Fierce Smarts

Jay-Z's Decoded

Jay-Z's Decoded

Fierce smarts turn me on. They crackle.

In October I caught wind of a marketing campaign fired by fierce smarts: the promotional effort for Jay-Z’s forthcoming book, Decoded. An interactive scavenger hunt, pages from the book appeared imprinted on billboards, Gucci jackets, parked cars, pool bottoms and roof tops in New York and London, Miami, Las Vegas and New Orleans (see photos of a few of them here).

It was witty, visually beautiful, technologically clever, brilliantly executed. It had top-notch developers and corporate partners. Created by advertising agency Droga5 in partnership with Bing, it represented the way books today can and should be marketed–as more than a book, as an experience. Jay-Z and his publisher, Spiegel & Grau, got it.

And the book itself: delicious design, deeply personal without giving too much away, pitch perfect. It reveals a person who is a finely tuned blend of right brain, left brain; poet, executive; bad ass, intellectual; public citizen, private man; hustler, mogul; Brooklyn-born, global citizen: serious, playful; fierce, soft; humble, unapologetic.

Jay-Z is keenly aware of and interested in the complexity of being human. He is at once race, gender and class-blind and tuned into the influence of race, gender and class at the finest level of detail (this goes for music genres as well). That his marketing effort caught my attention is no surprise. It was an authentic reflection of him.

In September Jay-Z was pictured with Warren Buffett on the cover of the 2010 issue of the Forbes 400. He’s not on the list yet. Forbes predicts he will be by 2015. Watch and learn, as his influence continues to expand.

If you want to learn more about Jay-Z, you can do no better than to pick up Decoded. But if you want a quicker take, watch his November Daily Show appearance here; read a conversation between him and Elvis Mitchell in Interview magazine here; read a funny New Yorker snippet about his book launch with Cornel West at the New York Public Library here or watch a video of it here; or watch Bloomberg's Game Changer profile of him here.

Below, the first video he ever made. Fierce smarts--and quick wit--in action.