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Empire State of Mind: How Jay Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office, Revised Edition Paperback – September 22, 2015
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"Fascinating, well-done biography of one of the most extraordinary entrepreneurs of our era."
"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."
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
BUT should Barack Obama be counting this man among his friends publicly? Jay Z started his illustrious career as a drug dealer, something he had to have his arm twisted to get out of and go half heartedly into the music business, if the book is to be believed. He stabbed at least one man and who knows what else, instead of allowing the legal system to assist him. Black, white or orange, why are we being told that this behaviour is OK?
As wonderful as this book is, it poses a number of questions regarding the direction impressionable readers will take to achieve their own goals in years to come.
Rapper Tupac Shakur consistently talked about learning "The Game," but few authors have addressed what learning the game really meant to the aforementioned entertainers. Jay-Z, Biggie, and 50 Cent learned that peddling lyrics and CDs to a niche market was no different than selling drugs to an addicted market. The rugged individualism of the American creed cheers for the underdog. More importantly, Reality TV ushered in the need for authenticity within entertainers. Art had to reflect true reality. The likes of charismatic figures that played gangsters from James Cagney to Marlon Brando made audiences sympathetic to the underworld. Audiences rooted for the bad guy not only to escape legal authorities, but to win. Real life drug dealers could rap about their exploits and keep audiences riveted by their lyrics, beats, and bravado. Jay-Z, Biggie, and 50 Cent realized that if they could capture American society's love affair with the underworld, they could legally sell their experiences of street life without selling the drugs. These rappers were into the drug trade for the money, not the lifestyle. They now sell rap music for the money and the lifestyle.
Greenburg missed this concept because he wanted to record Jay-Z's success as a business case study as opposed to delving into the psyche of what really makes Jay-Z tick.
Overall, "Empire State of Mind" is a good book for inspiration and the basic tenets of business. Greenburg would do well by contracting with Jay-Z to develop a joint venture where true hard-hitting questions about Jay-Z could be answered. Although "Empire State of Mind" is recommended reading, it leaves other questions to be answered.
Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute