Last night, Jay-Z’s illustrious 27-year career in rap music was honored with an immersive exhibition called “The Book of Hov” at the Brooklyn Public Library, curated by Roc Nation. The exhibition artfully captured the different eras of Jay-Z’s career through distinct zones. Each section—titled “Already A Work Of Art,” “Did It Without A Pen,” “Win-Win & Business, Man,” “HOV Did That,” and “So Fly”—borrowed from Jay-Z’s own lyrics. Roc Nation left no detail unattended, ensuring a fully immersive experience for visitors.
In “Already A Work of Art,” attendees could step into an exact replica of Baseline Studios. Upon entering the library, one was immediately greeted by Jay-Z’s lyrics adorning the front entrance. Once inside, a pair of headphones allowed visitors to listen to every intricate detail. This immersive aspect extended beyond visual displays and included interviews where Jay-Z passionately discussed his albums and their significance. Spanning the entire library, the exhibition was a fitting homage to Jay-Z’s roots, considering his connection to Brooklyn.
Jay-Z has a deep love for reading, as he frequently references books in his music. At “Did It All Without A Pen,” attendees could marvel at the books that inspired him or were mentioned in his lyrics. Roc Nation contributed 400 books to be displayed, some of which could be borrowed with a library card. Moreover, Roc Nation partnered with the Brooklyn Public Library to release 13 limited edition library cards, featuring artwork from Jay-Z’s albums, making a visit to the library even cooler. Starting from August 7th, these library cards would be available at other library branches. Additionally, the exhibition showcased vinyl records representing every sample Jay-Z has used, which could be borrowed with a BPL library card. The intention behind these efforts was to inspire individuals to obtain a library card and utilize the free resources, such as programs, classes, and social services.
“We’re certainly hoping to engage and inspire young people, many of whom might be interacting with the library for the very first time. We hope the exhibit will help Brooklyn youth discover the wide range of programming and services the library offers, including e-books, robotics, a vinyl record collection, and even a recording studio,” said Linda Johnson, President of the BPL.
This exhibition itself came as a complete surprise to Jay-Z, who was born in Brooklyn. Roc Nation intended to pay homage to his roots and to the profound impact of hip hop. This exhibition will not only inspire others to dream as big as Jay-Z has, but also has the power to positively transform lives. The Brooklyn Public Library has been a beacon of community and a safe space for the youth to submerge themselves into their own worlds. This exhibition serves as a form of worldbuilding, mirroring Jay-Z’s, which defied others’ opinion and focused solely on self-competition.
From turntables to awards to iconic magazine covers, visitors could gain a firsthand glimpse into what it was like for a rapper to rise from the Marcy Projects, just a few stops away from the BPL, to becoming a legendary rap sensation. The exhibition even featured the guitar Jay-Z played during his performance at Glastonbury.
Among the various sections of “The Book of HOV,” my personal favorite is “HOV Did That.” Bathed in ambient blue light, this space allows visitors to listen in on Jay-Z’s manifestations for his life. The lyrics of “Corporate Takeover” are displayed, and upon careful listening and reading, you’ll realize everything he envisioned has come to fruition. This exhibition not only pays tribute to Jay-Z, but also encourages the dreams of the young individuals residing just around the corner from the BPL.
Johnson further emphasizes that, “Jay-Z is an incredible influence on young people around the world, but most importantly in Brooklyn, where he was born and raised. The library has a long history of working with youth, and many of the teens in our programs can see themselves in JAY-Z and are inspired by his story. We look forward to welcoming even more young people to the library as a result of this exhibit, which encourages them to bet on themselves and pursue their dreams.”
“The Book of HOV” exhibition is free to the public and now open at the Brooklyn Public library, no library card is required for entry.