To celebrate my birthday this year I wanted to do a short weekend trip to New York. I eventually did go and one of the reasons why was because I wanted to visit a library. Not any other library, the Central Library in Brooklyn. Why? There is a special exhibit taking place here to honor a rapper I grew up listening to and idolizing his business mindset, Shawn Carter aka Hov aka Jay Z! In this blog post, I will recap what you can expect from the exhibit, some tips if you plan on going, pictures, and my honest thoughts! Before you read below, feel free to follow me on social media as I post content like this on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook! For a visual POV see the video below!
The Book of Hov is an exclusive tribute exhibit to the legendary Jay-Z. If you’re not familiar with Jay-Z, he’s arguably one of the greatest rappers of all time and for me personally, I love how he transcended from being a rapper to a business mogul through multiple ventures and avenues. Hate him or love him, his impact and legacy is undeniable and incredible, being a kid who had dreams making out of the Marcy Projects.
As you may know, this year marks 50 years of hip-hop. There have been various activities, events, art (including a nice street art in Brooklyn), and products to celebrate the occasion such as LL Cool J & The Roots Force Tour. Therefore, it was only right for Jay-Z to have something special dedicated to him and his career, and why not in his home or in Brooklyn, New York?
It’s really hard to find parking so I would suggest parking at the Brooklyn Museum and making the short walk over. Alternatively, it is easily accessible via public transit/subway. I’m not sure if it is present all the time but on the weekend, there is a variety of vendors on the street selling local goods from accessories to appeal to food which was great to see. The exact location is 10 Grand Army Plz, Brooklyn, New York.
Section 1: Introduction
The location will be hard to miss as you’ll notice that the front of the building is covered by Jay-Z’s lyrics and looks stunning from the outside. This special exhibit is free but only available to be experienced at the remarkably stunning Central Library in Brooklyn. This building is historic and I was stunned by how many resources were available for Brooklyn residents from MacBooks to special rooms for career assistance, content creation, interviews, etc. This part is the introduction and as you get to view the lyrics, a cool cube that features footage of Jay Z throughout the years. As you enter the lobby you can scan and listen to a virtual guide or grab a booklet with all the details and explore the exhibit at your own pace. If you are a Brooklyn (maybe even New York) resident you can grab yourself a limited edition Jay Z library card. I remember one of the many security guards working there mentioned how even people from New Jersey couldn’t get them. Oh and yes, that is Jay Z’s Lexus (on display outside at the side near the Brooklyn Museum).
Section 2: A Work of Art Already
This is the main lobby and as the section title says, it truly is a work of art. You get to witness a beautiful collage of Hov’s life plastered across the stairs of the building (see image in prior section) while being greeted by a large digital pillar that features videos and digital artwork of the legendary rapper. In between the pillar is a glass display of Jay-Z’s legendary albums. As you walk around the lobby/foyer area you will notice different pieces on display that are either memorabilia or art pieces. Some notable pieces include the crystalized “Roc” hands symbol, the Blueprint 3 display, the Roc-a-fella chain, and Marcy Houses memento.
Section 3: Baseline studios
The next part is nearby and this is where the magic happened that helped transcend Shawn Carter’s career… the legendary Baseline Studios! You get to walk through this space that replicates the studio as you get to see some old footage from prior recording sessions while seeing some incredible plaques. My favorites are seen in the image above which is of The Black Album and of Collision Course (with Linkin Park).
Section 4: Did it all without a pen
Speaking of music, Jay Z is notorious for not writing lyrics down on paper but is still a wordsmith when it comes to the mic… and he has the hardware to prove that, which we will get into in an upcoming section. In this section, you get to see some of the incredible albums Jay Z has produced along with other amazing hip-hop albums. There was one part where you could listen to a turntable playing a record, and one was Nas’ Illmatic. Security did ask you to only listen to one song so people can have a chance to listen and enjoy. There was also a display of his awards (yes, an actual Grammy) and a cool display of his iconic magazine covers.
Section 5: Business, Man
This section was really cool for me because this is how I see Jay Z. More than the rapper, I see him as the mogul who built an empire and inspired others to have a strong business acumen like himself. In the youth wing of the library, you will see some displays featuring some of Shawn Carter’s business ventures from Rocawear to Tidal to the Reebok deal and so much more. It was interesting to see how many things he has pursued and some context behind it as well. The second collage above is actually from the upper level but I felt it is relevant in this section since there were magazine covers and some of his Ace of Spades champagne bottles on display.
Section 6: Win-Win
This was another cool section where you get to get to know how big of an impact Hov has beyond music. In this section, you will see how he was able to use his influence to make social change and alter the landscape when it comes to entertainment at the largest stages. I didn’t realize Jay Z’s work helped those who faced injustice in Kansas City and how he set up education funds for the daughters of Sean Bell. Sean Bell was an unarmed man who was shot by Queens NYPD officers on the morning of his wedding. As the exhibit points out, his tactics are always strategic and he knows when to be in the spotlight and when not to. Speaking of when he recently took on the role of organizing the Super Bowl halftime show that in itself has been a big moment in pop-culture people anticipate. You will see actual Super Bowl footballs and iconic hardware.
Section 7: So Fly
This was a really calm and cool part of the exhibit. I believe this is mainly for young children, but this part of the youth wing has been transformed to feature Hov’s quote about being motivated and his Paper Planes brand. It’s a nice spot to sit down, take pictures, and even follow the printed papers on how to make paper planes yourself.
Section 8: Hov Did That
The last section was upstairs and had the biggest wait time compared to the other sections. It was an immersive experience where you get to watch some of Hov’s iconic concert performances and clips prior to looking at a glass display of notable items including the guitar Jay Z used at Glastonbury to make a point about why he deserved to headline. There was also this cool part where it was a blue-lit walkway toward Jay Z’s lyrics from his Grammy Family freestyle.
All in all, it was a great exhibit to experience and the one thing I really wanted to do on my weekend New York trip. As of right now, I am not aware of when this exhibit ends but I would recommend checking out the official website, bookofhov.com, and the Brooklyn Library’s social media pages for updates on that. I strongly recommend you check out the exhibit if you can and hear from the friendly security guards working that it would be best to come on a weekday instead of a weekend to enjoy the exhibit more. If you plan on going or have gone, let me know your thoughts in the comments below or via social media! Follow the blog on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook as I will be posting more Brooklyn, New York, and Hip-Hop content!