Posted in Reviews

Review: Empire State of Mind

empire state of mind cover

Title: Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office

Author: Zack O’Malley Greenburg

Genre: Non Fiction, Biography

“I’m not a businessman-I’m a business, man.”

Empire State of Mind tells the story behind Jay-Z’s rise to the top as told by the people who lived it with him – from classmates at Brooklyn’s George Westinghouse High School; to the childhood friend who got him into the drug trade; to the DJ who convinced him to stop dealing and focus on music. This book explains just how Jay-Z propelled himself from the bleak streets of Brooklyn to the heights of the business world.
Zack O’Malley Greenburg draws on his one-on-one interviews with hip-hop luminaries such as DJ Clark Kent, Questlove of The Roots, Damon Dash, Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite, MC Serch; NBA stars Jamal Crawford and Sebastian Telfair; and recording industry executives including Craig Kallman, CEO of Atlantic Records.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.

4 stars

Empire State of Mind is a ‘business biography’ of Jay-Z. It explores how Jay-Z’s mind works, so I was disappointed to read that Jay-Z refused to be interviewed for the book. But the reason for that is actually really obvious: there was nothing in it for him. The book describes many of Jay-Z’s business ventures (the ones that were successful and the ones that failed), and makes it quite clear that Jay-Z doesn’t bother with anything that he can’t profit from.

The author’s primary source of information are interviews with people who know (or used to know) Jay-Z. It’s interesting that some of them seemed to be scared of telling too much (who knows how he might react).

For the most part this book is a fast read, but there were some chapters that dragged on. There’s way too much information on champagne and basketball, but I guess those chapters would be more interesting to me if I actually cared about champagne and basketball. I preferred to read about his beginnings in music and his friendships and fights with other rappers. There was a chapter on his relationship with Beyonce, but (like everything else) it read more like a business relationship than a romantic one.

The conclusion seems to be that Jay-Z’s priority in life is business and everything else comes second. I’d really like to know exactly how important music is to him. Is that just business too or does he actually love making music? The book is a fascinating read. I’d recommend it to any fan of Jay-Z or simply to people who want to know more about the business side of music industry.


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