The book follows very rough chronological order, while switching from current stories to his story of growing up in the Marcy Houses. The autobiographical portion focuses on not only his story of drug dealing, fights, and the beginnings in rap, but also his reflections on those times in his life and how they shaped who he is as an artist and how artists were shaped by such experiences.
Jay-Z explains the stresses of the rap industry and the celebrity life, while also trying to put it in perspective. He illustrates this point by explaining that when he and Puff Daddy were being charged with assault there were hundreds of cameras outside the courthouse of Puff Daddy’s trial and the courthouse where the perpetrator of the World Trade Center bombing was being tried was empty.
Opinions and Reflections
Along with the narrative, there is also a substantial portion of the book dedicated to Jay-Z’s opinions and reflections, which are often illustrated with stories. Jay-Z expounds on his relationship with Barack Obama and his involvement in politics, as well as his thoughts on the Hurricane Katrina. Jay-Z reflects on his life and especially his beginnings. He explains that he still considers himself a hustler, despite being a corporate billionaire now as founder of Roc-A-Fella Records. He continues and describes the comparisons between drug dealing, rapping, and boxing and how his life in the streets has molded who he is and no matter how he lives now, he still acknowledges his roots.
The book contains lyrics to thirty-six songs with some songs having only part of the song. Along with the lyrics, there are annotations and footnotes that Jay-Z writes to explain the lyrics to the reader. The explanations range from just explaining what a “brick” is to in depth analysis and explanation of lines that underscore the points that Jay-Z makes in his writing.