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

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3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  622 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
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, s ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 17th 2011 by Portfolio (first published March 16th 2011)
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Amar Pai
Oct 05, 2011 Amar Pai rated it really liked it
I found this book quite fascinating. Greenburg writes a monthly column on rappers and their finances for forbes.com. (I love that Forbes has someone covering the "rap/finance" beat.) Among other things, he puts together a yearly list of the wealthiest rappers in the game, by overall net worth. This year, Puffy came in at #1 ($475 mil). But close behind was Jay-Z, who came in #2 with $470 mil. To repeat: $470 mil!!! Empire State of Mind is the story of how that came to be.

The most remarkable thin
...more
Tanja
Jun 09, 2013 Tanja rated it really liked it
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 informat
...more
Byron
Feb 28, 2014 Byron rated it liked it
I'd say this is almost as good as Jay-Z's own Decoded, and if anything that just goes to show what a wasted opportunity that book was.

The author couldn't get the rapper to participate in the making of the book, because what was in it for him (literally, that was Jay-Z's response), and one of the best parts of Empire State of Mind is the author barely concealed contempt. We need more books about rappers by people who aren't there to perpetuate the myth. The last thing we need is the literary equi
...more
Sheldon
Feb 04, 2012 Sheldon rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book even though Jay-Z didn't actually contribute to it. I've read some reviews and think a lot of what you get out of this book is based on what you come in expecting. If you are looking for a Jay-Z biography... this will disappoint you. If you are looking for a telling of some of the more key events in his life from a business perspective and a bit of insight into how he deals with people and ventures, you'll find it interesting.

I think the author talks to some people who provid
...more
Mike
May 16, 2014 Mike rated it did not like it
I guess the book accomplishes what it proposed to deliver: a story of Jay Z's ascent from drug dealing to sitting courtside at Nets games and being paid millions of dollars to mention particular champagne brands in his songs. But you can learn most of that from a Wikipedia entry or a few magazine articles, so I'm not certain why writing Empire State of Mind was all that necessary.

The author went well out of his way, throughout the book, to insert himself into the story, add silly personal vignet
...more
Blanca
Sep 15, 2011 Blanca rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Great companion to Jay-Z's book, Decoded. People have sometimes unfairly pointed out that the book doesn't delve into a criticism of the musical career of his subject, but it is a breakthrough because it provides a business perspective to hip hop culture, which hasn't been documented before.

Entertainment journalism previously focused on being a straight feature, but O'Malley Greenburg crosses over elements of business journalism with the appeal of feature writing for an interesting study of a co
...more
Adam Ford
Sep 04, 2014 Adam Ford rated it liked it
Interesting very short read about Shawn Carter, who rose from the Brooklyn public housing projects to become worth over a half a billion dollars today. This money seems more important to Mr. Carter than the fame he enjoys as the rapper Jay-Z. The music is fun and sure the rush of the crowd is great, but Mr. Carter is all about business.

And this is his business philosophy: Focus on whatever venture offers the most realistic opportunity to make the most money. Every day he answers the question an
...more
Deidre
Feb 02, 2012 Deidre rated it liked it
This book was a quick read about how Jay-Z used his natural business acumen to become a successful entrepreneur. It was interesting to see some of the thought processes behind his business decisions, but I didn't feel as if I understand him or his art any better. The author used some named sources to document his understanding of Jay-Z, but the book suffered from not having anyone close to his business dealings or Jay confirm the author's thoughts.
Hamza Nasir
Nov 28, 2014 Hamza Nasir rated it liked it
Good business book; serves as a biography of Jay-Z but analyzed through the angle of entrepreneurship.

Take away Lessons:

1) In business and in life to be successful you cannot put all of your eggs in one basket. The secret to Jay-Z's wealth is his multiple ventures. His music, clothing brand, management group etc.. all serve as sources of revenue and abundance. So in life make sure that you draw success from multiple sources when possible.

2) Opportunities beget more opportunities. Jay started as
...more
Kelly Reid
Feb 19, 2014 Kelly Reid rated it it was amazing
I grew up next door to Zack and knew him when he got his first writing gig at Boys Life Magazine. Compensation? A Sega Dreamcast ( which proceeded to last for a decade and a half, and proved to be a defining aspect of our childhood).

