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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 116 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; Revised ed. 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 (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Quinones on March 20, 2011
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
Jay-Z, what a character! Not the best looking guy, grew up in a slum, and his father abandoned him when he was a kid. But he was smart and wanted to prove to the world that he was somebody, so he developed ambition - a LOT of it. Figured the best way to prove himself was money, so he got into drug dealing for quite a while, rapping on the side. Then rapping eventually seemed more lucrative (and safe) than drug dealing, so that became his focus, though his 'rap' was largely bragging about his success, to continue inflating his image. With serious money (capital) starting to accumulate, his focus turned to making it grow, so he progressively branched out into all sorts of business ventures, mostly associated with the pop/hiphop culture he knows best, and using/discarding business associates as necessary - not always a nice and honest guy. And some of these ventures even flopped (he doesn't want you to know that), but most didn't, and some generated crazy high returns. He even picked up a trophy wife along the way - the genuinely amazing Beyonce - both of them clearly leveraging the relationship for business purposes, though maybe he loves her too (who am I to say otherwise?). Today, he sits on an 'empire' worth maybe half a billion dollars, so what does he want next? Probably to at least get to a billion, because this is a guy for whom it seems no amount is too much or even enough, especially when there are people running around worth tens of billions.

This book expands on the story I've just summarized very well, so I recommend it. The author strikes me as being fair and balanced, and did a nice job of piecing things together without being able to interview Jay-Z directly.
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