BROOKLYN, N.Y. (PIX11) — A statue of Jay-Z’s hands made of volcanic ash speckled with gold flecks greets visitors at the entrance of the Brooklyn Library, where the “Book of HOV” exhibit spans the rapper’s iconic career from the Marcy Houses to the Hall of Fame.
Flanked on either side of the glass-encased statue are screens playing concert video footage, including his performance at the 2009 World Series at Yankee Stadium.
From there, New Yorkers, tourists, and even a few flight attendants — who switched assignments to get a JFK flight so they could catch the exhibit — can tour the space in three chapters, according to Christine Schonhart, director at the Central Library.
Each section highlights Jay-Z’s accomplishments, humble beginnings, musicality, business empire, and philanthropy in two floors of wall-to-wall displays. The Brooklyn native’s company Roc Nation curated the pieces.
Visitors can listen to the rapper’s music on vinyl records and see the tapes he recorded as well as a replica of the Manhattan recording studio where he got his start.
The other standout pieces are the Marcy Houses sign, the soaring tower of power that illuminates lyrics and videos, and a bookshelf stacked with the same books the icon has in his home.
There’s also a spot where kids can scribble their hopes and dreams on paper airplanes, as the rapper did as a kid. Before the exhibit opened, curators had kids from three schools in Bedford-Stuyvesant make the paper airplanes that hang from the ceilings in one of the exhibits, Schonhart said.
By the end of the tour, visitors lined up to get into a room that has former President Barack Obama introducing Jay-Z at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the guitar from his controversial concert at Glastonbury.
Schonhart said one of the frontmen for Oasis, the British rock band, was vehemently against the rapper’s appearance at the popular summer festival. So, Jay-Z opened his show with a cover of one of Oasis’ biggest hits, “Wonderwall.”
“The crowd went wild,” she said.
Throughout the exhibit, fans are treated to Jay-Z talking about how he built his empire and his upbringing, including a touching anecdote about his mother raising the family on $20 a week.
“She said it was OK. It was a lot back then,” the rapper said in the documentary. “That made me believe I can do anything.”
Jay-Z has been to the exhibit twice. So have thousands of fans.
During the “Book of HOV” exhibit opening week, more than 39,000 people came to the Brooklyn Library, almost five times the average number of visitors, according to Fritzi Bodenheimer, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Library.
Also in the first week, about 4,000 people signed up for Brooklyn Public Library cards at Central and Marcy libraries, where limited-edition Jay-Z cards are currently being offered, Bodenheimer said.
The exhibit is open through the end of the summer.
Mira Wassef is a digital reporter who has covered news and sports in the New York City area for more than a decade. She joined PIX11 News in 2022. See more of her work here.