I need to read through this once more before I post my full review, but jesus. Few books can stir an emotion in me and this one did so multiple times.
Adam Billing
Apr 25, 2014 Adam Billing rated it it was ok
An interesting book. If its all true! O'Malley Greenburg freely admits that Jay - Z didn't consent to the book and is never interviewed for it. The book lost further credibility for me when he called Danica Patrick a man, referring to the female race car driver as 'him' and 'his'.

That said, the stories about Jay's early life are interesting and aren't fully explained in his own book Decoded. The shooting of his brother and stabbing a music industry colleague for bootlegging his early recordings
...more
Joni
Feb 05, 2012 Joni rated it really liked it
Jay-Z's a hero for a reason. I knew about his Cristal boycott but not the shrewd financial motives and underhanded dealings behind it. I knew he was an entrepreneur, but I didn't know he was this sharp, this relentless - and I didn't realise he freestyles most of his recordings! Amazing.
Olivier Goetgeluck
Mar 19, 2014 Olivier Goetgeluck rated it liked it
"You don't have to outwardly hone your craft. But in privacy, hone your craft. People don't have to know how hard you work to get something." (Be a quiet professional, Law 4: Always say less than necessary)

"If you're down with somebody who's doing smart things, you become smarter instantly, because you watch the smart things. You might figure your own way to do smart things, but if you see it, you understand it." (He that cannot have sages in service should have them for his friends. - Gracián)

D
...more
Zack Greenburg
Nov 26, 2010 Zack Greenburg rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves:
Kinda biased -- I wrote it :)

Due out March 17, 2011 for Penguin.

http://jayzbook.com
Arjun Balaji
Mar 16, 2015 Arjun Balaji rated it liked it
A very entertaining read, but ultimately, it doesn't pass the non-fiction litmus test for me ("Does it provide *significantly* more information/context for me than what I could research on Wikipedia?"). It does significantly simplify the research process though – while Greenburg doesn't go very deep on anything, he provides a great chronological overview of Jay Z's life and relationships with brands, colleagues, etc.

Worth a read if you're Hova fan.

Jurena G. Cantrell
It was an interesting read.
Michael Murphy
Feb 10, 2015 Michael Murphy rated it did not like it
As a rapper, Jay-Z is clever, observant, and sometimes insightful, but for some reason he's rarely grabbed my full attention. You cannot refute his album sales or street cred, and you have to respect where he came from (nothing), but I personally cannot honestly place him close to my top 10.

As a multi-platinum selling artist with a career spanning decades, you'd think Jay-Z would be a shoe-in for the "G.O.A.T." honors. He just isn't. In that regard, for what he's accomplished, his career seems
...more
Toni
Nov 30, 2012 Toni rated it really liked it
Jay-Z is everywhere these days with the opening of the new Barclay's Center and the debut of the Brooklyn Nets. The highlights of his life are pretty well known: his drug dealing days, entry into the world of hip-hop, some of his romantic history. Empire State of Mind chronicles his moves as a businessman and the stories behind the mega-deals and branding he has been associated with.

While we are familiar with his clothing brands, his nightclubs, and stint as the head of Def Jam, Greenburg shows
...more
Tyler
Oct 13, 2011 Tyler rated it it was amazing
The book that I have read is Empire state of mind. This is a biography on the famous rapper that we all know as Jay-Z. It tells about how jay-Z went from street corner to corner office. The author of this book is Zack O'Malley Greenburg.Zack O'Malley is actually a young man who went around Brooklyn, New York. He was with one of Jay-Z's past old friends and his purpose was to find how Jay-Z, AKA "Shawn Corey Carter" lived as a young boy and came to be the man he is today. He tells how he was givi ...more
Mike Tunney
Oct 07, 2013 Mike Tunney rated it it was ok
Shelves: my-books
This book reads like a long magazine feature pieced together from other magazine features. The book opens up by telling the story of the author, Zack O’Malley Greenberg, failing to get access to Jay Z for his book. In a pattern we’ve seen time and time again throughout Jay’s career, he instead wrote his own book Decoded, sticking to his former mentor Damon Dash’s principle: “We shouldn’t let other people make money off us, and we shouldn’t give free advertising with our lifestyle.”

