New exhibit ‘The Book of HOV’ pays homage to Jay-Z at the Brooklyn Public Library

Jay-Z brooklyn public library exhibit
A new exhibit paying homage to Jay-Z, one of the most famous Brooklynites in the world, is now open at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch.
Photo courtesy of Gregg Richards/BPL

It’s an homage to one of the most famous Brooklynites alive. 

A new multimedia Jay-Z-inspired exhibit with thousands of personal objects from the rapper’s career opened at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch on July 14. The compilation includes never-before-seen photos, musical instruments, a life-sized replica of the recording studio where the “Can’t Knock The Hustle” singer recorded some of his first hits, and a mural made of hand-cut and scanned news clippings illustrating the path through Jay-Z’s 13 albums and the companies he founded like Rocawear.

The exhibit is free and open to the public five days a week during the library’s normal hours of operation. 

Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is one of the world’s best-selling music artists, with over 140 million records sold. He was born in New York and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Marcy Projects to later become the first hip-hop billionaire in 2019. The 24-time Grammy Award winner is the wealthiest musical artist in the world with a net worth of $2.5 billion, according to Forbes.

The library planned the massive display as a surprise for the rapper, who attended its inauguration on Thursday with his wife Beyoncé, his inner circle and business associates including music and documentary producer Questlove, athletes Jayson Tatum and Robinson Cano, musicians Lil Uzi Vert, DJ Khaled and the director Josh Safdie.

interior of jay-z exhibit at brooklyn public library
The exhibition features videos of Jay-Z’s performances, items from his life and musical career, photos, and more. Photo courtesy of Gregg Richards/BPL.

The exhibit is titled “Book of HOV” and presents the rapper’s career in chapters. The name comes from back in 1993 when he got the nickname HOV as he was recording some of his first tracks in a studio and people noticed he was improvising all his lyrics. They claimed his ability was miraculous and mocked him by calling him J-Hova. 

“The Book of HOV” is one of the largest in-house exhibitions the 350,000 square-foot space has presented. It extends through multiple rooms, has immersive experiences and it even starts from the outside. A cube covered in LED screens flashes scenes from Jay-Z’s music videos in the library’s plaza, and behind it, the facade is covered by a display of song lyrics.

One area of the library features playable turntables and vinyl with samples used across Jay-Z’s catalog, surrounded by tape reels, floppy disks and CDs of his original music.

Production designer Bruce Rodgers told the New York Times the exhibit is “probably the most intense installation I’ve ever been involved in.”

“We didn’t want to interrupt the normal workings of the library, but we wanted to make a statement,” Rodgers told the Times. 

Jay Z at the Brooklyn library
The exhibit will remain open all summer long, and is free and open to the public during normal operating hours. Photo courtesy of Gregg Richards/BPL

The organizers hope that the collection inspires New Yorkers and young musical artists who look up to the rapper, to understand his journey and let it aid their own. 

Part of the exhibition is dedicated to the Brooklynite’s philanthropy and social justice work. As part of the portfolio, Jay-Z and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder, started a Bitcoin academy, a series of free courses on how to invest and manage cryptocurrency, offered through the summer to residents of the Marcy Houses.

Funds for the exhibit came from Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s record label, talent management agency, and music publishing company, a regular contributor to the library. The company is a roster of critically acclaimed recording artists, writers and producers including Rihanna, Shakira and Alicia Keys. Roc Nation and BPL also collaborated on a special edition series of Jay-Z-inspired library cards — which are available at different branches across Brooklyn. 

“Roc Nation is doing a lot for us financially, including a substantial donation tied to the gala in October, when Jay-Z and his mother, Gloria Carter, will be honored,” said BPL executive Linda E. Johnson.