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Empire State of Mind: How Jay Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office, Revised Edition Paperback – September 22, 2015

3.9 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Fascinating, well-done biography of one of the most extraordinary entrepreneurs of our era."
—Steve Forbes

"Greenburg has become one of the rare reporters to bring dignified coverage of the hip-hop business into the mainstream. Empire State of Mind is a pure product of Greenburg’s care and insight, an exploration of hip-hop’s most enigmatic mogul."
Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop

"Greenburg follows the money and key pieces of the Jay Z puzzle in this insightful,savvy read. This book is like a GPS leading us through the modern urban realityof how Jay Z’s empire was built."
Fab 5 Freddy, artist, hip-hop pioneer, and former host of Yo! MTV Raps

"A superb guide for your career, even if you are looking to be an investment banker or grocery store manager instead of a hip-hop legend."
—CNN.com

About the Author

Zack O’Malley Greenburg is a seniorr editor at Forbes, where he has covered finance and music since 2005. He has profiled the likes of Akon, 50 Cent, and Afrika Bambaataa, and his stories have taken him from the casinos of Macau to the diamond mines of Sierra Leone. He has also written for The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and Dan’s Papers. He lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; Updated edition (September 22, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591848342
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591848349
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Zack O'Malley Greenburg is a senior editor at Forbes, where he covers the business of music. He is the author of "Michael Jackson, Inc.: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of a Billion-Dollar Empire," due out for Simon & Schuster's Atria imprint in June 2014. His first book, the Jay-Z biography "Empire State of Mind" (Penguin/Portfolio, 2011) was called "one of the year's best rock books" by Bloomberg News. A child star, Zack played the title role in the film Lorenzo's Oil alongside Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon. He graduated from Yale with a degree in American Studies in 2007 and immediately joined the staff at Forbes, where he has since chronicled pension fund scandals, investigated the tourism business in post-conflict Sierra Leone, and written cover stories on the business of Justin Bieber and Toby Keith. Zack's work has also appeared in The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, Vibe, and McSweeney's, among others; he has served as a guest on television programs including and Good Day New York, Erin Burnett OutFront, Entertainment Tonight, and 60 Minutes. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
With "Empire State of Mind," Zack O'Malley Greenburg delivers on his promise to chronicle Jay-Z's compelling journey from drug-dealer to 9-figure businessman.

As it turns out, Greenburg pitched the book to Jay-Z's management, but they refused to participate and instead went on to write "Decoded" so they could profit directly.

"Decoded" reads like one of those Donald Trump autobiographies: a very self-congratulatory, shallow look into how he thinks (which is somewhat valuable in its own right), but devoid of any juicy revelation beneath the surface.

"Empire State of Mind," on the other hand, paints a very nuanced picture of Jay-Z's character and gives detailed insight into his major business decisions, including the flops and near-misses that Jay-Z doesn't seem to talk about publicly.

If you want direct testimony from key players in Jay-Z's early life, including former business partner Damon Dash, former mentor Jaz-O, and Dehaven Irby (the guy who introduced Jay-Z to drug-dealing), this is probably the only place you'll be able to find it, since most of them have fallen out and don't talk to him anymore.

Greenburg has done a metric ton of research and reconnaissance work, yet his prose flows smooth like Jay-Z's rhymes. The end result is a fascinating read. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Put simply, this book is a wonderful, engaging profile of a figure worth reading about, and will teach even hip-hop devotees something about Mr. Carter they did not know before.

Jay-Z is naturally an intriguing figure, part-musician, part-former hustler, part-executive - just to name a few of the roles he has played. Yet Greenburg - to his credit - does more than simply kowtow to the great lyricist. Greenburg digs further to paint a comprehensive, inquiring, insightful and often less-than-flattering view of one of the great entrepreneurs of the last 50 years.

Greenburg's book reveals Jay's obvious successes, to be sure: rising from dealing in Brooklyn to a career as a recording artist, a successful turn atop Def Jam Records, a happy marriage with Beyonce. But Greenburg also covers those items Jay doesn't want you to know about: a covert deal to profit from Armand de Brignac champagne; a failed attempt at making a basketball documentary; an aborted effort to release a Jay-Z edition Jeep; and repeated failures as part-owner of the Nets.

Greenburg's warranted conclusion is that Jay-Z is a tremendous businessman and individual. The unique piece Greenburg brings to this story is that Jay came to this success through a portfolio approach, dabbling in so many different industries and fields that while some ventures flopped (see: LeBron in South Beach), many others have resulted in unprecedented revenue and publicity (see: Live Nation). Jay would have you know nothing of those failures. Fortunately, Greenburg thinks otherwise. Do yourself a favor: Read this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I didn't know much about Jay-Z before I read this book. Once I started reading, though, I couldn't put it down. Greenburg paints such a thorough picture of Jay-Z without once interviewing him, and I would guess that these multiple perspectives provide a better picture of the man than the man himself could (or would want to, it seems). I came away suddenly inspired to start listening - really actually LISTENING, not just passively hearing - Jay-Z's music, because now I realize it has a legitimate and meaningful context. I would imagine that for someone who is already a big fan, this book would be even more engrossing. Jay-Z has had a powerful impact on the hip-hop industry, and he is poised to become a music and business legend.

That said, I should point out that what ultimately made this book enjoyable was how well-written it was, with a touch of humor here and there (in well-placed quotes from Greenburg's sources) and a persistently neutral tone. Should we like Jay-Z? Maybe not. Should we respect him? Well, how can you avoid it? When you finally put the book down, how can you not want to be just a little bit more like him?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about the life story of a very unusual person, about how a talented an ambitious rapper who came from nothing turned himself into a business leader. Not knowing anything about Jay-Z before hand, I felt like I really got some insight into his character, and what lead him to succeed.

The book is really riveting - very hard to put down, especially in the chapters that cover things that seem not to have been reported on before, like the champagne and Jay-Z jeep stories. The characters who interact with him, and the perspective you get from hearing from both friends and enemies, business partners and his business victims, propel the narrative forward.

I'm not exactly sure if you come away "liking" Jay-Z because he's so ruthless, but you certainly come away admiring him. It's an excellent read!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Loved the book! It was a great read. As a businesswoman I really enjoy the different perspective on an artist. Take someone you think of for music only and their songs and see all the behind the scenes and work that goes into becoming one of the most powerful stars out there.
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