a less a collage of Jay-Z memories, maybe how his mind has mapped them out. Either way, each picture captured a moment in time. Some of these moments I remembered. Some of them I wish I could’ve been there to experience. The pictures themselves seemed to capture a thousand lifetimes.
When you talk about Hov. You gotta think that there has to be a crazy amount of memorabilia. This installation confirmed that. It was amazing to see Jay-Z’s setlist or his track list written in his own handwritting. There were rooms you would go in and encapsulated behind plexiglass would be items like the Che Guevara t-shirt he wore during his famous MTV Unplugged concert. Or the guitar he played when he headlined the Wonderwall rock festival. Let’s not talk about the concerts. He literally had a box of backstage passes to concerts that he had either performed at or probably was invited to. I was amazed also to see some of the awards that he had put on display there. Obviously, none of his Grammy awards were there, but there were still the Academy Awards and the NCAAP award on display that are all quite impressive just to have one. He has multiple. We all love a good magazine. What magazine cover has he not been on? There were many of the most prestigious magazines around that had featured Jay-Z. From GQ, to Life, to even the Cigar Aficionado magazine. I was also amazed to see that Jay-Z even had some of his masters on display like the one for his Carnegie Hall Live Performance or the negatives for the Streets Is Watching movie.
If you want to know how Jay-Z became Hov, then you gotta know about Baseline Studios. The art installation featured a fully functional analog studio that was designed to resemble the actual Baseline Studios which was on 127 West 26th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, where Jay-Z made some of his greatest pieces of work, such as “The Blueprint” and “The Black Album”. Both pieces are featured on the walls of the exhibit showing their platinum status and sales in an age where fans literally had to get out of the house and go to a store to buy a CD. This was also where the documentary “Fade To Black” was filmed. Who could forget when Jay-Z took of his bucket hat and put it over his face when a young Kanye West played the “Lucifer” beat. This is Hov’s workplace. This is where he continued getting in the reps that helped him become the One.
The Library CarD
When it comes to going to see any memorable moment. What do you want the most? Of course, you want some type of souvenir. Right? Well officially for The Book Of Hov art installation, there is none. Because of course this is a library, and aside from pictures and the “The Book Of Hov” installation guide, there wasn’t anything to truly help you remember this moment. But if are a resident of New York, then there is something. For every resident of New York there was a limited-edition library card that you could get, that features one of Jay-Z’s albums. Each library location would have a different card that featured a different Jay-Z cover, as seen here. I guess that sucks for someone from Tulsa. Right? You’re left out. But they say, "If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.". And Tulsans say, "where there’s a will, there’s a way.".
Side story: So, I’m from Tulsa. I walk in the library. There's this Black dude sitting behind the desk. He had to be no older than 34. I ask him, “Can I get a Jay-Z library card?”. He says,” Are you a resident of New York?”. I say, “No I’m not. But come on. Help a brother out.” And of course, he is acting like he gonna get fired for giving out one card, or he gonna be missing out on some sales commission for not signing up someone for a library card. I even offered him $20. Come on. You not gonna take $20 when nobody will know either way. But like I said, “I’m from Tulsa, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I continue going walking around the exhibit. Maybe like an hour in, and it’s almost time for me to go. That’s when the homie is like, "How they gonna know you don’t live here? What about the hotel?" It then hits me. Ohh, shit, the hotel is a Brooklyn address. So, I go on the Brooklyn Public Library website, and I sign up for a library card using the hotel’s address. Success. I get a code. Now I ain’t taking this to the same hating ass library worker. Naw, I’m going to the other desk. It was someone else sitting at the desk. They asked me for the code, I gave it. Then they asked, “Can I see your Id?”. Of course, my ID from Tulsa. Then they ask, “Can I see something showing your name and the address of this place?”. So, I hand them my phone that has the hotel agreement with my name and address on it. They peeped game. What went on was a one-minute back and forth about what constitutes as being a livable dwelling in New York. (which I still think that being in a hotel is a legal short-term lease agreement that holds statues as being a resident of place) But they admired my hustle. The same hustle they probably have and would’ve used in my predicament. So, in the end, they said, "Don’t tell nobody you got this from me.” As they proceeded to hand me the library card. My souvenir. Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life
So, there you have it, The Book Of Hov art installation in Brooklyn. If you have a chance, I suggest you go see it. You won’t be disappointed. And Brooklyn is a dope city. Maybe I’ll tell you about some of my other adventures another time. Until then. Hov Did!