Brooklyn Public Library opens surprise installation honoring Jay-Z

July 14, 2023

Photo © 6sqft

The Brooklyn Public Library on Friday opened a new installation celebrating the life and legacy of Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, from his beginnings in Bed-Stuy’s Marcy Projects to worldwide fame. Located at the library’s Central Branch next to Prospect Park, the exhibition, titled “The Book of HOV,” features art, images, ephemera, and memorabilia from the rapper’s archives that pay tribute to his incredible life and career and highlight the ways he helped redefine hip-hop, music, and culture on a global scale. The experience is free and open to the public for a limited time starting July 14.

The installation was curated by Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s agency as a surprise to the rapper, who did not learn about the exhibit until Thursday night.

“I know he wouldn’t let us do this,” Desiree Perez, Chief Executive of Roc Nation, told the New York Times. “This could never happen if he was involved.”

The exhibition, split into eight separate sections, begins even before guests enter through the library doors. Lyrics from Jay-Z’s hit songs “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” and “Justify My Thug” materialized on the Central Library’s curved facade, capturing the interests of New Yorkers who wondered what their significance could mean, according to the New York Times.

A small snippet of the rapper’s sprawling discography, the lyrics on the exterior of the building introduce visitors to the artist and the installation before even entering the library.

Found throughout the vast exhibition are never-before-seen artifacts, from large-scale displays like a full-size replica of the main room from Baseline Recording Studios, where Jay-Z created classic albums like “The Blueprint” and “The Black Album,” to playable turntables and vinyl with music the rapper used for samples on some of his tracks.

The exhibition will also feature the famous art installation that was featured on the cover of Carter’s 11th studio album, “The Blueprint 3.”

“The Book of HOV” looks beyond Jay-Z’s contributions to the world of music and dives into his work as a businessman, philanthropist, and social justice advocate.

The prospect of displaying archives from Jay-Z’s career developed during the pandemic, with Roc Nation beginning the planning of “The Book of HOV” in January. The agency selected production designers Bruce and Shelley Rodgers, Emmy-winning creators known for their work on the Super Bowl halftime show, to help bring the plan to life.

As part of the exhibition, Roc Nation is giving every record that has ever been sampled throughout Jay-Z’s sprawling catalog to the Brooklyn Public Library’s vinyl collection, as well as a large number of books to both the Central Library and Marcy Library.

Limited-edition library cards are now available to Brooklyn Public Library patrons; Courtesy of BPL

The library has teamed up with Roc Nation to create 13 limited-edition library cards, each featuring art from a Jay-Z album, in celebration of the new exhibition. The cards are available exclusively at Central Library and Marcy Library beginning July 14 and at all borough branches starting August 7. More information on the cards can be found here.

The installation will be on view throughout the summer.


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