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Speaking to a crowd about his new tome "Decoded" at the New York Public Library Monday night, the seven-time Grammy winner recalled the time his father left his family when the mogul-in-the-making was just 11-years old.
“I didn't know the emotional circumstances behind why he left,” Jay-Z said.
“His younger brother, his name was Ray, got stabbed and he died. And my father would go out at night to look for the guy who killed him. And my mother said, 'You have a family here. How can you go out and risk that? You're family is here'. And he said but, 'No, I have to do this.'"
Drugs and alcohol often fueled these quests, the hip-hop artist said.
Jay-Z was joined by NYPL LIVE director Paul Holdengraber and the outspoken, big-haired Princeton professor Cornel West (known for both his academic essays and his appearance in “The Matrix.”) to discuss “Decoded,” an autobiographical book that examines and explains his lyrics.
The suave rapper and the eccentric academics made for a dynamic trio. Between Jay-Z's lyrical voice, Holdengraber's thick accent, the two recognized that there were many differences between the two of them; Jay-Z grew up listening to rap, Holdengraber said he grew up to “variations of the Magic Flute.”
“Music saved my life,” Jay-Z emphasized over and over to an audience of more than 400, including rapper Lupe Fiasco, pop singer Harry Belafonte and his cousin Ryan, to whom he gave a shout out in the beginning of the discussion. Beyonce, who is largely absent from her husband's book, was not present and did not come up in the conversation.