Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office Paperback – Jun 26 2012
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“Well told … the heart of Empire State of Mind is its depiction, helped by some good shoe-leather reporting, of the commercial deals that have enabled Jay-Z to profit from exploiting his prestige and personality.”
–The Financial Times
“In his debut book, Greenburg hits the mark. Empire State of Mind is an easy read that packs an informative, motivational punch for anyone who is trying to improve their situation, land a job, or advance their career.” - AOL/Huffington Post
“Zack O’Malley 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, Jay-Z.”
–Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop
“Empire State Of Mind 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 reality of how Jay-Z’s empire was built.”
–Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite, hip-hop artist and pioneer
“Lively and often surprising, Empire State Of Mind analyzes one of the greatest assets of the hip-hop generation: the business mind of Jay-Z. In capturing Jay-Z’s refuse to lose mentality, Zack O’Malley Greenburg tells an important, instructive American story of our time.”
–Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation
“Business savvy is really what sets Jay-Z apart, and that’s the subject of Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s enlightening, engaging, and excellent new book … Greenburg zeroes in on Jay-Z’s ability to hustle in the studio and in the boardroom, creating a fascinating look at the businessman behind the man. In addition, he writes with a rapid-fire prose that makes Empire State of Mind flow like an novel or film.”
“Every person with an iota of entrepreneurial inclination should read Empire State of Mind … [Greenburg's] understanding of hip-hop and his familiarity with the world of high finance make him uniquely suited to pen such a smart, informative and entertaining work. Excellence!”
“Before Diddy and his missing Mercedes-Benz S-Class, before Eminem and his imported-from-Detroit Chrysler 200, even before Funkmaster Flex and his special-edition Ford Expedition, there was the Jay-Z Jeep Commander. You would be forgiven, however, for not remembering the commercials … the Jay-Z Jeep never rolled deep. Mr. Greenburg dissects how the collaboration went awry.” –The New York Times
“Greenburg writes of Jay-Z’s rocky beginnings in the Brooklyn projects and his detour into street-corner dealing, but mainly focuses on Jay-Z the mogul, whose reach extends beyond music to the NBA, apparel, restaurants, endorsements and Broadway. Check it out.”
“O’Malley Greenburg is easily the world’s foremost authority on the subject of the finance of hip-hop … Acting often as investigative reporter, he travels thousands of miles to hunt down insider information on Jay’s various ventures, from the Jay-Z Jeep that never came to be, to the hush-hush details of the rapper’s partnership with champagne Armand de Brignac … Greenburg does a great job of unpacking the rapper’s business mentality, and the steps he’s taken to earn his half-billion.”
“The biography by journalist Zack O’Malley Greenburg, out this month, provides a colorful reminder of the rapper’s dark roots.”
–New York Post
“After reading Greenburg’s book, I have to admit I understand why [Jay-Z] makes 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.”
–Anthony Balderrama, CNN.com
“[Empire State of Mind] has some interesting sources and revelations that may shock even the biggest super-fan.”
“The new biography of the rap mogul lavishes praise on Jay-Z but also depicts a businessman with Antarctica for a heart.” –Bloomberg BusinessWeek
“Empire State of Mind tells the story of rapper Jay-Z (aka Shawn Carter) and his rise from drug slinger to tape slinger and, later, to corporation runner.”
“Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s book take us comfortably through the story of Jay-Z’s background, hard start, challenges, opportunities, talents, success, and choices. This is an easy and comfortable read.”
–New York Journal of Books
“If Jay-Z’s collective body of work was ‘Food For Thought’ … Greenburg does this dishes in his literary debut. Greenburg uses his extensive resources (perhaps garnered as the crafter of the famous “Forbes Hip-Hop Cash Kings” list) to unravel the business acumen Jay-Z has used to catapult himself to financial prosperity.”
“To learn more about how Jay-Z changed many people’s taste in Champagne and so many other things, be sure to check out Empire State of Mind … Until now, all those interested begrudgingly had to buy into the story spun by Jay-Z’s camp that Armand de Brignac was just a bubbly that HOVA discovered in a New York wine shop.”
“[Empire State of Mind] … fill(s) in many of the blanks surrounding the rapper’s business dealings, pulling from interviews with some of Hov’s colleagues and business partners willing to dish the dirt on how he rose to fame and fortune.”
“A fascinating, unauthorized story, which decodes the Jay-Z myth as much as it reinforces it.”
About the Author
Zack O'Malley Greenburg is a staff writer at Forbes, where he has covered finance and music since 2005. Along the way he's profiled the likes of Akon, 50 Cent and Afrika Bambaataa; 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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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.
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.
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?
I also got the sense that the author sort of had a grudge after Jay refused to help on the book. The whole thing about the Ace of Spades champagne, and whether or not Jay-Z gets money from it, was completely over done, and felt sort of like Geraldo digging up Al Capone's "Secret Vault", making something of nothing. He flies to France 2 times to uncover the insidious truth? When the whole point of the *ENTIRE* book is that Jay-Z Profits Off Of Everything...?
It was a fun read, though. My own personal take on Jay-Z's success is this - early on, he was unsure of himself and hopped from winning team to winning team. From Jaz-O to Puffy, then to Irv Gotti/Murder Inc. and trying to form groups with DMX, etc. But in a sense, he was also hitching to their wagons. I read somewhere that he was gonna start a group with Big L, who got shot and died like 3 days before they were gonna sign the contract, leaving him stranded again...
And THEN... Jay-Z stood up on his own. And that was the big difference. And I guess that's where this book didn't quite live up for me, it feels like a guy using the name of Jay-Z and talking about his accomplishments, but not a guy who can truly comprehend the genius or the scope of the thing he's discussing.
Like, I'm reading a book about Napoleon Bonaparte right now. The man had almost all of Europe in his bloody grip, from Russia to Spain and most everything in between. A book about him invariably has to talk about the horrors and despotic evils of the man, the insane numbers of people who died from his machinations. Which somehow makes the fact that he almost conquered the entire world somehow off limits, not to mention the idea of emulating him. But if you stop at being willing to wage brutal war in your mind, you won't ever really understand Napoleon, because HE WAS willing, you see?
Which on a way-lesser scale is like Jay-Z's famous story of selling crack to get his empire under way. People willing to do Great Things are not like the people who sit and watch the Great Thing happen, and later on write (or read) books about them. And the traits required to accomplish those Great Things don't really come from any books, or very few of them (get Machiavelli's "The Prince", Iceberg Slim's "Pimp", and something by Cesar Milan ((the Dog Whisperer)) and you have all the raw rules to life right there, like them or not...)
So the lesson is, as always, get up off your butt and make it happen for yourself. There, I saved you $10.00...
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