Jay-Z the Reader

Maybe Jay-Z should rap about books, too.


I think Jozen Cummings is onto something with his essay about why Jay-Z should rap about marriage. At a basic level, what I took from the piece is the need for a black male artist of Hova’s stature to reveal more of himself—the parts that are hidden underneath the stereotypical gangsta-turned-mogul persona that he has portrayed for so long.

Those parts include being a married man. And being a reader.

I rarely read O, Oprah’s magazine. But I am digging the publication’s feature about books that played a prominent role in the lives of celebrities. Since the October issue includes an interview with Jay-Z, Hov shares the books that “made a difference” to him.

Here are a few of the titles that made the cut:

The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav helped him to understand karma.

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield encouraged him to keep moving forward.

The Odyssey by Homer is a rhythmic story that he could relate to.

His choices are diverse, smart and substantial—definitely not selections that most would expect Jigga to champion. His list is probably more accurate than many of his songs (except, of course, one of my personal favorites, “Moment of Clarity” from The Black Album) in portraying the multi-layered man that Shawn Carter has become.

When it comes to a persona like Jay-Z, intellectual discussions about the role of books in his life helps to dismantle the box that so many people, including himself, have placed him in. And, as Cummings suggested with marriage, it also helps to make reading seem, well, cool.