Book review: ‘Decoded’ by Jay-Z

Jay-Z is a great American artist — and he’d be the first to tell you so. “Decoded” is an elegantly designed, incisively written bid for cultural legitimacy by a man whose XXL ego is underscored by an equally outsized inferiority complex (as big egos so often are).

To Jay-Z’s credit, this hip-hop art book is not just one man’s memoir. It’s also a passionate defense of a musical form that’s often as misunderstood as this complicated spokesman. Just as it’s hit the economic skids, hip-hop has a champion on a rescue mission. By making his story not merely part of, but subservient to, a much larger cultural narrative, the rapper who was born Shawn Carter 41 years ago on Dec. 4 performs the sort of heroic act that could grant him redemption for the sins that haunt “Decoded.” If he could just get out of his own way.