A lack of acce
...more
Jordan Bowser
Oct 18, 2012 Jordan Bowser rated it liked it
After reading this book, there are a few things that I can use, and some that I won’t. The way Jay-z centers himself on his product is one idea that I can use. For example, if I was going to start a new business, I would make sure my business has many different type of products that would somehow link to each other so that consumers would buy more than one product, increasing my profit. On the other hand, one idea that I would not use of Jay-z’s would be the way he treated the people that helped ...more
Vee
Jan 31, 2013 Vee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hip Hop fans
A chapter devoted to his relationship with Beyonce? Really?
Is this a business book on Jay-Z?

Written by a Forbes magazine staffer Zack O'Malley Greenburg, but without Jay-Z's blessing, this book is so-so business book. Many big celebrities tend to attach their names to different products, projects, or talents. Does that necessarily make them great businessmen? Yeah sure, Diana Ross discovered the Jackson Five. Many big actors receive producer or executive producer credit for films their films. At
...more
James Loftus
Dec 02, 2011 James Loftus rated it did not like it
This book was terrible and frankly shame on me for not putting it down as soon as the author noted in the forward to the book that Jay-Z refused to speak to him for the book. What follows that revelation is a poorly written exploration of Jay-Z's life and career using only primary source material from people that have personal axes to grind with him along with the recantation of various interviews that Jay-Z gave to other people and SONG LYRICS... I'm sorry but I cannot take seriously any book t ...more
Amir J.
Apr 20, 2016 Amir J. rated it liked it
It was a very interesting and informative read; however, the very thing that made it unique might be the thing that turns people off. The book jumps from world to world - the music industry, the champagne industry, marriage, the auto industry, and so on. If you're unfamiliar with these worlds, and uninterested in learning about them, you might not have the patience for the breakdowns and all the subsequent jargon. But I learned quite a bit, so I loved it!
Krystal
Feb 08, 2014 Krystal rated it liked it
Since Jay-Z did not participate in the writing of this book I can't give it more than 3 stars. I would like to hear Hov's take on things from actual participation vs. quotes from other sources. I enjoyed hearing more about he got started, business and management style, relationship with his Dad and Beyoncé and his business interest in The Nets. Couldn't care less about the entire champagne chapter which I think the author tried to dig up enough to lengthen the book.
Andrew Conley
Apr 24, 2014 Andrew Conley rated it really liked it
I liked this book, I have it a 4/5 rating. It tells you about Jay-z's life and how he stopped with the drug selling and how he became into a rapper and who he worked for. It says how him and Beyoncé got to know each other and when they got married. I think the kind of people would like this book is people that love his music, wants to know how he got big, and what he did to get Beyoncé's heart.
Brandon
Jul 24, 2015 Brandon rated it liked it
This was a fun read, I give it that distinction since I blew through 200+ pages in about 2 days. There isn't a lot of meat on the bones of this book, a lot of surface level stuff. One interesting idea that this book sparked was "What's the use in avoiding selling-out if isn't doing anything for you."
Daniel Forkner
Sep 25, 2015 Daniel Forkner rated it liked it
Informative and entertaining for someone who knew very little about Jay-Z before reading. But there seems to be too much personal narrative from the author, most likely owing to the need to fill more pages for lack of official content from Jay-Z. The book simply doesn't go deep enough.
Daryl Murphy
Apr 04, 2014 Daryl Murphy rated it really liked it
Greenburg did good research to put this book together. I am a big Jay-Z fan, but this book made me question some of my beliefs about the rapper turned business mogul. Jay is the poster child for street corner to corner office and Greenburg tells how he was able to do it so successfully.
Kate
Feb 21, 2014 Kate added it
this book was pretty terrible, not that it was the worst writing but how can you write a book that is purportedly about someone without interviewing them? It seems like the only people that the author conferred with were people that jay-z had spurned. But maybe it's my fault for thinking that I might actually enjoy a book about business. Or jay-z.
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Zack O'Malley Greenburg is a Forbes senior editor and author of the Jay-Z biography Empire State of Mind. His second book, Michael Jackson, Inc, will be released in June by Simon & Schuster. Zack covers the business of music in The Beat Report at Forbes; in five years there, he's tackled topics from public pension fund scandals to Justin Bieber's budding career as a venture capitalist. He has ...more
More about Zack O'Malley Greenburg...

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