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

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

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by Zack O'Malley Greenburg
     
 

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"I'm not a businessman-I'm a business, man."
--Jay-Z

Some people think Jay-Z is just another rapper. Others see him as just another celebrity/mega-star. The reality is, no matter what you think Jay-Z is, he first and foremost a business. And as much as Martha Stewart or Oprah, he has turned himself into a lifestyle.

You can wake up to the local radio

…  See more details below

Overview

"I'm not a businessman-I'm a business, man."
--Jay-Z

Some people think Jay-Z is just another rapper. Others see him as just another celebrity/mega-star. The reality is, no matter what you think Jay-Z is, he first and foremost a business. And as much as Martha Stewart or Oprah, he has turned himself into a lifestyle.

You can wake up to the local radio station playing Jay-Z's latest hit, spritz yourself with his 9IX cologne, slip on a pair of his Rocawear jeans, lace up your Reebok S. Carter sneakers, catch a Nets basketball game in the afternoon, and grab dinner at The Spotted Pig before heading to an evening performance of the Jay-Z-backed Broadway musical Fela! and a nightcap at his 40/40 Club. He'll profit at every turn of your day.

But despite Jay-Z's success, there are still many Americans whose impressions of him are foggy, outdated, or downright incorrect. Surprisingly to many, he honed his business philosophy not at a fancy B school, but on the streets of Brooklyn, New York and beyond as a drug dealer in the 1980s.

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 Jamall Crawford and Sebastian Telfair; and recording industry executives including Craig Kallman, CEO of Atlantic Records.
He also includes new information on Jay-Z's various business dealings, such as:

• The feature movie about Jay-Z and his first basketball team that was filmed by Fab 5 Freddy in 2003 but never released.

• The Jay-Z branded Jeep that was scrapped just before going into production.

• The real story behind his association with Armand de Brignac champagne.

• The financial ramifications of his marriage to Beyonce.

Jay-Z's tale is compelling not just because of his celebrity, but because it embodies the rags-to-riches American dream and is a model for any entrepreneur looking to build a commercial empire.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Forbes staffer Greenburg's first book is a fond look at a successful idol; in fact, the author thanks "Jay-Z for living a life worthy of chronicling." Celebrity enchantment aside, this effort offers little new information. Though it's not for a lack of trying; Greenburg is an enthusiastic researcher but admits to having requests to interview Jay-Z himself declined. Thus, only a few first person interviews-rambling anecdotes at that-have made the cut. Perhaps this obvious omission resulted in Greenburg's unfortunate decision to analyze the mogul's behavior. The chapter devoted to Beyonce reads like a compilation of People magazine articles: "raised a devout Methodist...in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Houston, Texas." When their six-year relationship was formalized by marriage, Beyonce wore a "$5 million Lorraine Schwartz ring." Perhaps the book's most interesting moment also illustrates Jay-Z's single-minded determination to succeed: after Greenburg met with Jay-Z's "consigliere," John Meneilly, to discuss the book, Jay-Z "repurposed the memoir he'd scuttled in 2003 and released his book before this one went to press."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews

In his debut, former Forbes reporter Greenburg offers a gossipy, middling Jay-Z bio/business study.

According to some calculations from the author, the rapper/entrepreneur is worth a whopping $450 million. The story of how the tongue-twisting lyricist built himself up from a drug dealer to one of the world's most recognizable, respected entertainment hyphenates is inspirational, but it's a well-worn story. The author makes a gallant effort to appeal to both the casual music fan and the hardcore hip-hop listener, but he can't quite pull it off. The story of Jay-Z-as-businessman is better suited to a magazine article, and Greenburg injects far too much filler into the narrative. The author periodically interjects himself into the interviews, and while his writing is solid, his appearance in the pages adds very little to the proceedings. Had he structured the book as a personal quest to find the "real" Jay-Z—an intriguing exercise in stunt journalist—it could have been special. Readers interested in the Jigga should check out his inventive, stellar autobiography,Decoded (2010). Though it doesn't offer the nuts and bolts of how the rapper made the leap from the street corner to the corner office (now there's a corny subtitle), it provides a potent glimpse of the heart of the man, which isn't the case here.

Aside from some dirt-dishing by former colleagues and some specifics about the extent of Jay-Z's fortune, the book doesn't offer anything of substance that can't be found elsewhere.

From the Publisher
“Jay-Z’s rise to fame has as many lessons for would-be moguls as for budding rappers … All these lessons are clear from Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office, by Zack O’Malley Greenburg (Portfolio, $25.95), one of the year’s best rock books.”
Bloomberg News

“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.”
–ArtistDirect

“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!”
Hip-Hop Weekly

“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.”
USA Today

“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.”
–Crawdaddy

“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.”
HipHopDX

“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.”
NPR

“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.”
–Mog.com

“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.”
Bottlenotes


“[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.”
The Boombox

“A fascinating, unauthorized story, which decodes the Jay-Z myth as much as it reinforces it.”
ABCDrDurson

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781591843818
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/17/2011
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Dan Charnas
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)
Fred "Fab 5 Freddy" Brathwaite
Empire State Of Mind follows the money and key pieces of the Jay-Z puzzle in this insightful, savvy read. From Jay's humble Bed-Stuy Brooklyn roots as Shawn Carter into street crime and the drug game, to his rocket rise to the heights of hip-hop and the music business as one of entertainments most successful players...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 pioneer, artist, and longtime host of Yo! MTV Raps)
Jeff Chang
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)
From the Publisher
“Jay-Z’s rise to fame has as many lessons for would-be moguls as for budding rappers … All these lessons are clear from Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office, by Zack O’Malley Greenburg (Portfolio, $25.95), one of the year’s best rock books.”
Bloomberg News

“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.”
–ArtistDirect

“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!”
Hip-Hop Weekly

“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.”
USA Today

“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.”
–Crawdaddy

“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.”
HipHopDX

“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.”
NPR

“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.”
–Mog.com

“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.”
Bottlenotes

“[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.”
The Boombox

“A fascinating, unauthorized story, which decodes the Jay-Z myth as much as it reinforces it.”
ABCDrDurson

Fred Fab 5 Freddy Brathwaite
“Empire State Of Mind follows the money and key pieces of the Jay-Z puzzle in this insightful, savvy read. From Jay’s humble Bed-Stuy Brooklyn roots as Shawn Carter into street crime and the drug game, to his rocket rise to the heights of hip-hop and the music business as one of entertainments most successful players…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 pioneer, artist, and longtime host of Yo! MTV Raps)
Steve Forbes
Fascinating, well-done biography of one of the most extraordinary entrepreneurs of our era.

Read More

Meet 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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